Semamori Story 背守り物語

Shortly after I posted my review of the semamori exhibit at the Lixil Gallery, I came across this little beauty at a shrine sale.  I'm guessing it was once worn by a girl around 4 or 5 years old, but only occasionally since it's in remarkably good shape considering parts of it could be over 100 years old.

It's pieced together from remnants of other kimonos, striped silk for the body and sleeves and blue chirimen on the chest and upper back, with a soft black velvet collar.

Look carefully at the details on the chirimen:  are those people, puppies or pupae climbing up the ropes?  Then there's the semamori, the little red knot of cloth sewn onto the back to protect its wearer from evil.   Did it work?  Have its powers kept this kimono intact since the Taisho era?

The lining appears to be of raw silk, a rather lavish feature for a modest child's kimono.  It's probably not the original but even so it bears a nice patina of age.  The newest addition is undoubtedly the striped chiffon belt, so delicate I can't imagine it would withstand more than a couple wearings.

We'll never know the fate -- or the identity -- of the lucky little girl who once wore this piece or the occasion for which it was made.  But the garment itself tells its own tale of a long-ago community that took care to preserve and pass down beautiful objects.



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