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Question89 Are the Japanese socks specially designed for the Noh performance?

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There is always a possibility that people only gaze at the gorgeous costumes and expressive masks; however, it is also interesting to watch a performer's steps. You can see miraculous movement and also be able to know his calibre. When you watch an actor's steps, his feet are covered with Japanese socks, or tabi. Tabi are a familiar item to those who have had occasion to wear Japanese kimono. The tabi used for Noh performance are made of thicker cloth than normal Japanese socks and are lined with flannel. When you wear a pair of tabi, you fasten four clasps on each one. It is not be a burden to sit for a long time with your feet under you when you wear tabi, because your feet are wrapped softly rather than pinched tightly.

Wearing stable footwear is fundamental for Noh actors as they can lose their balance because they are wearing masks. Tabi should not be too tight or too loose; it is important that tabi fit actors' feet comfortably in a similar way to sports shoes. Tabi shops keep pedographs of Noh and Kabuki actors, and make custom-made tabi to order for each of them. The beautiful gliding movements on the bridgeway are supported by the footwear the actors are wearing.

(Dec. 7, 2010)


illustration : Hiroko Sakaki
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