Omigoromo is an outer garment used in Shinto rituals that has been handed down since ancient times. It is descended from aozuri no koromo (blue rubbed dyed robes) described in "Kojiki" (The Records of Ancient Matters) and so on. In the Heian period, it was worn by the government officials ranked lower than the nobles when they attended the Niiname-sai festival (ceremonial offering by the Emperor of newly-harvested rice to the deities) and Daijo-sai festival, which are one of the Niiname-sai festivals to celebrate the succession of an emperor, and jingonjiki ritual held in June and December (the both festivals are "Shinsai festival," which means a Saishi (religious services) hosted by the Emperor). When it was worn in the jingonjiki ritual, kokoroba (a kind of artificial flowers) or hikagenokazura (a specie of club moss whose formal name is Lycopodium clavatum) it was not attached to the crown. (According to the records such as "Saikyuki "), a person called 'omi' or 'kosai' that was chosen by kameura (tortoise-shell divination) in the process called senjiki (占食), served in Shinto festivals (anyone not chosen by the senjiki (占食), was called ohomi (大忌) ('oh"(大) means 'mediocrity'(凡)) and was not allowed to hold an important position in the festivals). It is called Omigoromo because it was mainly worn by omi.
The word "mi" (忌) of omi (小忌) is said to represent divine things.
Regardless of gender, it is worn over Heian period costumes, and scarlet strings (occasionally mixed with black strings) were hung down from the right shoulder. Maibito (dancer) of performances, such as kagura (sacred music and dancing performed at shrines), had the strings down from the left shoulder, most likely because it was less obstructive than from the right shoulder. Its common pattern was the naïve painting of kacho-fugetsu (the traditional themes of natural beauty in Japanese aesthetics) and the like which were drawn on white silk and white linen with the leaf juice of mercury (Mercurialis leiocarpa) called aozuri (things dyed deep blue). Some have set-in sleeves, others don't.
The following is the classification of Omigoromo under provisions valid since the cloister government period.
1. Shoshi no omi
Shoshi no omi has tarikubi (wrapped front with V-shaped neckline) without a gusset, and the width of mi (torso) is double (approx 30 inches) and each of left and right sleeves has a single width (approx. 15 inches) and the total width is quadruple width (approx 60 inches). Scarlet strings are attached to the right shoulder. It is called shoshi no omi (omigoromo for officials) because it is granted as an Imperial gift and worn by officials assigned as omi on the day of the Shinsai festival. The omi, having been granted after the arrival of the Imperial Palace, wore it over sokutai (traditional ceremonial court dress) and inserted them into the bottom hems below sekitai (leather belt). In recent times, the fabric is the linen processed with kobari (thick coating of whitewash). Surimon (pattern printed with woodblock) of 'Rindo (gentian) and long-tailed fowl' or 'plum trees and willows', etc. are printed on the fabric.
2. Watakushi no omi
Watakushi no omi has agekubi (round collar), and the width of mi is single width (approx. 15 inches), while each of the left and right sleeves have double width (approx. 30 inches). It is shaped like kariginu (informal clothes worn by court nobles) with a longer bottom, but there is no sodekukuri (straps to turn up one's cuffs). Scarlet strings are attached to the right shoulder. As an alternative to ho (outer robe/vestment) which is part of sokutai, it is worn over shitagasane (long inner robe) and hanpi (sleeveless body wear). It is also worn on the very day of Shinsai festival by those who are determined to serve the Shinto rituals from early on, such as officer of Jingikan (the traditional office for public Shinto affairs) and governors of Yuki and Suki (the east and the west provinces designated for production of the rice offered during the course of the festival) in the Daijo-sai festival. Those who are granted shoshi no omi in the Shinsai festival wear it in sechie (seasonal court banquets) which is naorai (feast after festival) of the Niiname-sai festival or the Daijo-sai festival. It is called watakushi no omi (privately owned omigoromo) because it is prepared at personal expense while shoshi no omi is an Imperial grant. In recent times, the fabric is the linen processed with kobari, and various patterns are printed with aozuri on the fabric.
The following classification is unclear according to records from the Medieval Period, but it has been institutionally established in early modern times.
