Surprising History of Jyuni-hitoe, the Japanese Kimono in Heian Period

<What is Jyuni- Hitoe?>
Have you ever seen the Kimono called “Jyuni-Hitoe”,the Twelve-layered ceremonial Kimono?
Even now, you are able to see it at the Japanese wedding ceremony or doll of Hina-Matsuri wearing it.
The Twelve-layered Kimono was originated in Heian Period and used as ritual and formal wear. You may think that wearing Twelve of Kimono at the same time makes you really uncomfortable and heavy. In this blog, we are going to introduce you the history of the Twelve-layered ceremonial Kimono in detail.1-C-MTO146

Actually, in Heian period, there was no word as “the Twelve-layered Kimono”. At that time, people called one as “costume of women”.
The word “the Twelve-layered Kimono “was spread and used after Kamakura Period. At present, it is popularly called “the Twelve-layered Kimono” but it is actually not the official name.
The official name is “Itsutsuginu-Karaginumo”, the Five-layered Chinese dress costume in translation. It was consisted from wearing Itsutsuginu( Five-layered robe), Uchiginu(a lustrous silk robe), Uwagi(outer robe), Karaginu( a waist length Chineese style jacket), Mo(ancient skert) and Nagabakama(long hakama). It is said that olding Hiougi(decorated fan) and putting Houkan(crown) on the head made it more formal.

Although there is “12” in the name, now you know that is actually less than “12”. Then, where does this “12” come from?
Actually, “12” simply represents the large number and it was not named after the number of Kimonos women put on. The number ”12” was maybe used because it sounded nice with the word Kimono.Dressing in layers enables to represent vivid gradation of the collar and the sleeves.


<How to wear “Juni-Hitoe”?>








<History of  “Jyuni-Hitoe”>

The number of Kimonos women actually wear was totally depended on the women.
Just for the record, there was a woman who worn 16-layers at the maximum. The weight is about 60kg.
We can imagine how heavy it must have been. It is no surprise to hear the fact that women could barely move with carrying same weight as one adult.

It is said that the Twelve-layered Kimono was oriented in the background of Culture of Heian period.
In Nara period, there were already clothing that were close to the original of Japanese Kimono. And the Twelve-layered Kimono was completed as costume of women in the middle of Heian period.


The important thing to be focused is that there is a huge difference of culture between Nara and Heian period. From the Nara period to the beginning of Heian period, Japanese people absorb Chinese culture actively as there was a system of Kentoshi (a Japanese envoy to Tang Dynasty China).
However, in the middle of Heian period Japan abolished the system of Kentoshi and it triggered a review of Japanese original aesthetics and thoughts. Those background helps Japanese to build Japan’s original national culture called Kokuhu Bunka.

The Twelve-layered Kimono was oriented in the period of transition that it was newly created as a hybrid of Chinese culture and Japanese aesthetic. The gorgeousness of the Kimono was influenced by the Chinese layered clothes and the beautifulness of color come as well as sense of taking in the patterns of four seasons surely came from Japanese sense of beauty.


The average weight of the twelve-layered Kimono is about 20kg. As we already explained earlier, there are so many kinds of the twelve-layered Kimono. Japan has four seasons that there was a need to create variety of Kimonos in accordance to each seasons. The twelve-layered Kimono used to be a formal cloth in Heian Period. So women in Heian period need to have them seasonally.

In Kamakura period, spirit of simplicity and frugality was emphasized and the twelve-layered Kimono was gradually died out. Wearing 2-3 layered became standard in that period.