Noh Costume (Chōken) with Water Plants and Mulberry Leaves

Period: Edo period (1615–1868)

Date: 18th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Silk gauze (ro) brocaded with metallic thread

Dimensions: Overall: 47 1/8 x 80 1/4 in. (119.7 x 203.8 cm)

Classification: Costumes

Credit Line: Purchase, Joseph Pulitzer Bequest, 1932

Accession Number: 32.30.4


An outer robe worn primarily for dances by Noh actors in female roles, the chōken is often made of silk gauze delicately patterned in metallic thread. Here, as in many chōken, there are two different patterns. Scattered mulberry leaves decorate the bottom of the robe while at the top are larger designs of water plants: omodaka, with its arrowhead-shaped leaves, and suisen, a type of narcissus.

The conventionalized flowing water beneath the plants is sometimes called kanze mizu (literally, "Kanze water"), a pattern associated with the Kanze troupe of Noh actors. Kanze mizu later became the symbol for a particular Kabuki actor, Sawamura Sōjūrō III, who appears wearing clothing patterned with the motif in a woodblock print (JP2720) by Utagawa Toyokuni.