Montsuki (Japanese Traditional Clothing That Carries Family Crests) (紋付)

"Montsuki" refers to "kimono" (Japanese traditional clothing) that bears family crests. It is also called "monpuku." More specifically, the word "montsuki" is used in two different ways: one is the word that means the common kimono with some family crests on itself (or the style of kimono that has some family crests on itself), and the other is the word used as an abbreviation for "montsuki kosode" (a narrow-sleeved kimono for men, emblazoned with family crests). Commonly, "montsuki" means the latter but does not include "haori" (a Japanese half-coat), "kamishimo" (samurai costume, or old ceremonial costume) or a woman's kimono. In this section, montsuki kosode is explained; for information on what it means for kimono to have the family crest, please refer to the "Family Crest" section.

It is said that montsuki kosode began to be worn in the early Edo period. Until then, the kosode generally used as formal attire had been "noshime kosode" (kosode with 'noshime' [a check pattern or laterally striped pattern woven into the lower part of the sleeves and the waist part]), but from then the solid-color kosode - though it had five family crests - began to be used along with noshime kosode. In samurai society, montsuki kosode was coordinated merely with semi-formal attire, or in other words a simplified version of kamishimo or "haori-hakama" (the combination of haori and 'hakama' [loose-legged, pleated trousers]). And montsuki kosode began to be worn as the formal - sometimes the most formal - attire among low-level samurai and merchants, and finally during the Meiji period it was established as the top formal attire in the provision for wearing decorations.

Montsuki kosode has the same shape as that of the common kosode (called "nagagi" [full-length garments]), and the characteristic of montsuki kosode is the use of family crests: - one at the center of the back, two situated symmetrically on the backs of the sleeves, and two symmetrically on the chest. This montsuki kosode, called "itsutsu-mon" (five-crest type), is the formal style, which is modeled after the style of "daimon" (a crested formal robe of the Edo period). And "mitsu-mon" (three-crest type) - in which the two crests on the sleeves' back are removed - and "hitotsu-mon" (single-crest type), which has only one crest on the back, are also semi-formal attire. Montsuki kosode has two types of patterns: the solid-color type and noshime type; today, however, only the solid-color kosode is used among the public, and noshime kosode is seen just in Kabuki or historical dramas. In the Edo period, one's manner of dress was informal if it used the solid-color montsuki kosode as kamishimo, but today it is recognized as formal dress.

Natural Substances and Cloth
The natural substance of montsuki kosode is cotton, silk or another material, while the best-quality cloth used for the kosode is the special silk cloth called "habutae" (a smooth, glossy silk cloth that's finely woven), and habutae's formal color is black when the solid-color type is chosen. Occasionally, however, the summer wear is woven with "ro" (a kind of silk gauze) or "sha" (another kind of silk gauze); "chirimen" (silk crepe) is used to make stylish wear, and "iro-montsuki" (montsuki kosode that has a color other than black, mainly a subdued, neutral color) has come to be seen, particularly after World War Ⅱ. The cloth of "kuro-habutae" (black-colored habutae) is dyed black not at first but after the bottoming, which makes the black deeper, and the dye used in bottoming determines the rank of the cloth. The kuro-habutae that undergoes bottoming with indigo or safflower is particularly expensive, and of the two the indigo-dyed habutae is extremely prized as "kame nozoki" (cloth of a light blue dyed in a short period of time).

The cloth of habutae is dyed, except for the circular part, which should be filled with the family crest. This circular part is called "ishimochi," and the montsuki that has such an ishimochi is called "ishimochi no montsuki"; in the Edo period, a cheap montsuki had no ishimochi on its cloth, but today such ishimochi-free montsuki are rarely seen. To get montsuki made, one needs to buy the cloth of habutae that carries the ishimochi, and then one must pay extra for the crest-dyeing, because the crest is custom-designed. To get it made at a lower price, one can buy the habutae cloth that has no ishimochi and have the crest woven into the cloth. The former crest is called "some-mon" (dyed crest), and the latter is called "nui-mon" (woven crest), but the former is considered formal.

Family Crest
Generally, the design is the wearer's family crest, but in the feudal age the design was occasionally the family crest of the wearer's feudal lord (or other authority), which was dyed on the kosode bestowed from them. This kosode, called "bestowed-gomontsuki," was given mainly as a simple prize to samurai, and the kosode was cherished by the samurai's family as a token of honor. To highlight the crest on the bestowed kosode, the diameter of the crest was sometimes as much as 11.36 cm, three times the length of the common crest.

Costume Coordinated with the Montsuki
Montsuki is commonly coordinated with hakama or kamishimo, not with "kinagashi" (everyday clothing), but in the Edo period a second at seppuku or an executioner coordinated montsuki with kinagashi. And in Kabuki, an actor coordinates kinagashi with montsuki for his role as a ruined, masterless samurai like Sadakuro, who appears in scene five of "Kanadehon Chushingura" (The Treasury of Royal Retainers).

[Original Japanese]