Important Cultural PropertyAtsuita (heavy-weave Nō costume) with poems in red letters on gold fabric on the one side, the colors reversed on the other

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  • 1 suit
  • L143.0 yuki66.4
  • Edo period/17th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • I-3205

 This atsuita (a type of Noh costume made of thick Chinese fabrics, which was used mainly for male roles) has a rare design even among costumes of Konparu-za (a troupe of Noh players) is called katami-gawari (kimono with right and left sides having different designs) and features a bold design, where the ground color of the left is gold and that of the right is red. While the katami-gawari design went out of fashion in the Edo period, it had been a favorite design for kosode (kimono with small wrist openings) during the Muromachi and Azuchi-Momoyama periods. In other words, this costume intentionally adopts the old design of the medieval period to evoke a nostalgic atmosphere. During the reign of the fifth Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (1646 – 1709) who deeply loved Noh, there was a tendency to actively adopt old designs like this one while creating gorgeous Noh costumes lavishly using gold thread.
The patterns of this costume comprise six poems taken from the Wakan Roei-shu, a collection of waka poems with the seasonal words of the New Year, which are represented in a popular calligraphy style of the time called oie-ryu. This unique design earned for the costume a designation as an important cultural property in 2006. The poems written in a mixture of kanji and kana are as follows:
立春 池氷東頭風渡解 窓梅北面雪封寒
立春 としのうちに はるはきにけりひととせを こそとやいはむ ことしとやいはむ
Spring has already come within the year, but a new year has not yet come.
How should I say this, whether last year or this year?
立春 はるたつと いふばかりにや みよしのの やまもかすみて けふはみゆらむ
It seems to be hazy this morning, while I only think that spring has come.
Even Mt. Yoshino, deep in the mountains, is with spring.
鶴 聲来枕上千年鶴 影落盃中五老峯
鶴 あまつかせ ふけゐのうらに ゐるたつの なとかくもゐに かへらさるへき
Over the sky is the County of Izumi.
It is said that cranes live in the clouds and I am thinking of the clouds.
Then I will be able to ask the cranes where I will be wandering.

紅梅 きみならて たれにかみせむ むめのはな いろをもかをも しるひとそしる
To whom should I show these beautifully colored and scented flowers of the plum tree?
My true heart is only known by whoever understands the beauty of the flowers.
While this costume has been handed down as an atsuita costume (used mainly for male roles), it is doubtful if this was actually used for dressing a Noh costume. The brilliant costume with one half in gold-paint and the other in red seems most suited to Kazura Noh where the leading role is a young female character.