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Kesa (袈裟)

A type of costume, a patched-cotton robe worn by Buddhist monks over their vestments. In Noh, a type of Zen Buddhist Kesa called kara is used for the roles of high priests, ordained people, those who have become devout believers in Buddhism, and those who are about to be executed. The loop is worn around the neck and the square part down in front of the chest. It is made by sewing together small pieces of cloth, expressing the basic principle of making clothes by collecting discarded scraps. In reality, however, most of the Kesa is made of gold brocade and other gorgeous pieces of speciality cloth, such as meibutsu-gire* (literally “named fabrics,” representing cloths with specific woven patterns). A Kesa used for the role of Yamabushi (mountain priests) with six bonten (pompons) is called suzukake. Suzukake is the name of the vestment worn beneath and the Kesa was initially called yuigesa. The kesa zukin used for the role of monk soldiers, such as Musashibō Benkei, is a white Gojo kesa hood that wraps the head. It was initially called katō. In Kyōgen, in addition to kara and yuigesa, Gojo kesa, a large rectangular piece of cloth wrapped around the body, is also used.

* Meibutsu-gire:
Among the dyed textiles imported to Japan from the Kamakura period to the beginning of the Edo period, especially during the Muromachi period, the finest were owned by feudal lords and temples and shrines. They were especially known for their use for bags and coverings for famous tea ceremony utensils and as covering textiles for hanging scrolls. Such textiles are called meibutsu-gire.

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