Kamishimo ()

Kamishimo (old ceremonial dress) is a kind of formal kimono (traditional Japanese clothes) for men. Usually, it consists of kataginu (short sleeveless garment made of hemp) and hakama (pleated and divided skirt made in fine strips) made with the same fabric, and is worn on top of a kosode (small sleeves; the standard size of present day kimono). A kataginu has the family crest put in 4 places; namely the back, both sides of the chest, and the koshiita (waist). In the Edo period, it was regarded as the utmost formal dress of the samurai without rank, because many town people with status also followed this practice, it is still used in the traditional Japanese theater and the festival and so on.


Although the origin is not clear, it is assumed that it originated in the cutting and the use of the sleeve of a hitatare during mid Muromachi period. Although there is even a theory assuming that Hisahide MATSUNAGA is the founder, the theory is not so convincing. However, it seems at least around the time of the Onin War, it was a semi informal dress on the battlefield. Afterwards, with the progressive opportunity during the Sengoku Period (Period of Warring States) it had already become a semi informal dress even during peacetime from 1528 and 1554.

Originally, it seems to have been just a suo (formal middle rank dress, usually including jacket and hakama) with the sleeve and the chest cord removed structurally. Then later, the gathers were taken into the kataginu (short sleeveless garment made of hemp) which skirt about the hem of mae-migoro (front area) is thin, and is worn, not overlapping, but with the skirt inside the hakama. Afterwards, further widening of the shoulders' breadth became popular, and it became one foot in width from 1688 to 1703 and then settled down. In the mid Edo Period, whale whiskers were inserted and tailored to have the shoulders stand out. In the late Edo Period, it is said that rounded shoulder lines were, on the contrary, popular. Even nowadays, the two tailoring styles "straight line" and "clam" (sea gull) remain.

The fabric was originally hemp. However, in view of the regulations seen in the "Yuki Code" that kataginu was to be made with hemp, it seems that cotton was also already been used in luxurious tailoring during the Warring States Period (Japan). Since the Edo period, with the fabric becoming more deluxe, upper class samurai were generally wearing ryumon (cloth woven of thick silk thread). Moreover, from 1751 to 1763, kamishimo with small family crests became popular, and there was even a trend where feudal lords who visited the Edo-jo Castle competed for the elaborateness of their small family crests.

The positions of the family chests were originally hitatare (samurai's large square-cut coat with cord laced sleeve edges), back plate, both nipples, lower portion of hakama (where front and back are sewn together). However, since the Edo Period, the lower portion of hakama was omitted. Moreover, also during the Edo period, the custom of wearing long hakama as ceremonial dress was born. The kosode (small sleeves; the standard size kimono of today) put on below was decided to be noshime (a plaid kimono), or katabira (light summer garment) which status was distinguished by colors.


Han-gamishimo (Half old ceremonial dress)

Usual kamishimo (old ceremonial dress). Contrary to the long kamishimo, the name hakama was determined by its usual length. As far as the origin is concerned, it existed longer than the naga-kamishimo, but compared to the long kamishimo, it is a semi informal dress. It was a formal dress for the samurai class, and commoners. Commoners wore it only on ceremonial occasions, but depending on the clan, whether one could wear it or not indicated the status of the village officers.


The hakama length of a kamishimo was extended to about 1.5 times the usual length and the hem was pulled up when worn. It was regarded as a more courteous formal dress than the han-kamishimo. When used as a costume in kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors) and so on, it is about twice as long as a usual hakama for the purpose of presenting to the audience.


It is a kamishimo with different fabrics for kataginu and hakama. Normally, it is a han-kamishimo. Compared with the han-kamishimo, it is regarded as an even more abbreviated formal dress. However, it is hardly used today.

Kataginu and Maedare (an apron)

In traditional Japanese music, such as Joruri (dramatic narrative chanted to a samisen accompaniment) or nagauta (long epic song with shamisen accompaniment), that developed among townspeople during the Edo period, kamishimo was used on the stage, at that time, was substituted by hanging a maedare (an apron) over the kataginu instead of wearing hakama.

Origin of Names

It is a kimono of which the upper-body (kamishimo) and the lower-body (hakama) together are a set made of the same fabric, thus this is how the kanji character name originated. However, later on, joint kamishimo was not necessarily limited to the same fabric.

By the way, originally, the hemp kariginu of noble's servants of the same color as the hakama was called 'kamishimo' (top and bottom), and even in the Kamakura period, there was a male kimono called 'kamishimo.'
However, it was referred to the later daimon (shogun or daimyo's formal costume consisting of wide sleeved jacket with family crests).

[Original Japanese]