Juni-hitoe (twelve-layered ceremonial kimono) (十二単)

Juni-hitoe is a formal attire of a Japanese noblewomen who emerged around the tenth century in the Heian period. It is a kind of costumes of the Heian period.


It is formally called "itsutsuginu karaginu mo" (meaning "a costume consisting of five uchigi robes, a Chinese style jacket and a train") or "nyobo shozoku" (meaning "women's court costume"). Since it is actually not twelve-layered, the name "juni-hitoe" is only a colloquial expression. However the term "juni-hitoe" is generally used. The word "juni-hitoe" first appeared in the book of "Genpei Seisuiki" (The Rise and Decline of the Minamoto and Taira clans). In the chapter which Kenreimonin drowns herself, it is written that she was wearing juni-hitoe of mauve gradation as it was the end of March (wisteria season).

Juni-hitoe and noshi (everyday clothes for nobles)

Noshi is a kind of costumes for Japanese noblemen, but the word "noshi" originally meant "just ordinary clothes." At that time, juni-hitoe was an equivalent costume to noshi.

Until the late Heian period, noblewomen wore Monogu shozoku (most formal attire) which was an equivalent costume to noblemen's sokutai (traditional ceremonial court dress). However there was a social trend against women appearing at kogi (Imperial court). Consequently occasions to wear Monogu shozoku decreased and it became obsolete. Costume Museum restored Monogu shozoku based on historical materials recently.

Juni-hitoe weighs approximately 20 kg and it is considered that there were different versions for each season.

Kasane' (Kasane [adding colors] and Kasane [layer])
Kasane' (adding colors) means wearing another kimono on or under uchigi (ordinary kimono.)
The color combinations of this Kasane was called Kasane no irome. Pairing different colors in outer material and lining of awase (lined garment) is also pronounced 'Kasane' (layer). The highlight is the color of the liner showing through the outer material.

Each layer of Kasane (adding colors) showed a little at the wrist openings and the hem, so women elaborated their styles in dressing with Kasane. In the "Eiga Monogatari" (A Tale of Flowering Fortunes), there are depictions how nyobo (court ladies) of the time tried various measures to look fashionable. One nyobo was so absorbed in Kasane (adding colors) that she layered more garments than usual, but she became unable to walk for the heavy weight of the garments. As seen above, there was no rule for the number of layers for uchigi during the Heian period.
The number of layers settled as five in the Muromachi period, and juni-hitoe started to be called itsutsuginu (five-layer garment.)

The combinations of outer materials and linings of Kasane (layer) had specific names for each, which were categorized by season.
Typical Kasane appearing frequently in Japanese classics are "aonibi" (blue for both outer material and lining) in mourning and "haru no kobai" (spring plum red) (red outer material combined with purple or dark red lining.)

There were also rules and specific names for the color combinations of Kasane (adding colors) as well. Both Kasane sometimes share the same name and this leads to confusions in the research of Japanese classics.

Juni-hitoe was worn with Kasane (adding colors) which was suitable for each season, but some Kasane were used all year round. There was a specific color combination for mourning. When a wife of an Emperor gave birth, it was conventional that she and her nyobo wear all-white juni-hitoe (according to the "Murasaki Shikibu Nikki" [The Diary of Lady Murasaki]).