The Japanese Umbrella history

  • Do you know Wa-gasa? Wagasa is Japanese traditional things.

    When wagasa first emerged?
    Wagasa dates back in “Heian era”, it was very popular among Hujiwara clan, the most prosperity era for Fujiwara clan.
    That time Wagasa was used to protect aristocrats from sun and evil spirits. So not used as protection from the rain. The umbrella also could not be close, and only stayed open.

    After that, in the middle of Edo era, two new features emerged. First, the design has changed, second, common people now also could use it.

    As regarding design, the previous model could not be folded. In Edo era, that inconvenience has disappeared, the umprella was now foldable.

    As regarding second change, common citizens started using new umbrellas. Before Edo era, the citizens in Japan only used “Sukegasa”.

    As you can see there was no place for grip.
    But since Edo era many people used new umbrellas. And you can even see it from Hirosige Utagawa’s works.
    This work’s title is “おおはしあたけのゆうだち”

    A lot of skills are required in order to make an umbrella. The most important one was “Rokuro”.
    “Rokuro” is a function for opening or closing Umbrella.

    And Rokuro was extremely difficult to produce in the begging of Edo era.
    The great part of umbrella craftsmen lived in Kansai area. The capital of that time was also located in Kansai.

    This Umbrella had a new role; rain protection. Common people could not know how to make those, and it opened new opportunities at the market.
    In addition, stores could place their advertisement on umbrellas, and craftsmen were paid for that as well.

    Since Edo era Wagasa was still being produced but not seen as often. New-style umbrellas are of vourse prevalent, now they are cheap and made of vinyl. And the average price is JPY500 or even cheaper. Wagasa costs from JPY10,000 and up. But , of course, the quality is high.
    Most of Wagasa are produced in Gifu prefecture.

    When you come to Japan, be sure to check it out!