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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    1860-1880 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Satin; embroidery; applique

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    On short term loan out for exhibition

The motif on this extremely exuberant outer kimono (uchikake) is a theatrical one which relates to the Chinese legend of Shakkyo (Stone Bridge). This refers to a bridge over a steep gorge near the summit of Mount Seiryo which is reputed to lead to the Buddhist paradise and which is guarded by shishi (mythical lions). The kabuki play adapted from this story culminates in a dramatic shakkyomono, or lion dance. The figure on the bridge is a kabuki actor who embodies the spirit of the shishi, while below actual shishi are depicted with other figures surrounded by peonies. It is possible, therefore, that the uchikake was worn for a kabuki theatre performance. Costumes worn on stage certainly needed to be flamboyant and eye-catching, but the motifs were not normally so literal. It is more likely, therefore, that this garment belonged instead to a high-ranking courtesan.

The three figures, shishi and peonies are composed of satin and crepe silk, dyed in bright colours, which have been applied to the black ground and then outlined with couched gold-wrapped thread. The bridge, clouds, water, leaves and other elements are also in couched gold embroidery. The design is padded in places to add extra three-dimensionality, while the eyes of the shishi are of glass as are those of the main figure on the bridge who also has actual hair, from an animal, and buttons of metal.

Physical description

Outer kimono (uchikake) depicting a figure of a bridge across a river gorge, with shishi (mythical lions) and two figures below among peonies. Satin silk with appliqué and embroidery. Lining of polychrome figured silk and red cotton.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


1860-1880 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Satin; embroidery; applique


Length: 182 cm, Width: 134 cm

Descriptive line

Kimono with motifs relating to Kabuki theatre, Japan, 1860-1880

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Jackson, Anna (editor), Kimono: Kyoto to Catwalk, London: V&A Publishing, 2020
Rout, Josephine, Japanese Dress in Detail, London: Thames & Hudson, 2020

Labels and date

High-ranking courtesans were called oiran. They were major celebrities, known for their culture, wit and artistic ability as much as for their sexual skills. When parading through the pleasure quarter oiran would wear the most spectacular of garments with very high geta (shoes). This exuberant kimono was probably worn on such an occasion. The motifs relate to a kabuki play, revealing the close connections between the theatre and the brothel.
Outer kimono (uchikake)

This exuberant outer kimono features a scene from a popular kabuki play. Decorative themes on actual kabuki stage costumes were not usually so literal, so this garment may not have been worn by an actor but by a high-ranking courtesan. The pleasures of the theatre and the brothel were closely linked during the Edo period.
Probably Kyoto
Satin silk with appliqué and embroidery in silk and metal-wrapped threads
Museum no. FE.73-2014




Embroidery; Applique; Technique


Textiles; Clothing; Embroidery


East Asia Collection

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