Japanese Boys' Clothes: Folk/Traditional Costumes


Figure 1.--Here we see a Japanese boy trying on a traditional garment. The girl's kimono are better known, but the traditional male (boys and men) garment is also a kimono. This fitting looks to be happening at school. Notice that "Shichigosan" is written on the board. This is the celevration when children turn celebrates the 7-5-3 (sichi-go-san) festival for children who have just or will soon turn 3, 5 and 7 years old. The official day for the festival is November 15.

We have note some Japanese children wearing folk or traditional costumes. Our information on folk costumes is very limited. Japanese Folk costumes were everyday dress in Japan through the mid-19h century. This changed with the Menji Restoration, at least for men. Women continued wearing traditional dress as did the children at first. A good example is an unidentified family during the 1880s. We also note a Christian family about 1900. Before World War II some children still wore traditional clothes as part of their ordinary dress. This was especially common in rural areas. This disappeared after World War II. Women continued wearing traditional dressed, but gradually shifted toward Western dress like men. Some yonger children now still still do wear traditional clothing for special occassions. This appears to be more common for boys than girls but we also see little boys in traditional outfits. We note family portaits with the children dressed up in traditional outfits. A good examole is an affluent family in 2005. Some children in the West occasionally dressed up in Japanese costumes. We note, for example, a New York family in the early 20th century. Hopefully our Japanese readers will be able to provide more information here.

Traditional Dress

We do not know a great deal about Japanese traditional dress. We have note some Japanese children wearing folk or traditional costumes. Japanese Folk costumes were everyday dress in Japan through the mid-19h century. Actual period photgraphs are limited. The earliest image we have found is an ambrotype of an unidentified Japanese boy. It is undated, but could have been taken in the 1850s. Japanese clothing began to change with the Menji Restoration, at least for men. Women continued wearing traditional dress as did most children at first. A good example is an unidentified family during the 1880s. We also note a Christian family about 1900. Before World War II some children still wore traditional clothes as part of their ordinary dress (figure 1). This was especially common in rural areas. This disappeared after World War II. Women continued wearing traditional dressed, but gradually shifted toward Western dress like men.

Garments

The basic traditional garment is the kimono. It was traditionally the primary item of dress. Today it is primarily a garment worn for special occassions. It is worn by both genders, but styling varies. This is not a child's garment. Children's kimomos are essentially a scaled-down version of their parent's kimonos. The children's kimono would have been just as elaborate and made out of similar material as their parent's kimino, reflecting the famly's social standing. The chldren, if the family could have afforded it, would have had a formal kimono for special occassions like festivals and special family events. A modern child's kimono is usually very colorful and bright, similar to a woman's kimono. I do not think this was the convention in the 19th century, but our information is very limited. For a special day, dressing in akimono can be a major undertaking, especially for a young girl. There are various accessories worn with the kimono. Girls wear matching zori shoes, purses, obi belts and hair accessories. Boys wear children's kimono sash belts. Boys' sash belts tend to be wide. They also might wear happi coat. Very small child might wear a hanten. Hanten are cotton garments stuffed with insulating filler (down or in modern time polyester), similar to a modern quilted jacket. Modern hantens as they are for younger children are very colorful and bright an unlike the kimono are very simple, making it wasy to dress the child.

Family Celebrations

Some yonger children now still still do wear traditional clothing for special occassions. This appears to be more common for boys than girls but we also see little boys in traditional outfits. We note family portaits with the children dressed up in traditional outfits. A good examole is an affluent family in 2005.

Festivals

An especially interesting activity in Japan is a wide range of traditional festivals. We note many festivals in Japan. Every city and town as well as small villages appear to have festivals, often more than one. Some are seasonal in nature. Others are more religious in nature. Many festivals have religious origins. Many festivals have Shinto elements, but Budhism seemsly blended into Japanese society so both religions are important. Often there are both seasonal and religious themes combined. There are some activities in which traditional dress is worn. This seems to have been particularly the case before World War II. We note both boys and men as well as the girls and women wearing traditional clothes. The boys commonly wore their school caps with traditional clothes. We do not, however, have much information on Japanese festivals at this time.

Holidays

Children dress up in traditional costumes on some holidays. This is especially common for Kodomo no hi--Children's Day. The holiday is celebrated May 5. It is also common for Shichigosan. This is the celevration when children turn celebrates the 7-5-3 (sichi-go-san) festival for children who have just or will soon turn 3, 5 and 7 years old. The official day for the festival is November 15. We also believe that children may dress up in traditional outfits on other holidays as well. Some families may all dress up in their traditional garments for a New Year's portrait.

Schools

We note Japanese primary children wearing traditional dress at school. This seems to have been particularly common a rural schools even into the 1920s and 30s. In many cases this was because the children still wore traditional clothes as everyday outfits. Secondary schools from a very early date adopted Western-styled uniforms. We notice portaits at some of these schools with the students wearing traditional costumes. I think this was done on special days.

Western Children

Some children in the West occasionally dressed up in Japanese costumes. We note, for example, a New York family in the early 20th century.







HBC





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Created: 7:38 PM 10/7/2006
Last updated: 7:15 PM 10/20/2008