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A History of the Japanese People by F. Brinkley

The principal garments were a paletot

Along these roads the lower classes travelled on foot; the higher on horseback, and the highest in carts drawn by bullocks. For equestrians who carried official permits, relays of horses could always be obtained at posting stations. Among the ox-carts which served for carriages, there was a curious type, distinguished by the fact that between the shafts immediately in front of the dashboard stood a figure whose outstretched arm perpetually pointed south. This compass-cart, known as the "south-pointing chariot," was introduced from China in the year 658. There was also a "cloud-chariot," but this served for war purposes only, being a movable erection for overlooking an enemy's defensive work, corresponding to the turris of Roman warfare. Borrowed also from China was a battering engine which moved on four wheels, and, like the cloud-chariot, dated from 661, when a Tang army invaded Korea.


A reader of the Chronicles is struck by the fact that from the close of the seventh century much official attention seems to have been bestowed on the subject of costume. Thus, during the last five years of the Emperor Temmu's reign--namely, from 681--we find no less than nine sumptuary regulations issued. The first was an edict, containing ninety-two articles, of which the prologue alone survives, "The costumes of all, from the princes of the Blood down to the common people, and the wearing of gold and silver, pearls and jewels, purple, brocade, embroidery, fine silks, together with woollen carpets, head-dresses, and girdles, as well as all kinds of coloured stuffs, are regulated according to a scale, the details of which are given in the written edict." In the next year (682), another edict forbids the wearing of caps of rank, aprons, broad girdles, and leggings by princes or public functionaries, as well as the use of shoulder-straps or mantillas by palace stewards or ladies-in-waiting. The shoulder-strap was a mark of manual labour, and its use in the presence of a superior has always been counted as rude in Japan.

A few days later, this meticulous monarch is found commanding men and women to tie up their hair, eight months being granted to make the change, and, at the same time, the practice of women riding astride on horseback came into vogue, showing that female costume had much in common with male. Caps of varnished gauze, after the Chinese type, began to be worn by both sexes simultaneously with the tying-up of the hair. Two years later, women of forty years or upwards were given the option of tying up their hair or letting it hang loose, and of riding astride or side-saddle as they pleased. At the same time, to both sexes, except on State occasions, liberty of choice was accorded in the matter of wearing sleeveless jackets fastened in front with silk cords and tassels, though in the matter of trousers, men had to gather theirs in at the bottom with a lace. By and by, the tying up of the hair by women was forbidden in its turn; the wearing of leggings was sanctioned, and the colours of Court costumes were strictly determined according to the rank of the wearer red, deep purple, light purple, dark green, light green, deep grape-colour and light grape-colour being the order from above downwards.

All this attention to costume is suggestive of much refinement. From the eighth century even greater care was devoted to the subject. We find three kinds of habiliments prescribed--full dress (reifuku), Court dress (chofuku) and uniform (seifuku)--with many minor distinctions according to the rank of the wearer. Broadly speaking, the principal garments were a paletot, trousers, and a narrow girdle tied in front. The sleeves of the paletot were studiously regulated. A nobleman wore them long enough to cover his hands, and their width--which in after ages became remarkable--was limited in the Nara epoch to one foot. The manner of folding the paletot over the breast seems to have perplexed the legislators for a time. At first they prescribed that the right should be folded over the left (hidarimae), but subsequently (719) an Imperial decree ordered that the left should be laid across the right (migimae), and since that day, nearly twelve hundred years ago, there has not been any departure from the latter rule. Court officials carried a baton (shaku), that, too, being a habit borrowed from China.

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