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Rain Cloak (kappa) (Japan)

This is a Rain cloak (kappa). We acquired it in 2009. Its medium is cotton (recycled fiber) and its technique is plain weave. It is a part of the Textiles department.

Resourcefulness has been a key component of Japanese life for centuries. In design, one sees this most dramatically with materials and objects being repurposed, recycled, or reused. Hikimawashi kappa, which literally means a pull-around (hikimawashi) cape or raincoat (kappa), is made from leftover and/or broken indigo-dyed threads (zanshi-ori) salvaged from home production or from local commercial weavers. Cotton thread was valuable during the 19th century in rural Japan and none was wasted, regardless of how rough or worn it was. For instance, if the lengths of yarn were not long enough, they were simply knotted together to create a longer strand. Because of the use of highly varied remnant threads in the weft, combined with a more regulated warp, an overall pattern of irregular striations is created. Not only does this raincoat boast a unique composition, but it also reflects a spirit of eco-friendly and sustainable textiles and the idea of constantly finding ways to repurpose materials at hand, with nothing wasted in production.
This type of raincoat is modeled on the Capa overcoat, which Spanish missionaries wore in the Momoyama era (1573–1615). The raincoat would originally have been made waterproof with oil paper, which would have been encased between the lining and the outer layer.

This object was donated by General Acquisitions Endowment.

  • Parka (USA), Before 1925
  • beluga whale gut, sinew, grass twine.
  • National Museum of the American Indian, Smithsonian Institution, 22/7435.
  • 17.2012.8

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Cite this object as

Rain Cloak (kappa) (Japan); cotton (recycled fiber); 2009-36-1

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<ref name=CH>{{cite web |url= |title=Rain Cloak (kappa) (Japan) |author=Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum |accessdate=27 September 2020 |publisher=Smithsonian Institution}}</ref>