Hitatare (直垂)

Hitatare (the large square-cut coat with cord laced sleeve edges of samurai) is one type of Japanese traditional kimono. It is worn by males. Whenever the 'hitatare' was mentioned in the noble society of the Heian period, it usually referred to 'hitatare-fusuma' (a futon (blanket) shaped like a kimono and stuffed with silk and cotton), similar to present day kaimaki futon (a comforter with sleeves)).


Clothing that overlapped in front used from the Tumulus period was the origin of hitatare. In another words, it originated from kimono that existed in Japan before sokutai (formal court dress) or noshi (casual wear of nobles).


It changed greatly depending upon the time period. The top was not a stand-up collar, but was open in front and tied together with a string at the overlap.

The bottom part was shaped like trousers. These two parts have not changed since long ago.

Prior to the Heian Period

In Kofun period (tumulus period), the haniwa (ancient burial clay figurines) shaped like a boy wore a top kimono that overlapped in front and had separate trouser-like clothing for the bottom. This is said to be the origin of hitatare.

However, clothing introduced from the continent became formal with the introduction of the political system based on the ritsuryo codes after the Asuka period, and were replaced by sokutai (formal male court clothing).

It is believed it was used as a kimono for commoners and its shape changed while being influenced by kimono from the continent such as sokutai.

Kamakura Period

The informal clothing of samurai (warrior class) started to be accepted as formal dress as the samurai class rose from the period of insei (the government of the cloistered emperor) by openly taking a role in politics. As the hitatare became formal and corrected in a dignified manner, the sleeve became bigger and hakama (pleated and divided skirt made in fine strips) reached down to the height of the ankle. It became customary to put the cord through the opening of the sleeve, which became bigger, to tie it up since it was in the way during a time of battle. In addition, it became the norm to wear sokutai and noshi, which were the male kimono during the Kofun period and affected by the influence from the continent, with its top over the bottom kimono, but hitatare was worn tucking the top into the bottom kimono for it to be useful.

However, high class samurai such as a shogun did not wear hitatare, but wore suikan (everyday garment worn by commoners in ancient Japan) as a formal wear. It is known from documents that court nobles below the middle class also wore hitatare as an informal dress at the end of Kamakura period.

The Muromachi Period

Hitatare began to be used as the informal dress of court nobles influenced by the lowering of the aristocratic social status due to disturbance of the period of the Northern and Southern Courts (Japan). The sokutai, noshi, and kariginu (clothing worn originally for hunting) began to be worn depending on the need of performing events such as rituals. It was limited to wearing just sokutai, ikan (clothes and a crown or hat), and noshi for the Sandai (court visit), but they referred to hitatare as 'shitasugata' (informally dressed) and incorporated it into the Sandai during the Muromachi period. This custom spread especially after the emperor temporarily moved to the Muromachi Palace due to the Onin War, but it was not permitted to enter the court of the emperor's palace in shitasugata, except for the Sekke (the family of Regent). Due to the restoration trend with the start of the Edo period, kariginu became popular once more and the custom of performing Sandai while wearing shitasugata disappeared.

On the other hand, daimon (formal costume of daimyo consisting of a wide sleeved jacket with family crests) and suo (formal middle rank dress, usually including a jacket and hakama) started to appear in response to social class differences within samurai. Especially for hitatare, only the Ashikaga clan, military governors, and retainers of provincial lords granted yakata (an honorific title) by bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) were permitted to wear it, and they were allowed to wear the lacquered hat of samurai with hitatare, and this was the period when there were restrictions on the wearing of hitatare.

The texture used in hitatare was not consistent, but shogun of the Muromachi bakufu wore white silk with no family crest.

When wearing hitatare of the Kamakura period the hem of the hakama was tied up. The hem sewn hakama was an example to give more room for height, but they did not sew it at the end of Muromachi period, and walked by stepping on a hem of the hakama, and this led to the modern naga-hakama (extra long hakama). They made hitatare and the waist cord of daimon white and used the cloth of the same material for the suo.

Even the sleeves of hitatare got in the way once entering the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) (Japan), and something called kataginu (short sleevless garment made of hemp) was born. This eventually became kamishimo.

The Edo Period

Due to the Edo bakufu, hitatare, daimyo, and suo became a kimono which could only be worn by high class bushi. The hitatare was allowed to be worn by samurai ranked at Shii (Fourth Rank) and above, but this applied to those where the high officials of bakufu appeared in great numbers, such as the powerful daimyo (Japanese feudal lord) in hereditary vassals to the Tokugawa family, daimyo having a domain of one province or more, the Three families of the shogun, and the shogun himself. As for colors, only the shogun was permitted to wear wine color, scarlet was worn by those above the rank of the Major Councillor, and light yellow and light green were considered to be kinjiki (prohibited colors) not permitted. In addition, there were restrictions covering the details on which occasion and what to wear, as genpuku (celebrate one's coming of age) or when performing new year greetings to the shogun. The length of hakama became remarkably long (naga-hakama) enough to the point of dragging and was not suited for activities.

The modern hitatare of samurai is made from silk of a single color. They used a thick gauze of woof called seigosha (sheer seigo - type of weaving) and various daimyo used cloth called seigo that was as thick as habutae (a smooth, glossy silk cloth with a fine weave). They both lacked lining. The sodekukuri (cord used to tie up the sleeve) was not laced up entirely like kariginu, but was attached in the form of a small ring underneath the sleeve and called it 'tsuyu' (dew). The various daimyo favored the woven color (a jewel beetle) which had different colored keii (length and breath threads) in order to avoid the usage of prohibited colors, and competed for astringent and elegant 'woven colors,' such as matsushige, woven with purple and green strings, mokuranji (lily magnolia) woven with purple and yellow strings. The hakama was naga-hakama, as written previously, and the sleeves were not tied up. Some high class samurai used hitatare with short hakama informally and belongings left by the dead were present, but it was not according to a publically enforced system.

The current kuge (court noble) society extremely limited the usage of hitatare, but it accompanied aya and kata-orimono (types of Japanese textile), which followed the pattern woven fabrics such as kariginu-ji (hunting outfit) when used, and hakama was kiri-hakama (short fringe hakama) (there is a tie up cord just as a formality), and it has a stringed sleeve just like kariginu. The court noble society temporarily used hitatare frequently with the relaxation on laws for clothing at the time of the Meiji Restoration, and there were many belongings left by the dead during that period.


One could see it being worn by gagaku (ancient Japanese court dance and music) players and sumo referees. In addition, it remained as a stage costume for kyogen (a Noh farce) and the kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors). One could see it being worn only within the world of traditional performing arts, but it came again into spotlight as the Japanese kimono worn by the groom opposite the bride, who wore juni-hitoe (traditional multi-layer court costume, literally, twelve-layered ceremonial kimono), in present day weddings.

[Original Japanese]