Important Cultural PropertyNuihaku (Nō costume)—red and white fabrics based, with design of chrysanthemum, reed and water-bird

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  • 1 suit
  • L129.7 yuki58.0
  • Azuchi-Momoyama period/16th century
  • Tokyo National Museum
  • I-3232

 Noh costumes where patterns are created with embroidery and gold leaf are called nuihaku. This one has the form of the Momoyama period. It is short in length (130cm) and the width of the sleeves is narrow (20cm). The fabric is woven into patches of red and white. In the red squares, adorable chrysanthemum flowers are embroidered between mounds while in the white squares, a pattern of either a lakeside with reeds or a pair of waterfowls playing on the water is embroidered. Although most of it has come off by now, gold leaf used to almost fully cover the red squares and silver leaf the white squares. A nuihaku costume decorated with patterns embroidered with shiny silk threads and with gold and silver leaf must have been a gorgeous, brilliant costume. Noh players in the Momoyama period used to use these nuihaku costumes as outerwear in kazura Noh (Noh programs featuring a female character). The Momoyama period was the time when karaori (gorgeous silk patterned fabric of Chinese origin) was just beginning to be made in Nishijin, Kyoto. However, karaori at this time was not as brilliant as the current karaori, which is woven with gold thread. A karaori kimono was a luxury item that only the people around Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the man in power at the time, could afford to have and something hard to get. In his book, Shojin Noh History, Shimotsuma Shojin, an amateur Noh player who was patronized by Hideyoshi and a monk at the Nishi Honganji Temple in Kyoto, wrote that either karaori or nuihaku could be used for the first half of a kazura Noh program, which shows that as was the case with karaori, nuihaku was used as outerwear in Noh. The design with embroidered patterns in colored squares is similar to the design of karaori. However, this is a very rare case in that nuihaku outwear entirely covered with embroidery has been handed down to the present in such excellent condition. Only Konparu-za, which obstinately maintained old traditions, could pass down ancient gorgeous costumes to future generations in such good condition.