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Ainu Coat (Kaparamip)


Not on view

Traditionally, garments of the Indigenous Ainu people from what is now northern Japan were made from the fur and skin of deer, bear, and other animals, as well as from salmon skin and, later, plant fibers. However, cotton, which could not be grown in the region, was introduced through the extensive trade of used cotton clothing from central Japan, around the mid-Edo period (1615–1868). From their creative recycling of used fabrics, the Ainu people developed a distinctive style. One of the most striking types of Ainu robe is the cotton ruunpe. The ground fabric, typically dyed a dark indigo, was embellished with additional cotton pieces usually taken from old Japanese clothing. These now-faded cutouts of bright red and white were appliquéd onto ruunpe robes with vividly colored, decorative stitches. Areas subject to heavy wear, such as around the neck, cuffs, and hem, were reinforced with appliqué as well. The robe’s complex geometric patterns were thought to have talismanic qualities that protected the wearer.

Ainu Coat (Kaparamip), Cotton, appliqué, and decorative stitches, Japan

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