Shigai (絲鞋)

Shigai (also known as Ito no Kutsu, or Shiai) is a pair of silk shoes worn by underage member of Imperial family, performers of Dobu (also known as Warawamai Dance, performed by children), or young shrine maidens who participate in the Shinto rituals.

The word 'Shi' (絲) means silk yarn; the body of the shoes is knitted with silk yarn with diamond patterns in relief, the insole made of a straw mat, and the sole constructed from cattle skin.

A shoelace, which traverses the ankle of the shoes, comes around one's ankle twice and are tied in a bow (Morokagi [bowknot] in the costume terminology).

The construction of the shoes resembles that of modern canvas shoes or the Native American's moccasins.

As Shigai was originated from 'Makai,' hemp yarn shoes worn by low-ranking military officers at and under the rank of Rokui (Sixth Rank), it was light and comfortable as well as suitable for active movements. Following the same developments as Dosuikan (the Heian costume for children), it was upgraded for the noble children; that is the beginning of 'Shigai' made of silk.

The straw-made shoes called 'Warauzu' worn by low-ranking military officials were also developed out of 'Makai.'

[Original Japanese]