Japanese Hanten: The Traditional Jacket to Wear on Winter

Rich in history, tradition, and culture, the country of Japan is home to various traditional items and rituals. One of the many items in Japan that hold a rich history in the country is clothing. There are various traditional Japanese clothes that the Japanese people have worn centuries ago. Some of these clothes are still being worn today. Truly, one can see how the Japanese uphold and treasure their history and tradition. Among these traditional or vintage Japanese clothes, for men of different sizes there is a coat or robe known as hanten.

The Traditional Japanese Coat That is Hanten


By Hiart (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons


While there are numerous traditional clothes in Japan that have evolved through the years, one of them that is still being used up to this day is the Japanese hanten. Also known as noragi hanten, it is basically a short coat worn during the winter season. There were pieces of clothing back in the day that only the nobles were allowed to wear then eventually also became available to the common folk. The Japanese hanten was worn by the common people of Japan during the Edo period in the 18th century.

The shape of the Japanese hanten is similar to that of the haori. While there were certain traditional clothes that could only be worn by one gender, the Japanese hanten can be worn by both male and female. The facing and lining of this type of traditional coat are padded with a considerably thick layer of wadded cotton.

The purpose of this layer is so as to provide warmth to the body of the wearer. This is why the Japanese hanten is best worn during the cold weather. Black sateen is utilized to create the collar of the coat. Moreover, it is common for the Japanese hanten to be adorned with the family crest of the clan or with other designs.

This type of winter coat is also generally worn over a kimono. During the later part of the Edo period, the Japanese hanten became a regular everyday wear for the common folk. Because of how common it is now to wear a hanten, some Japanese people tend to forget that the hanten is actually a traditional clothing of the Land of the Sun.

Not only adults wear the Japanese hanten but also young children. It is typical for children to be gifted with Japanese hanten designed with cute, childish patterns. For children, the hanten is designed with vibrant and colorful fabrics so that the clothing would be bright. These coats are also designed so as to provide sufficient heat to the body come winter time. Some children even wear their hanten over their pajamas before going to sleep as the coat adds comfort.

Atmospheric moisture is kept to the cotton fibers, which help in maintaining the warmth of the material. It also supplements warmth to the body. Should the volume of the inner cotton of the hanten seem to decrease, a good way to bring it back to normal is by drying it out in the sun. The heat of the sun would make the cotton fiber shrink instead of stretching it. This reaction is somehow similar to that of a futon.

Aside from Japan, other countries also produce hanten such as China. This is because China also has a winter season; thus, a Japanese hanten would prove to be useful during the cold weather. However, in recent years, there has been a reduction of Hanten production in Japan. This may be attributed to the changing lifestyle of the Japanese as they are now more influenced by Western modernism.

The place that is most well-known for the production of hanten is the district of Chikugo. This is because the textile production industry in the area is capable of doing the lengthy process from cloth to actual Japanese hanten. The quality of these products is so much better because they are done manually in comparison to those made by cheap mass production.  

Tsutsugaki on Japanese Hanten 

By Hiart (Own work) [CC0], via Wikimedia Commons

There are various ways of creating patterns and designs in Japanese hanten. Among the many textiles that are great in creating Japanese henten is Japanese tsutsugaki folk textile. Famous for its traditional yet vibrant motifs, the pieces made from tsutsugaki are made by common folks for fellow common folks in rural Japan. Dramatic and propitious motifs are also incorporated in the depictions put into clothing. These depictions signify the unspoken meaning, as well as the significance, of the importance of life, religion, and cultural celebration.

A freehand dyeing method, tsutsugaki can only be done by craftsmen who are highly trained in this art form. The technique in tsutsugaki is known as Tsutsu, which made an extraordinary textile design with the use of the color indigo as its predominant color. A design is outlined by squeezing a mixture of rice resist-paste via a strong washi paper tube that is shaped like a cone. Squeeze the product onto white cotton or natural hemp fabric. This can be done on Japanese hanten.

A mirror image pattern of the paste was applied on the two sides of the cloth by the craftsman. After which, the fabric shall then be soaked into a vat of dye in the hue of indigo. The textile would thoroughly dry after removing it from the vat. The resist-paste would also be washed off in water by that time. This is the start of the creation of the craftsman and is known only as the initial dyeing.

More resist-paste shall be applied on the cloth after the initial dyeing. This is so as to bring about even the minor details of the whole design. Just repeat the process of dyeing until the design is achieved. After which, the fabric shall go through a final washing so that the remaining resist-paste would be removed.

The motif would be finalized by the craftsman after the final washing. This is done by hand-inking the details of the ultimate design by using a brush. Various shades of indigo would be used in order to paint the fabric. For singular creations, other colorful dyes may be used to give off a more vibrant and lively appearance to the clothes. Because cotton was found to be difficult to dye except with the color indigo, Japanese textile craftsmen made the base color of cotton fabrics or ordinary textiles deep blue. This is why the hanten of firemen back in the day was in the same shade.

