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The Origins of Matsuri Attire

Depending on what time of year Matsuri is held and on the type of Matsuri, festival attire can differ. However, there is a variety of garments that are commonly worn at Matsuri. Specifically, happi (半被), haragake (腹掛け), yukata (浴衣), hachimaki (鉢巻), jikatabi (地下足袋), and finally zōri (草履) and setta (雪駄) sandals to name a few.

Happi (半被)

Kunio Kaneko. Two Firemen in Hanten Jackets, c. 1900, woodblock print.

Happi (半被) are short, lightweight coats that originate from the Edo Period (1603-1868). They were commonly worn by men of the working class and used as protective jackets. Happi were considered a form of uniform and often featured a crest or logo on 

the back as a way to identify the wearer with the family, business or group they were associated with. For example, firemen would wear happi for protection at work and the crest on the back would help to identify them as such. Although men originally wore them, women also wore happi during the Edo Period. Today, people wear happi to festivals or they can be used as a form of loungewear. Many happi bear the kanji used in Matsuri (祭り), while others exhibit business-affiliated crests to promote their trade or sometimes affiliation to religious organizations.

Haragake (腹掛け)

Similar to happi, haragake (腹掛け) were worn by working class men, especially craftsmen and rickshaw men. It is noted to have existed since the late Edo period. The term haragake comes from ‘腹,’ which translates to “belly” and ‘掛け’ suggests tying something around. It is considered


A Haragake uniform.

an apron since it consists of a long front piece of fabric and tied around one’s body. It also features pockets on the front for coins, tools, or in the case of taiko players, pockets for bachi sticks. Haragake became popularized as part of taiko uniform from the Japanese film, Rickshaw Man (1958). It is commonly paired with a koikuchi (濃口) shirt and momohiki (股引) pants and is worn at Matsuri and for taiko performances.

Yukata (浴衣)


Art of woman wearing yukata.

Yukata (浴衣), or summer kimono are lightweight, un-lined garments that were originally used as bathrobes at onsen (温泉), or bathhouses. The word comes from the combination of yu for “bath” and katabira, or “undergarment.” A yukata consists of a long-sleeved piece of fabric long enough to reach the floor and wraps around the body with an obi (帯) sash. Yukata are more casual than silk kimonos that are worn for formal

occasions. Starting in the Heian period (794-1185), high-class people wore yukata after taking a bath. Later during the Edo period (1600-1868), when public baths became popularized, more people began to wear them. Since then, yukata are not only worn at onsen, but are also worn at warm weather Matsuri festivals during the spring and summer seasons. They are typically worn with geta (下駄) shoes, which are a style of raised sandal.

Hachimaki (鉢巻)

Hachimaki (鉢巻) are headbands worn at Matsuri festivals. The origins of the time are unknown, however, it is believed to either have religious associations or relations to samurai during the feudal era (1185-1603). They are believed to have a protective

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Performers wearing hachimaki.

power that shields the wearer from evil spirits because they would keep a samurai’s helmet and hair in place, as well as absorb sweat while in battle. During World War II they were inscribed with kanji and worn by Kamikaze (神風) pilots and were a symbol of courage, perseverance, and strength. Since then, hachimaki are worn at festivals, competitions, rallies and other events. They can be worn by both men and women and typically feature a motivating slogan or word across the front.

Jikatabi (地下足袋)


Jikatabi shoes.

Jikatabi (地下足袋), or “ninja shoes,” are a type of tabi (足袋), or traditional Japanese two-toed shoe. They originate from the Nara Period (710-794) from shitozu socks that were introduced from China. They would have been made of leather and included laces for a secure fit. However, during the Edo period tabi were more commonly made of cotton when there was a 

shortage of leather. Laces evolved into buttons and today, jikatabi are secured with loops and metal hooks, which were used starting from the late Edo period. Jikatabi shoes tend to be dark in color, are made of cotton and tend to feature a rubber sole, instead of the previously used leather. They are considered an informal type of clothing and are commonly worn at Matsuri. White tabi socks are thinner and can be worn with both informal and formal clothing.

Zōri (草履) / Setta (雪駄)

Zōri (草履) and setta (雪駄) are sandals made of straw, woven paper rush, or bamboo peel. While zōri are informal straw sandals, setta are worn for formal occasions and have a leather sole for more stability and grip. Both feature a hanao (鼻緒) strap that is important in keeping the shoe secure on one’s foot and providing the utmost comfort. They became popular around the 16th century, most likely with Sen no Rikyu as the first creator of the shoes, who would have made them to be worn at tea ceremonies. Zōri and setta are worn at Matsuri, though setta are 


Zori shoes.


Setta shoes.

more common because of their updated feature of a leather sole. Setta are also considered more stylish because of their sleek appearance and starting from the end of the 18th century setta was worn by common people. Today, setta can be worn as formal and informal footwear.

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