The truth behind the white wedding kimono

I mentioned in our wedding video that there was another story to the white wedding kimono called the “shiromuku.” Despite the generally accepted symbolism of purity and the bride’s willingness to be dyed by the groom’s colors, I found a story that was much more interesting and made enough sense that I thought it could be true.

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The story suggests that the white of the “shiromuku” doesn’t symbolize purity, but … death. They say it comes from the white of the burial clothes known as “shiroshozoku” that the deceased where lying in their coffin.  I know, sounds a bit dark…

And for this to all make sense, I have to fill you in on a bit more detail.

The head dress that you see me wearing towards the end of the video is called the “tsunokakushi” (角かくし)and is a different type of head covering than the Q-tip like “wataboshi” (綿帽子)I’m wearing during the ceremony. The “tsunokakushi” (literally hiding the horns) is said to make the bride a gentle wife, who is not easily angered or made jealous.
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And unlike the “wataboshi” which can only be worn with the white kimono, the “tsunokakushi” can be worn with either a white kimono or a colorful one called the “irouchikake” (色打掛 )  .
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It seems that nowadays the bride chooses to wear one or the other.
But I began to wonder why there were two types of wedding kimonos in the first place and what the two represented.

It turns out that back in the day, both kimonos had to be worn,  the white kimono for the ceremony and the colored kimono (generally red-based) for the reception.

And while the “shiromuku” symbolized death, the colored kimono represented the bride’s rebirth into the groom’s bloodlines.  If the bride did not wear the colored kimono, she would not be considered reborn.

As for the “tsunokakushi,” the true purpose of the head dress was not to contain the bride’s anger or jealousy (according to this one theory), but to represent the underworld. The “tsunokakushi” used to actually be worn under the big “wataboshi”, which was taken off after the ceremony to symbolize the bride’s reentrance into the human world with the removal of the horns.
Okay, that was a little difficult to explain, but I hope it made a little bit of sense lol
By the way, the idea that the wife leaves her family and becomes a part of the groom’s family is a concept that is still relevant today. Even in western style weddings, the bride will read a letter to her parents saying 今までありがとう thank you for everything to this day. Kind of like a goodbye.  From the Japanese perspective that’s probably the right thing to say to your parents at your wedding, but I just couldn’t. Because regardless of who I marry and where I may be, I’m always going to be their daughter and will definitely have many more opportunities to thank them. (i.e. they’ll have to deal with me even after they get rid of me lol)
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Of course less traditional couples (like us), think of marriage not as leaving one family to be a part of another, but as gaining a whole new family. More the merrier, right?  🙂
As for the origin of the “shinzenshiki” (神前式) or Japanese wedding ceremony, the history only dates back to about a hundred years. You could argue that the rituals are based  on ancient shinto beliefs, but the “shinzeshiki” itself is far from being ancient.
It wasn’t until the Meiji Period, after a member of the imperial family held something similar to what we know now as the “shinzenshiki”, that the Japanese people began to have ceremonies for marriages。Prior to that there were no ceremonies, just a ritual to move in the “hanayome dogu” (花嫁道具)or household items provided by the bride’s family, and the “yomeiri” (嫁入り) the official move-in of the bride, followed by a small gathering at the house.
Some say that the imperial family first decided to organize a wedding ceremony after receiving criticism from the west for not having such a custom. So perhaps, we have western cultures to thank for this rather new, but very special event 🙂
By the way, wedding gifts, that’s another interesting topic to share, but I’ll save it for another post of video since there’s a lot to it 😛
Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the video and the additional information from this blog post.
I’ll be sharing all of my little discoveries that I can’t  fit into my videos right here so be sure to bookmark it 🙂
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One thought on “The truth behind the white wedding kimono

  1. Thank you for the interesting post!! Did you know that the black color of the tuxedo of the groom means death too. It is because the groom has to die to himself in sacrificial love for his beloved wife. 🙂 Pretty cool isn’t it? Congratulations again on your wedding! これからも応援してます!!♡ – Sara

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