Suikan (水干)

Suikan was a garment worn by men during the Heian period. The name is said to come from the fact that it was made from simple material that was stretched using only water with no starch or, according to the "Zoku Shinsho Hisho" (book about names of costumes and memos of the Emperor's clothes), because it was convenient for both clear and rainy weather, but anyway, it seems to have been so named because it was a simple garment.

Similar to kariginu (informal clothes worn by Court nobles) costumes, it was made with agekubi (round collar) and hitotsumi (seamless back). However, the collar was not fastened by a tonbo (dragonfly head shaped hook), but by strings attached to the center of the back of the collar and the end of the uwamae (upper front of clothes) of the collar. Emaki (picture scrolls) from the end of the Heian period show lots of ordinary people in the capital wearing suikan. The fabric varied from silk to hemp (fiber). It seems that ordinary people used hemp, colored or patterned by dyeing or printing, and the aristocracy often used expensive fabric. From the Kamakura period to the Muromachi period, suikan were often used as formal wear for the sons of court nobles and samurai before they came of age. This use of suikan probably influenced their use by a women who play Shirabyoshi (Japanese traditional dance).

Suikan were usually worn inside hakama (Japanese male ceremonial skirt), but in the style known as kake suikan (covering suikan), worn by temple page boys, they were worn over hakama, like Kariginu, and tied with an obi sash. The strings of the collar were knotted normally, or knotted in front of the chest by folding the collar, and samurai families at the end of the feudal era had various other ways.

From the cloistered government period to the Kamakura period, the aristocracy wore suikan when accompanying the retired Emperor on long journeys to places such as Uji, and the 'Kasuga Gongen Kenkie' (picture scrolls of the origins of Kasuga Shrine) and 'Nayotake Monogatari Emaki' (picture scrolls of the Tales of Nayotake) from the late Kamakura period have pictures of aristocrats wearing yellow mumon suikan (unpatterned suikan) as informal wear at home. However, in the Muromachi period, hitatare ceremonial robes became popular among the aristocracy and the samurai families, so opportunities for wearing suikan decreased, except by boys before they came of age. In the recent times, a image of Hakuseki ARAI shows him wearing suikan, although it was not included in the Shogunate's clothing system. Among court nobles, suikan called 'choken' (outer garment with wide sleeves) made of undyed white plain weave silk or thick white plain weave silk with white strings, black sodekukuri (straps to turn up the cuffs), tassels and black tassels of the same material, was often used as formal wear for boys before they came of age. It was often used as a costume for servants of court nobles as well.

After the war, kake suikan were used as informal wear for female Shinto Priests, but in the 1990s, female Shinto Priests' costumes were newly established and suikan were left out of the dress code system of the Association of Shinto Shrine.

[Original Japanese]