Kasa refers to any style of traditional Japanese woven straw headwear. Kasa came in numerous styles, which could be used to determine the wearer’s occupation.
Kasa were made using natural fibrous materials. Like many types of traditional clothing, the style determined the materials used to create the garment. Some types of materials used in creating Kasa were:bamboo materials, sedges, straw, rushes, wicker, and grasses. Many Kasa were also waterproofed with the use of lacquer or tree sap, however certain straw was water resistant. Hats were often painted as well. The most common color for Kasa was black. Vermillion and gold colored hats were worn by the middle and upper class respectively. Certain types of Kasa may also have been imprinted with Mon crest.
Japanese straw hats appear to have a long history, with definite evidence of the hats existing from the Edo period (1603c.e.-1868c.e.). Kasa were primarily used as a means of protection but could also indicate an individual’s status and occupation. Due to pre-modern travel, Kasa served to protect individuals from harsh sunlight, as well as rain and snow. As technology has advanced there was less of a need for Kasa as protection for travel. However, it is not uncommon to see farmers or traveling monks wearing woven hats even today.
Kasa is an overarching term that refers to any traditional woven hat. From this, there are numerous styles of woven hats that are referred to as Kasa. Some types of straw hats are Amigasa, Jingasa, Sugegasa, and Tengai. Amigasa has a circular shape, but the hat appears to be almost folded in half with sloping sides. This style of Kasa is still used today in festivals, specifically when performing a dance called Obon. Jingasa was the warrior’s hat, and was often donned while traveling and during ceremonial or ritualistic occasions. Treated properly, the hat could last many months. Sugegasa were woven straw hats worn by farmers. It is one of the most recognizable hats due to its conical shape. Lastly, the Tengai was a hat primarily worn by monks that resembles a basket rather than a hat. The hat acts as a barrier between the wearer and the outside world, so it was often used to symbolize that a monk was meditating.
How Kasa are Made