3. Nyogyo no omi (如形小忌)
Nyogyo no omi (如形小忌) is a sleeveless version of the shoshi no omi. Resembles the kamishimo (an Edo-period ceremonial dress of the warrior class). Its mi is double width (approx 30 inches) and has tarikubi and scarlet strings attached to the right shoulder. It was worn mainly by jigekanjin (lower ranking groups of officials serving the Imperial Court) who served in religious services. When it was worn as sokutai, the bottom hems were inserted below sekitai, and in other cases, the hems were just hung down without the insertion. The fabric is comprised of linen processed with kobari, and patterns consist of mainly plum trees and willows printed with aozuri on the fabric.
4. Becchoku no omi
Becchoku no omi was worn by court nobles called emonja who engaged in dressing the Emperor with the imperial costume for Shinto rituals (Gosaifuku). It was also worn by kugyo (the top court officials) who looked after the Emperor as close aides called giso (a position conveying what the congress decides to the emperor). It was called becchoku (special imperial ordinance) no omi because the wearers were not chosen by senjiki (占食) due to the importance of their role. In many cases, it was worn over ikan (traditional formal court dress). In such case, the front hems were inserted into the area between the chest and kimono called 'kaikomi' and the back hem was hung down. The fabric is comprised of linen processed with kobari, and patterns consist mainly of running water with bracken printed together with aozuri on the fabric. When it is worn over ikan, scarlet strings are usually not attached. The name and the wearers, such as emonja, are based on the description in "Engyo Daijoe-ki" (the diary of the Retired Emperor Gofushimi which recorded the Daijo-sai festival of his younger brother, Emperor Hanazono). However, the details of the style were determined at the time of revival of Daijo-sai festival in 1687.
Omigoromo called 'suinou no omi' appears in documentary records, such as "Daihajime-washo" (written by Kanera ICHIJO), but the actual state has remained unclear; in recent times, it has been said to be another name for Becchoku no omi (or Nyogyo no omi (如形小忌), according to another account).
Chihaya (Japanese coat for female priests) of uneme (a maid-in-waiting at the court) is the Nyogyo no omi (如形小忌), but the fabric is suzushi (raw silk products) on which Cho (butterfly) is printed with aozuri, and no scarlet strings are attached. A type worn in performance of bugaku (traditional Japanese court music accompanied by dancing) which is accompanied by Japanese ancient songs and ballads such as Azuma-asobi is the same as watakushi no omi but the scarlet strings are attached to the left shoulder.
However, as the wearer is not chosen by senjiki (占食), it is normally not called omigoromo but 'aozuri.'
Gosechi no Maihime/Maihime at Gosechi-festival also wears karaginu (a waist length Chinese style jacket) but it is also not called omigoromo normally. However, its characteristics could be regarded as the same as those of omigoromo in the respect that both are Shinto ritual costumes that have aozuri printings.
In the recent times, shoshi no omi is worn by gubukan (a special monk who holds a position in the Imperial Court) regardless of gender. In this case, although the wearer is not chosen to be 'omi' because there is no practice of senjiki (占食), but the original name has been retained.
It was worn by kunin (female servants in residence at Miya) at the Imperial Court in the Niiname-sai festival and the Toyoakari no sechie and so on. It was also worn by Gosechi no Maihime in the Daijo-sai festival, maibito in kagura, Yasedoji in taiso (Imperial mourning), Shinto priest and miko (a shrine maiden).
* Please provide evidence for the use of shoshi no omi by Yasedoji.
There is a tradition that Amaterasu Omikami (the Sun Goddess) was wearing it when she reappeared from her Iwadokakure (a story of ancient Japanese myth in which Amaterasu hid from anger in a stone cave). It is said to have its origin in this story although this is only a tradition.
When the Emperor Yuryaku climbed Mt. Katsuragi, the followers of both the Emperor and Hitokotonushi no Kami wore the same costume that was printed with aozuri with scarlet strings attached. It is intriguing to compare this costume with omigoromo.
In addition, its correlation with chihaya or hire (scarf-like cloth draped around woman's neck, both ends of which are hung down frontwards at the same length) is also interesting to note.
Omigoromo with the same name appears in Kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors) as an everyday cloth of the nobility. However, it is a luxurious dress of silk with a large neckband like that of a frilled lizard. Therefore, as it is completely different from the original omigoromo, its origin is uncertain.