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Attire for Kemari (Noblemen’s Foot Ball)

Have you ever heard of a term Kemari (蹴鞠)? It is a foot ball game played by noblemen and courtiers in the Heian (平安) period. The Kemari was introduced to Japan from China along with Buddhism in the Asuka (飛鳥) period, and gained frenzy popularity. Some people even consider Kemari as one of the triggers of Taika no Kaishin (大化の改新, Taika Reform).

Kemari Shozoku (蹴鞠装束) is a set of attire for Kemari play, which consists of Kosode (小袖, short sleeved Kimono), Mari-suikan (鞠水干, jacket), Mari-hakama (鞠袴, kimono skirt) and other accessories. The Mari-suikan is usually made of silk called Sha (紗) or Ro (絽). Some even have raised patterns with gold threads which requires quite an elaborate skill, hence, reproducing the same quality Mari-suikan is almost impossible today.

Interestingly, the Kemari grade of each player is indicated by the color of Mari-hakama. The unique shaped shoes are called Kamokutsu (鴨沓, duck shoes). Wearing Eboshi (烏帽子, head-gear for old-time nobles), holding Mari-ougi (鞠扇, fan), players kick and chase around the Mari (鞠, ball) made of deerskin, with all those encouraging shout of “Yeah” and “Oh”. Kemari-hajime (蹴鞠初め, New Year’s first Kemari) in January is an annual event at Shimogamo Jinja (下鴨神社) shrine, and tells the arrival of new spring to Kyoto.

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