Vintage Japanese Hemp, (asa), Shop Coat | Shoppukoto | Haori | 1900 -1950

With their infinite patience, the Japanese have used hemp in interior and architectural products as well as to create paper and fabrics, which are really exquisite, unparalleled, true masterpieces of the Japanese culture. The piece being sold represents a jacket that traditional merchants used to advertise their business, Shoppukoto, and dated around 1950. Few old examples of hemp, (asa), haori have survived, not only because the gauze is so fragile but when  business closed, the coats were no longer valued. In many instances these old coats were then recycled into other usable textile forms. This asa jacket is in excellent condition with a semi-loose weave, and therefore has an airiness to it and is typically worn in the hot summers. The piece is homespun, hand-loomed, all natural, somewhat coarse coat of hemp fibers; not dyed. The imprinting on the lapel and body of the piece identifies the shop to which it belongs.

Historical Information —

Since the very beginning of the Japanese Empire, and its maximum expression – the Emperor himself, hemp has constituted an intrinsic part of the center of power and tradition. Both the Divine Emperor and hemp remain the chief symbols of protection in this country. Cannabis was always planted in gardens and temples across the nation in order to “protect the country from evil”. And, once its life cycle is over, the fibers are made sacred by turning them into clothes, for not only royalty, but the general public as well.

Clothes made from hemp were favored by farmers and merchants in coastal, and northern parts of Japan, where climates changed drastically, (hot, humid, and cold), and afford comfort in changing conditions. Once garments were well worn to the point of looking like a rag, the good sections of the garment were cut out and pieced together like patchwork to make a new garment. Passed down from generation to generation. Included in our images of the hemp jacket is one image showing the diverse uses of hemp in Japan as well as an image of a museum, (Asanoyakata), dedicated to educating people about the historical aspects of  hemp and its influence on the Japanese people.

 

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