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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    1870-1890 (made)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Satin; embroidery; applique

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Japan, Room 45, The Toshiba Gallery, case 10

The motifs on this extremely exuberant outer kimono (uchikake) are theatrical ones which relate to two stories: the Chinese legend Shakkyō (Stone Bridge), which tells of a monk who visits Mount Shōryōzen in China where he finds a long, narrow bridge over a deep gorge which is reputed to lead to the Pure Land and where shishi (mythical lions) dance among the peonies; and Kokusen’ya Kassen (The Battles of Coxinga), written by Japan’s most famous dramatist Chikamatsu Monzaemon (1653-725), which follows the adventures of the heroic Japanese general Coxinga as he fights to restore China’s rightful dynasty. 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, probably from a yak or other animal, and buttons of metal.

Physical description

Outer kimono (uchikake) depicting a hero with a peony branch standing on an arched bridge across the river, 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)


1870-1890 (made)

Materials and Techniques

Satin; embroidery; applique


Length: 182 cm, Width: 134 cm

Descriptive line

Kimono with motifs relating to Kabuki theatre, Japan, Meiji period.

Labels and date

Outer kimono (uchikake)

This exuberant outer kimono features scenes from two well-known plays. Decorative themes on actual Kabuki stage costumes were not usually so literal, so this garment may not have been worn by an actor than 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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