Noh Costume (Karaori) with Pattern of Cypress Fans and Yūgao Blossoms

Period: Edo period (1615–1868)

Date: 18th–early 19th century

Culture: Japan

Medium: Twill-weave silk with brocading in silk and supplementary-weft patterning in silk and metallic thread

Dimensions: Overall: 67 x 56 in. (170.2 x 142.2 cm)

Classification: Costumes

Credit Line: Gift of Dorothy F. Rolph, in memory of her sister, Helen L. Beloussoff, 1961

Accession Number: 61.151.6


This pattern of open cypress fans and blossoms from a yūgao gourd vine unmistakably evokes an episode from chapter 4 of The Tale of Genji—Prince Genji’s tragic affair with a mysterious young woman who responds to his poem by presenting a spray of yūgao blossoms on a fan and later dies at the hands of the jealous spirit of Genji’s neglected lover Lady Rokujō. The episode inspired a noh play called Yūgao, attributed to Zeami (ca. 1364–ca. 1443). In the play, the young woman appears as a ghost who achieves peace and enlightenment through the power of the Lotus Sutra.