Raifuku (the Imperial Court) (礼服 (宮中))
Raifuku refers to formal clothes which were used by nobles of the Fifth Rank and higher, and worn at the New Year's court ceremony and new emperor's enthronement ceremony; it was introduced into the Japanese court and modeled after Chinese law.
(In the ritsuryo system, or the old system of Japanese government based on the penal and civil codes, government officials of the Fifth Rank and higher could wear raifuku and chofuku (clothes worn by the nobility when attending Court), while officials of the Sixth Rank and lower wore only chofuku.)
However, it was not completely the same as the Chinese system.
In China there was a complicated system of clothes such as benpuku (nobles' ceremonial clothes and headdress), chofuku (kosh hitoe, unlined garment of red sheer silk), koshu (short jacket and kukuri bakama (hakama trousers, the bottoms of which are tucked up at the knee with a string)), jofuku (everyday clothes), and so on. Japanese chofuku was equivalent to the Chinese jofuku. In the Japanese raifuku system, Emperor's raifuku was similar to enpuku, and subjects' raifuku was close to chofuku, but both of them were very different from Chinese ones in form and sewing. A Chinese book contains a record concerning the costume of AWATA no Mahito, which states that he 'wore coronet of office with floral decoration and a purple robe tide with a silk sash,' and seems to have been equivalent to raifuku. The differences between the Chinese chofuku and the Japanese raifuku such as Japanese headdress with floral decoration which looked like a coronet of office, and a silk sash in place of a leather belt were summarized, and at the same time illustrated that the style of raifuku drawn in records dating after the Heian period were faithfully handed down from raifuku in the Nara period.
It took a very long time to procure the material for clothes, so after the reign of the Emperor Junna, the officials were constrained from wearing it except during the New Year's court ceremony. The New Year's court ceremony itself was discontinued during the reign of the Emperor Ichijo, and clothes were no longer worn at the annual event but were worn until the enthronement ceremony of the Emperor Komei (Raifuku for women after the enthronement of the Emperor Gokashiwabara, and mokaraginu (a short coat for noblewomen with a train) was worn instead; however, the Empress during the Edo period wore the raifuku of white twill with no pattern and a style of tailoring following that of the Emperor). From the late Heian period to the Kamakura period, Kura ryo (Department of Treasury) procured and managed the Emperor's wardrobe, while male nobles obtained their clothes by themselves, and the clothes for women and children were given by the government. The Emperor's raifuku was checked before he ascended the throne during 'the inspection of raifuku' during the reign of the Emperor Gosuzaku in the mid-Heian period (when the Emperor was child, it was conducted by the regent), therefore the style of raifuku was faithfully maintained, but male nobles sometimes borrowed used clothes and accessories, or made new clothes without following this custom; the style of clothing was sometimes not unified. The colors of osode (kimono with big sleeves and opened cuffs) and kosode (kimono with tight sleeves) depended on the court ranks, but after the Heian period various colors of kimono appeared, which were outside the scope of regulation. When the Kamakura period came, sappanwood was used for dyeing osode red for women in spite of their court ranks. During the Edo period, male nobles' clothes also came to be furnished under the control of the Yamashina family, the official of Kuraryo, and stocked in the 'Government warehouse' in the Imperial palace, and it became common to lend clothes to nobles (they were allowed to make new clothes by themselves), which helped standardize their clothing.
However, when the Meiji Restoration took place, they disliked the Chinese style costume, and changed it to sokutai (male aristocrat's ceremonial court dress). The library of the Kyoto Imperial palace owned all the Emperor's raifuku from the period of Emperor Gosai to Emperor Komei.
(These are so valuable that they are hardly ever shown to the public.)
Composition of the Male Raifuku
Raikan (ceremonial headdress)
It is a short jacket with wide sleeves, and the color differed in accordance with court ranks. As well as kimono, it is worn with the right side tucked under the left. Orange was a color for the Crown Prince, deep purple for the First Rank, light purple for the Prince of Second to Fifth Rank, and subjects of the Second and Third Rank, deep scarlet for the subjects of the Fourth Rank, and light scarlet for those who held the Fifth Rank.
