The Importance of hats in Japanese traditional fashion
Hats have multiple uses in people’s everyday lives. Primarily, it is used as a means of protection from the excessive heat from the sun or cold from the snow. It is used by people from different walks of life – from farmers tending the fields, to soldiers fighting in battle.
Nowadays, hats serve a different function. People live in an age where they don’t have to wear hats when traveling because of the availability of automobiles and other forms of transportation. This is in comparison to the earlier times when people needed to walk or ride a horse when traveling, exposing themselves to the harsh sunlight.
In today’s society, hats are more of a fashion statement than a necessity. This is why miniature hats with floral designs and veils are popular especially for women. Hats are now used to make a look more formal or interesting.
Japanese Straw Hat Name
Traditional straw hats in Japanse is called as kasa. There are different kinds of kasa depending on the function where it will be used and the status of the person wearing the hat. Each kind of kasa has a specified shape and size this is the key factor to easily distinguish one kasa from another.
The Iconic Japanese Straw Hat
In history, hats have multiple functions. One is that it is used as a key fashion item, especially during the earlier times. Another is that it could be used as a means of telling one person’s status in life. There are specific hats used by specific types of people. For instance, the jingasa was used by samurai when traveling or in battle. Then, the ajirogasa is used by traveling monks and lay men.
Traditional Japanese hats have different shapes and sizes. This is easily to distinguish the role or status a person has in society.
What is interesting is that straw hats in Japan are similar to those which are used in other Asian countries as well. The shape and make of the hat are so similar, usually conical in shape with a pointed tip and wide circular brims. This is why,straw hats are often referred to as Asian conical hats.
Different kinds of traditional Straw hats in Japan
Ajirogasa – This is a kind of traditionally styled hat in Japan. It has a wide circular brim and almost looks like the typical Asian conical hat. The only difference is that the top of the hat is flattened instead of pointed. This kind of hat is made up of a bamboo material which is woven together by bamboo strings. It is treated with persimmon tree sap, also known as kakashibu so that the surface will be hardened and waterproof.
The ajirogasa hat is usually filled with writings at the side, making it unique from other straw and bamboo hats. This kind of hat is usually worn by pilgrims when they travel from temple to temple. Those that are written on the sides are incantations or sutras that are embodied by the pilgrim. Often times as well, these writings are haikus.
Amigasa – It is said that this kind of hat was one of the most important fashion articles of ancient ninjas of Japan. Just like a typical traditional hat from Japan, the amigasa has a wide circular brim. Instead of having a conical brim, the sides of the hat has a much steeper shape before it reaches the rounded top. There are some versions of the amigasa where instead of its sides sloping, the entire hat has its sides flattened. It looks like a basket shaped hat is worn over one’s head.
According to historians, this kind of hat is made from materials such as sedges, straw, and rushes braided together. This was a popular wear for travelers during the earlier times making it an ideal disguise for ninjas. It was also won by people called komuso, or traveling monks who work as half-laymen. These people do not shave their head like other monks and often live solitary and frugal lives – an easy disguise for ninjas.
Fukaamigasa – The design of the fukaamigasa is the most unusual and interesting out of all. This makes it one of the most copied pieces of traditional Japanese clothing which are used for game characters and the like. What is interesting about it is that it is shaped like a bowl with a flattened top. The tip of the hat looks like a small tied up tail.
The design of the hat is that the “tail” on top literally holds the straw together, similar to how a string holds hair to a pony tail. The hat has a string which is used to hold it in place when placed in the head.
Torioigasa – This hat is usually worn by people, girls in particular, during festivals in Japan. This hat is not like any other, it does not have a wide circular brim and it has a unique shape. This hat is shaped like two fans joined together to with one fan placed on either side of the head. The tip of the hat is a long line that goes perpendicular to the wearer’s body. It made from woven grass straw. The hat is held in place by a series of strings which are tied to the wearer’s chin.
It could commonly be seen during the Nishimonai Bon-odori, which is the biggest summer dance festival in Japan. It is worn not only by dancers but by people who wish to join the festivities as well. It is a perfect piece of clothing for protection against the sun.
Roningasa – This kind of hat looks as much similarly as the fukaamigasa. The shape is the same, the design is also the same. It is a large hat with a flattened top with the tip held in a tail by a string. The only difference between a roningasa and a fukaamigasa is the fact that the latter only covers the head while the prior covers the entire face.
