Veils have been worn, and continue to be worn, all over the world.
On this page we have a brief historical and contemporary look at the veil in Japan.
Veils in Japan
With a wedding kimono, instead of a veil the bride wears a tsuno kakushi. Tsuno means 'horns' and the purpose of wearing this headdress was to veil her horns of jealousy, ego and selfishness - attributes that should not be displayed at a wedding in front of the groom and his family. It symbolized her resolve to become a gentle, obedient wife. Also in those days, hair was thought to be unclean so people wore a headdress to hide it.
Until the end of the Edo period in 1867, brides wore a wataboshi hood which was supposed to conceal the bride's face to everyone except the groom.
Both the tsuno kakushi and the wataboshi are still used at traditional Japanese weddings (i.e. not Western style).
Other traditional Japanese headdresses include the uchikatsugi; a long veiled headdress worn by high class ladies to protect their anonymity. It was not usually worn as a wedding veil; simply normal street wear for the nobility. (Probably also protected them from mosquitoes.)
A hat similar to wataboshi, but made of woven straw, is called amigasa. The history of this hat is obscure, but some say the original dancers performed before royalty and therefore they would hide their faces out of modesty. Now it is worn by dancers at many festivals all over Japan.
The girl wearing an amigasa (below) is dancing at a festival in Tohoku in 2005 (see YouTube video above).
The festival dates from the 13th century when a priest called Genshin commanded villagers to dance in the Zao Gongen temple grounds to pray for a good harvest. The dance evolved into a folk dance and is accompanied by music and singing, which also evolved with rather agrestic and bawdy lyrics. For this reason, the festival was banned in the Taisho Era (1912-1926) but later revived and continues to be celebrated each summer.
Sadly the massive Tohoku earthquake in March 2011 forced people to don a different kind of mask. Summer celebrations are likely to be significantly subdued for several years following the catastrophe.
The modern surgical-style mask has been common street wear for many years all over Japan, helping to protect wearers from hay-fever, helping to protect against the spread of flu, and to conceal the fact that many girls rush out to work in the morning before they have time to slap on their make-up.
But back to the traditional summer festivals.
Both the Amigasa and the Hikosa Zukin are seen at Tohoku's three-day event, which is held just after o-bon. This is a time when people travel back to their home towns, have large family reunions and visit ancestral graves.
O-bon is a Japanese Buddhist custom to honour the departed spirits of one's ancestors, hence the macabre black cloth.
Don't even think about wearing either one of these for your wedding!
Return to main wedding veil page.