Mino (straw cape)
A mino (蓑) is a traditional Japanese garment, a raincoat made out of straw. Traditional mino are an article of outerwear covering the entire body, although shorter ones resembling grass skirts were also historically used to cover the lower body alone. Similar straw capes were also used in China, Vietnam and Korea.
Rice straw has water repellent properties. Raindrops striking a mat of straw will tend to flow along the fibers of the mat, rather than penetrate underneath it. For this reason, early Japanese rain gear was often made of straw, which has the added benefits of being cheap to acquire, easy to weave and fasten, and light in weight. It is, however, bulky in size, and highly flammable. In earlier eras, straw clothing had an additional advantage: it afforded a significant degree of camouflage in certain terrain, including forests and wetlands, similar to modern ghillie suits.
As synthetic fibers and later plastics were introduced to Japan, mino lost much of their practicality and fell out of use. Today, however, they are still worn as costumes in various traditional folk traditions and festivals, such as the new year celebrations of the Oga Peninsula, where men dress as ogre-like namahage wearing masks and mino.
- Signboard for Mino seller in Torii-no-moto (Hikone, Shiga prefecture) on the Nakasendo route (June 2017).
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