Karaginu (唐衣)

Karaginu' (唐衣) is one of the types of kimono (Japanese traditional clothing) that comprises a juni-hitoe (twelve-layered ceremonial kimono). Details are described below.

Karagoromo' (唐衣) is a sokyoku (koto music) song title. It was composed by a blind musician, Kengyo (the highest title of the official ranks within the Todo-za (the traditional guild for the blind)) YOSHIZAWA, who was active in Nagoya and Kyoto during the Manen and Bunkyu eras at the end of the Edo Period. It is a composition of 'Shin kokin-gumi' (New Ancient and Modern Suite) along with "Hatsusegawa," Yamazakura" and "Shin Setsugetsuka." A poem of Karagoromo was taken from "Shin Kokin Waka Shu" (New Collection of Ancients and Modern Poems), and it was composed with the new koto tuning method called 'Shinkokin tuning' (New Ancient and Modern tuning) devised by Yoshizawa himself. It was made in search for nostalgic and simple beauty rather than the complicated and difficult music of the day.

The origin of karaginu was a sleeveless jacket like a vest called karaginu (背子) introduced from Tang Dynasty China, of which an example remains in the Shosoin Treasure House. Though it was originally waist-length, during the Muromachi Period it took on the form with a longer front panel than back panel like current examples. Since it is worn on the top of juni-hitoe and a visible kimono, it is usually made with expensive cloth such as futae orimono (silk double weave).

Karaginu Dress Code
The cloth of karaginu depends on social status, and also varies from to time to time under the influence of sumptuary law. Only certain women were allowed to wear the texture called 'orimono' (a term referring to high-grade figured textile) with blue (kikujin or greenish color) and red (reddish purple). According to "Saiguki" (exemplary book on Heian rituals), the ones dyed with a wave pattern (many were substituted by drawing) called 'suri-karaginu' (dyed karaginu) or 'kaibu-karaginu' (ocean pattern karaginu), and red mezome-mo (tie-dye clothes) were used for important ceremonies such as Sechi-e (seasonal court banquets), and this practice continued until the medieval period. Its vestige is seen in the uneme (a maid-in-waiting at the court) costume.

Aya (twill weave) with a diamond-shaped pattern was usually used for the lining, and it was worn by turning down the collar like a haori (a Japanese half-coat). In the recent times, for women under 40, the starch is pasted thickly to a smooth panel as a lining and coated with flat and smooth layer of starch to glaze, which is called itabiki (panel work). Early modern red karaginu consisted of purple warp and red weft. The Yamashina family school used hanada (light blue) for the lining, and the Takakura family school used a similar color to the outer material for the lining. Blue Karaginu is woven with green warp and yellow weft, and the yellow lining is added in the Yamashina school. At her wedding, Princess Chichibu Setsuko wore karaginu with green warp and weft, and a green lining, but this was referred to as blue, which may be a new definition that arose in early modern times. The blue karaginu of Princess Masako, the wife of Imperial Prince Naruhito, also conformed to this case.

The material used for the empress's in ancient times clothing was often a red or blue textile. But when Emperor Gofukakusa ascended the throne, the empress dowager wore white karaginu. Wearing white karaginu and omotegi (outer clothes) for the investiture of the Crown Princess was a customary practice after the mid-Heian Period. Based on this, the fabric for the empress's clothing worn during the enthronement ceremony have been fixed as a combination of white karaginu and omotegi in greenish color since the Taisho Period.

[Original Japanese]