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Basics of JUNI-HITOE, the Twelve Layered Kimono

Learn about JUNI-HITOE, its history and structure


History of JUNI-HITOE

It is said that the origin of JUNI-HITOE was established during the late Nara period, and developed during the Heian period. JUNI-HITOE was fully developed as the formal attire for court ladies in mid Heian period.

Representitive of the court ladies attire, JUNI-HITOE was the formal wear for grown women. It was worn as gala attire in public places like the Imperial Palace.

Its was worn only by court ladies at formal ceremonies in the palace. In the present time, it is officially worn only for the Imperial Enthronement Ceremony and Royal Weddings.


Structure of JUNI-HITOE

The basic structure of JUNI-HITOE consists of “KARAGINU”, “UWAGI”, “UCHIGINU”, “ITSUTSUGINU”, “HITOE”, “NAGABAKAMA”, and “MO”, the hair style is called “OSUBERAKASHI”.


It is the most formal attire for women, equivalent to SOKUTAI for men.

KARAGINU is worn as the outermost layer, therefore it is the most beautiful piece of all JUNI-HITOE.

It was modeled after KARA-FUKU, a chinese garment, so it is called KARA-GINU.

It is a short garment to be draped over the other layes, its length in the back is about 2/3 the length of the front, and shorter than the sleeves of the other layers to show KASANE, the layers inside of KARAGINU.

There were no sleeves during the Nara period, and sleeves were added during Fujiwara period.

There was a separate cloth called OKIGUCHI as decoration on the cuffs.

The collar should be worn inverted.

The materials, color and patterns differ depending on the rank/class of the wearer.

However they are usually double layered fabric, the basic simple layer with the top layer in different colors, and 板引きの綾絹 is used as liner.


UWAGI is worn directly underneath the KARAGINU.

It is one of the layers called UCHIKI.

It is the outermost layer of UCHIKI so it is called UWAGI, the outerwear.

It is slightly smaller than the five layers that are worn underneath so that the layers of different colors can be seen beautifully.

Made with premium materials like double layer woven fabric, the inside layer usually plain with the collar, cuffs and hem tailored OMERI style, by turning 1cm.

TARIKUBI style with collar and OKUMI, the cloth which is attached to the collar and its sleeves are wide.

AWASE, the lined kimono, is not padded with cotton.

Common patterns are TACHIWAKI - clouds, KARAKUSA - arabesque, HISHIMON – diamond shape.

Colors are red, MOEGI - yellowish green, FUTAAI - reddish blue, as well as the other precious colors.



UCHIKI is worn under UWAGI, the outer wear.

The name UCHIGINU came from the way the red twill weave garment was polished by pounding with a wooden block.

Later, instead of pounding, they used the ITABIKI technique by using glue and placing on a lacquer board to dry and polish the cloth.

Outside is a twill weave garment and inside is a plain silk. The colors are red or a similar deep color.

The other name for UCHIGINU “a red twill weave garment”, is dyed with crimson flowers. Patterns are all woven.


The name comes from Five (ITSUTSU) layes of UCHIKI.

The sizes and the shapes are exactly the same as UWAGI.

Textures are twill, Chinese twill and silk.

Lined, tailored, cuffs, collar and hem are tucked in to make them look thinner.

Patterns are all woven, and they emphasize the beauty of this attire through the combination of colors of five UCHIKI, which is called KASANE NO IROME.

They used to layer more than ten layers of UCHIKI, five layers became the formal number of the layers during twelves century.


One simple layer, which is worn under UCHIKI.

The shape is the same as UCHIKI but the sleeves and length are longer than UCHIKI.

They are always unlined and textures are twill and silk.

There are no rules with colors, and the pattern is only diamond shape.

In summer, two layers were worn together folded at the cuffs.

NAGABAKAMA – long skirt like garment

The shape of this HAKAMA is a tube and the hem is draped long in back.

Both inside and out are a delicate and detailed red garment.

The cords in front and back are actually a single cord, with a ring in the left and both cords on the right - the front cord goes around to back through the left ring and is tied with the back cord in KATAKAGI style.



During Nara period, MO was worn wrapped around the hips.

As layers started being worn in the garments of the Heian period, it became difficult to wear around the hips.

The cord is simply tied around the hips and draped in back.

The shape of MO is created and sewn with eight or ten separate cloths, and the hard part that goes against the hips is called OGOSHI.

The parts that are on the right and left sides of OGOSHI are called HIKIGOSHI, and the cord attached on both sides are called KOGOSHI.

The texture is raw silk warp and half scoured thread weft, and thin KOMEORI and SHA during the summer.

Pine, clane, paulownia and bamboos, phoenix, and sea-wave patterns are drawn on a MIEDASUKI woven pattern in verious ways - printed, foiled, tie-dyed and drawn.

Colors are white, red, blue and gradation.

KOGOSHI is the same garment as the outer layer of KARAGINU.


SUBERAKASHI has been the hairstyle for JUNI-HITOE, and OSUBERAKASHI has its origin in Heian period.

It made three major changes through Muromachi period and Edo period.

The hair style during Heian period was considered longer is better, ideally touching the floor, and rich and glossy jet black.

As in the BINSOGI (hair cut) ceremony, it was customary to cut the side hair that touches cheeks, to 30cm below eyes.

During the Muromachi period, the hair was tied with a hairpiece to show the forehead in a square, and many knots were hung in back.

In the Edo period, the hair on the temples was emphasized, looking like a dipper from the back.

The largest dipper is called ODAI, it is made with TSUTORA, many layers of black Senka paper were used to shape the hairstyle.

Next MARU-KAMOJI, with a length is almost two meters long, is connected to a tool to make bangs from front to back.

The bangs are not pushed up but tied in four places with a paper cord, MOTOYUI.

At the nape, the first E-MOTOYUI is tied in Musubikiri style, and the second one, a red decorative cord, is tied like single hook at slightly lower place, and the third and fourth cords are called KONBISAKI, white papers cut in four, and they are tied like a single hook.

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