The roningasa, according to history, is worn by samurai or warriors without a master. These are usually traveling samurai or are those who are exiled by their clan lords. Since the hat is quite large in size, it will cover the entire face. For safety, the hat is designed with multiple slits to provide space to see what is ahead. Since this kind of hat is worn by samurai who is exiled, it is only appropriate to see the hat covering the person’s face. This is to still uphold their dignity and that no one will see the face of an exiled man.
JIngasa– This is a hat especially made and designed for battle warriors in Japan. It is won by samurai during ceremonial and ritualistic occasions, sometimes they also wear it when traveling. This kind of hat, when worn on a daily basis, can be made from straw tied up with string. To make it much more durable, lightweight and waterproof, the straw hat is covered with lacquer. This makes it waterproof and durable, the especially encampment at the time can last months to years.
On the other hand, more special kinds of the jingasa are made up of leather materials. Travel versions of this hat can be made from paper, wood, and bamboo. Battle versions, on the other hand, may be made from hard wood, iron, and copper. This particular kind of hat is seen as an important ceremonial and symbolic piece of clothing. It is generally known as a war hat.
Sandogasa (Japanese Straw Hat Samurai) – This is another kind of samurai hat which is made mostly for traveling instead of battles. It is similarly shaped to a bowl with soft slopes at the sides and a wide flat bottom. The hat is also equipped with a small circular holder inside so that the hat will be firmly sitting in its place.
It is usual to see this kind of hat made from wicker. There are times as well that this is made from woven straw. This is generally known as the Samurai Straw Hat or Traditional Samurai Travel Hat. There are a number of this still for sale in Japan, and there are still products and items like this sold on the internet. Since there are no more samurai living today, this kind of hat is often seen in festivals and traditional celebrations.
Sugegasa – This kind of hat is usually worn by farmers on the field, it is a type of straw hat which is generally known as an Asian conical hat. It could also be worn by traveling writers, monks, and the like. It has a wide circular brim and it is conical in shape. The top of this hat is completely pointed. The primary difference between an ajirogasa and a sugegasa is the tip of the hat, the ajirogasa is flat while the sugegasa is pointed.
This kind of hat is usually made from woven wicker and straw. Sometimes, it could be woven from bamboo. Just like the ajirogasa there are some of these that have writings on the side. These writings may be sutras, prayers, and even haiku.
Tengai – This kind of hat is worn by a group of monks known as komuso. This is also one of the most unusual out of all the hat designs in traditional Japanese fashion. Just like the roningasa, this kind of hat covers the entire face. Just like the amigasa, the entire face is completely covered. It has a shape like a wicker basket with the sides completely straight without slopes.
Since the hat covers the entire face, it has holes in the front to allow the person using it to see what they are walking on. The thing about this hat is that once people saw that a person is wearing this kind of hat, they will let them be. Because monks wearing these kinds of hats are known to be in meditative practice.
Japanese Straw Hat for Sale
There are a number of places in Japan where straw hats can be easily bought. Usually, when there are festivals or matsuri, customers line up at the stores to buy these kinds of hats as a means of joining the festivities. The items are reported to vary in price depending on the kind of hat being bought.
The nicer is the material used in the hat, the more expensive it becomes. The larger the size and the more intricate the design, the more expensive it becomes. It is a matter of finding a good bargain achieving a good shape with an affordable price.
For those who have no time nor the chance to go to Japan, there are items beings sold off Amazon, Rakuten, and eBay for freeorder, pre-order and delivery. However, the traditional types of hats like the jingasa are much more difficult to find. The authentic kinds of the jingasa are quite expensive and rare to find. For those who don’t have the luxury to buy a hat from these online platforms, it is also a good idea to try and make a straw hat at home.
DIY Japanese straw hat: How to make
Most of the traditional straw hats in Japan are woven together and are held in place by strings. The first thing to remember is to cut bamboo into equally sized strips or to cut straw into strips of the same width and length.
The technique is to start from the top and create an asterisk (*) shape. The center of this shape shall become the tip of the hat. The next thing to do is to add the strips of material and alternating it with the existing strips. This is to create a woven shape. The next thing to do is to start shaping this to get that conical or bowl like shape. Once the desired brim size is achieved, the strips shall be cut to the same length and the ends are either sewn or woven together.