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Photo: TARUMI Kengo

Called “Uchinā-sugai” in the regional dialect. We used to see elders wear them in marketplaces of the outliers or Naha, however, somewhat lonesome, they are mostly just a costume worn in dances or theaters in recent years. 

A loose and broad width, airy and neat: it carries the sense and aesthetics adapted to the climate of Okinawa. The karaji—seen as well in the dance of Hanafū1—is the major hairstyle for women, easy to arrange and rather convenient to sleep in. The hairstyle for grown men is called kata-kashira (tilted hair) which is a remnant of when they arranged their mage2 leaned over from the center in ancient times. Both men and women use kanzashi (ornamental hairpin), where their genders or class were shown by how or what type of hairpin was worn. 

In the court, women wore a dujin (undergarment), a kakan which is a skirt with fine pleats, and an outer garment on top. They did not wear any obi (belt); a characteristic feature. As in the traditional onna-odori3, they also put on an uchikake (long overgarment):  the summer-type is called tanashi, and the winter-type watajin (cotton garment). In the commoner’s manner too—as it can be seen in Hanafūobi was not used and the eri-shita4 was slipped between the shita-himo (under belt). This custom was called ushinchī which, indeed, looks quite light to wear. The garment, excluding the kake-eri or hashori5, has a loose wide sleeve for both men and women, which makes it breathable. To be formal, men wore a crown called hachi-machi which derives from hachi-maki (headband), a bashō-fu called kuruchō on top of all, and an obi in front. Boys called wakaishu, who had not yet come of age, wore a furi-sode6 with the hanging sleeves open as well, and a hairstyle called māyui resembling the women’s hairstyle.

Editor’s Note:

  1. A traditional dance performance of Okinawa portraying the sorrow of a prostitute who sends off her lover.
  2. Japanese traditional topknot hairstyle worn by men.
  3. A type of dance in the Ryukyu tradition. It’s spelled 女踊り: women’s dance; and dancers (men or women) dance in a feminine, graceful manner.
  4. The length from the tip of the collar to the bottom of a kimono.
  5. Terms for kimono; kake-eri is a protective piece of cloth sewn on top of the collar. Hashori is to tuck up the bottom of the kimono.
  6. A type of kimono with long hanging sleeves.