Tsunokakushi is a wide strip of cloth worn by a bride at a Japanese-style wedding ceremony, covering her head including the coiffure called Bunkintakashimada. (One piece of rectangular-shaped cloth covers the bride's forehead and is tied at the coiffure behind her head). The cloth is usually made of white silk.
Although Tsunokakushi can be used for both Shiromuku (pure white kimono) and Irouchikake (gorgeously patterned kimono), Wataboshi, an oval-shaped hat several times larger than the head, is generally used for Shiromuku, and Tsunokakushi is used for Irouchikake these days. A bride may change the clothes from one style to the other in a ceremony.
While there are various theories (see below) and the actual origin has not been truly identified, at present, the following two theories are commonly cited with regard to the origin:
An indication shown by the bride at the wedding ceremony that she will be an obedient and modest wife by hiding her horns, the symbol of anger.
A kind of spell to prevent the bride from becoming a demon, since it was believed that women could be demonized by a jealous rage.
Tsunokakushi was a widespread custom from the late Edo period to the beginning of Meiji period, and there are various theories upon its origin.
As recorded in the 'Seventy-one Workmen's Competitions of Waka,' women peddling rice or rice cakes in the Muromachi period wore white cloth around their heads called Katsuratsutsumi or Katsuramaki. It is regarded that the cloth was mainly designed to help them carry merchandise upon their heads to prevent the goods from being contaminated by hair, or to protect their hair. Some say Tsunokakushi originates in the Katsuratsutsumi or Katsuramaki.
As depicted in the Takafusa Kyo Tsuyakotoba Emaki (an illustrated scroll featuring the love affair of Takafusa REIZEI), prior to the Kamakura period, women of noble ranking would wear uchigi (ordinary kimono) or thin garment called Kazuki, which fully covered their body from the head down, without putting their arms into the sleeves when going out. During the Muromachi period, women wore Kosode, short-sleeved kimono, with its collars lowered and the Kazuki is cited as the origin of Tsunokakushi as well.
As per the rituals of a sect of Buddhism Jodo Shinshu, women should hide their hairline or corner (it is pronounced sumi in Japanese), when visiting a temple. This custom was called 'Sumikakushi' (hiding the corner of a woman's face), which was originally performed in the form of covering their heads with black cloths. However, it is said that this custom was gradually adopted in wedding ceremonies and came to be called Tsunokakushi.
During the late Edo period, an increasing number of women, stimulated by the appearances of kabuki actors into imitating the way the kabuki actors dressed, which is also cited as the origin of Tsunokakushi.