Among the twelve embroidered patterns, the patterns of the sun, moon, seven stars, mountain, dragon, pheasant, sake-ware, and fire were embroidered for the Emperor's costume. In later ages, the patterns of the sun, moon, mountain, dragon, tiger, and monkey were embroidered. In 820, it was decided by Imperial edict issued by the Emperor Saga (Nihonki ryaku (The Abbreviated History of Japan) and Ononomiya Annual Ceremonies), and according to the Shosoin documents, it was conjectured that the clothing for the Emperor was white and had no embroidery (although it was worn at the eye-opening ceremony of the Great Buddha). The color was red. In the early Heian period, the nine embroidery patterns were adopted for the Crown Prince's costume in place of orange color.
The color of kosode was in accordance with that of osode. It is different from kosode in later years, and refers to kimono with tight sleeves, which are smaller than osode. It has a round upright collar just like ho (sewn sleeve seams outer robe) and noshi (ancient Japanese informal wear for nobleman).
It is worn over hakama and something like a pleated skirt of silk gauze, which is worn under kosode. The Crown Prince wore a deep purple hirami, while Princes and kings wore deep green, and subjects deep blue.
Of the twelve embroidery patterns, algae, grains of rice, and characters for axe and bow were embroidered, but in later years were replaced with the pattern of a large axe.
This is a long white sash having a flat braid which has a tassel at the end and diamond-shaped patterns with colored threads. It is worn over osode, around the waist. Originally it resembled a flat braid which was worn with a sword, but in the early-modern times twilled sashes such as the arare ji (hail pattern, or rectangle checkerboard pattern) became common.
This is a short white sash having a flat braid with a diamond-shaped pattern, and at one end there is a tassel. It is tied and hung around the breast.
This is an accessory made with gems and worn around the waist by those who are Third Rank and higher. Usually a single strand of gems are worn (hung from kumino obi, and place around the left knee) but only the Emperor can wear two strands (hanging from both right and left sides).
These are socks made of white, red, and purple brocade. Being different from tabi (socks with split toes), they have pouch-shaped round toes.
These shoes are made of black leather. Its toe is in the shape of a chain of three mountains.
Structure of the Raifuku for Women
Details are unknown. It is held that a decorative cord was tied at the root of the topknot, together with a brooch corresponding to the ceremonial headdress.
Deep purple for the Imperial Princess, First Rank Princess, and First Rank Naimyobu (court lady), light purple for the Princess of Fifth Rank and higher and Naimyuobu of Third Rank and higher, deep scarlet for the Naimyobu of Fourth Rank, and light purple for the Naimyobu.
Soeobi (belt with decorated rims)
Sappanwood deep purple for the Imperial Princess and the Princess of Third Rank and higher, light purple deep green for the Princess and Naimyobu of Fourth Rank, and light purple light green for the Princess and Naimyobu of Fifth Rank.
This is a long pleated skirt. It had a dyed pattern called yuhata, and dark red and purplish green for women of First Rank and higher, while the women of lower rank wore dark red, light purple, and light or deep green.
Light green for the Imperial Princess and the Princess, and azure blue for the Myobu (court lady).
Brocade tabi. These are brocade socks like those for men.
The women of Third Rank and higher decorated their green shoes with gold and silver. The lower rank women decorated black shoes with silver.
According to the records written between the late Heian period and Kamakura period, women wore mokaraginu (juni hitoe) with no mo (long pleated skirts) and karaginu (a waist length Chinese style jacket), and wore red osode and green mo over the uchigi (a series of brightly colored unlined robes that create a layered effect) and shoes, decorating their hair with golden Chinese phoenix brooch, while holding a fan and shade. Karaginu were not worn over the osode, and hire (something like a robe of feathers) did not exist, and soeobi were tied on as an accessory.
The Empress's osode, kosode, hiraobi were all white twill with no embroidery (this is because after 820 an Empress regnant had not existed for some long time, so the women's clothes were modeled after articles left by the Emperor Shotoku). When Empress Meisho ascended the throne, it was revived and Empress Gosakuramachi also followed this custom.
A blue pheasant pattern was used for the Empress's clothes. In addition, the twilled white robe used for the official investiture of the Empress was not recognized as raifuku at least until after the mid-Heian period.