Kicho Screen (几帳)

The 'Kicho' screen was used by nobles in their residences from the Heian period. The Kicho screen is made of two 'T' shaped supports from which diaphanous silk cloth was hung to form a type of room divider.

Besides being set up on the internal side of bamboo screens (to in effect from a double barrier), the Kicho screen was employed in large rooms as a moveable room divider and to obscure things from view etc. The screens were also used in a wide range of applications such as to block public view on noble women when visiting shrines and to obscure unsightly baggage/stored items from view.

Unorthodox uses of the Kicho screens included; use of smaller sized divider screens ('sashi kicho') which were carried by a pair of female attendants and used to obscure the faces of noble women when walking along open roads.

Parts of Kicho Screens

The diaphanous silk used in Kicho screens is called 'Katabira,' the upper sections off either side of the upper part of the 'T' are called 'arms,' the vertical uprights are called 'legs' and, the base is called the 'Tsuchii' (lit. 'on the ground').

When measuring the height of a Kicho screen, the base is included in the measurement. When set on the inner side of bamboo blinds, large sized types of Kicho blinds were 4 shaku (1 shaku = 30.3 cm) high and 8 shaku wide or, width and length of 6 shaku in 5 widths that used 5 sheets of thin silk. Mid-sized Kicho screens used indoors were 3 shaku wide by 6 shaku high in 4 widths, that used 4 sheets of thin silk. Small types of Kicho screen (2 shaku wide x 1.5 shaku high) were used by royal womenfolk in their living chambers (next to their pillows).

Kicho screens used next to the pillow were extravagant objects where the cross bar was made of rosewood from which hung double weave silk.

Plain silk was normally used for both layers of the curtain and cords, but sometimes twill was used only for the outer materials. The upper part was stitched together to make a cylinder through which the cross bar was passed and, excess cord was tied in a ninamusubi knot. A red and later on a red and black silk cord ('nosuji' decorative string) was hung from the center of each piece of silk cloth.

[Original Japanese]