The textile designs of tsutsugaki show the spiritual relationship of the Japanese with nature. This can be seen in various designs imprinted on Japanese hanten. Symbols in relation to Japanese myths, culture, and concept in Buddhism can be found in several Japanese hanten designs. Depictions of Chinese and Japanese flora and fauna are also quite popular as motifs in Japanese hanten. These traditional symbolic metaphors are believed to be protection against harm.

There are allegorical visual elements that are common in tsutsugaki textiles. Some of these include cranes, cherry blossoms, pine trees, turtles, Buddhist images, plum blossoms, Noh play fables, and other virtuous metaphors.

Examples of Japanese Hanten Designs Then and Now 


One of the designs found in Japanese hanten that many may find unusual is the Shimizu no Jirocho Hanten. The Japanese hanten has a design that is based on this man. Having lived from the year 1830 to the year 1893, Shimizu was a Japanese gangster, more commonly known as a Yakuza. The adopted son of Jirohachi Yamamoto, Shimizu’s uncle, he was born in Shizuoka. His uncle was a komedonya, which is a middleman-merchant who dealt in rice. His real name was known as Chogoro Yamamoto though he was often called as Jirocho, which was just a shortened version of “Jirohachi’s Chogoro.”

Upon Jirohachi’s death, Shimizu took over the komedonya of his adoptive father. However, instead of following in his uncle’s footsteps, Shimizu became a gambler. Through the year, Shimizu gathered followers and expanded his influence. He fought over lands that related to the Fuji River as well as maritime transport. Shimizu was designated as Dochutansakugata in the year 1868 during the Meiji period by the Government-General of the Eastern Expedition. He played a role in developing the land around the foot of Mt. Fuji, as well as marine transportation business, after the Meiji Restoration.

The design on the Shimizu no Jirocho Hanten depicts birds known as plovers or chidori in Japanese. These birds typically flock over the river beds as well as the seashore. There are also crests, also known as mon in Japanese, in the design, specifically wood sorrel, also known as katabami in Japanese. Below the text on the hanten are rolling waves, which provide a distinct look to the Japanese hanten.

For a more recent hanten design, one of the popular ones is the Supreme x Sasquatchfabrix. Hanten Jacket. Supreme, one of the most famous clothing brands in the world, engages in seasonal collaborations with various artists and brands. Among its recent collaborations was with Sasquatchfabrix. This cult Japanese brand was founded by Daisuke Yokoyama in the year 2003. The brand is famous for combining avant-garde and street in their designs. Unique textiles are also incorporated in their clothes as well as traditional Japanese techniques in production.

Their entire collection had strong points in terms of their clothing. One of the most popular items in this collection is their Hanten jacket. Especially popular during the Edo period, which was from the year 1615 to the year 1868, the Japanese hanten was a worker’s jacket that provided extra warmth during the cold season. With the comfort that it provides, the Japanese hanten became a popular garment. In addition to that, the designs in some of these jackets were just spectacular.

The Supreme x Sasquatchfabrix. Hanten Jacket came in two colors, namely, black and army green. The colors provide an earthy yet classic look. Some classic elements incorporated in this hanten jacket include a tie closure as well as an embroidered lapel. On the other hand, the hanten jacket also has contemporary elements. This includes the bold Supreme logo on the sleeves as well as a fishtail back.

Other Types of Traditional Japanese Coats 

By Pitke (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Aside from the hanten, there are also other types of traditional Japanese clothing. One of them is the komon kimono. Commonly known as town wear, or everyday wear kimono, komon typically has designs of repeat patterns all over the fabric. While komon kimono was highly popular during the peak of its time, it is already now rare to find one these days. This is because komon kimono is no longer frequently used, unlike the Japanese hanten.

Because komon kimono is made to wear everyday, it is no longer applicable in this day and age. Unlike the formal traditional Japanese clothes, people no longer have a reason to wear komon kimono. On the other hand, formal traditional Japanese wear is still typically worn during special occasions. Instead of wearing komon kimono, most people usually just opt to wear yukata, which is another form of traditional Japanese clothing. Still, yukata remains popular up to this day, with so many designs that the people can choose from.

Another traditional Japanese kimono is the tsukesage and happi. This type of traditional Japanese wear is also not as formal as the others that are still used to this day. The distinct feature of tsukesage is its design. Typically, the bottom of tsukesage has patterns or designs. The pattern is present at the back of one sleeve and at the front of the other. This pattern, however, does not continue over. Hence, they remain separate and do not join up at the seams.

The Japanese hanten indeed greatly represents that history, tradition, and culture of Japan. It shows how the printing of fabrics in Japan came to be. Furthermore, it plays a role in depicting the many seasons of the Land of the Sun and how the Japanese people cope with these changing seasons. In addition, it also shows how the Japanese value convenience and use of a product while also incorporating their love for art in their clothing. This type of clothing to be worn over blouses or shirts are even made for young children and babies. It can be found in various shops that also sel vests and workwear. Should one ever visit Japan during the cold season, definitely try to wear the Japanese hanten.