From Tales of Rokugan

this was written by Doji Yuri as a guideline for Winter Court 5.

Info provided by Jeanne Kalvar (Kakita Kaori)

This guide was written with the help of several L5R supplements, from several editions, and completed by referring to several books on the topic of traditional Japanese fashion, including the amazing "Kimono" by Liza Dalby. Therefore, it focuses more on "traditional" garb, and not the unique view of fashion that clans like Unicorn and Mantis might have


The central piece of Rokuganese fashion is the kimono: a T-shaped, straight-lined, full-length robe, with wide collars and long, wide sleeves -- fastened with a wide sash (traditionally wider for women).

Men, women and children wear kimono, independently of wealth or social status. However, to those trained to recognize the subtle language of kimono, one can discover a lot about someone just from the way they wear their outfit. Depending on the material, colour, and design, kimono can be both formal and informal wear, worn as sleeping garments or as the peak of courtly fashion. Kimono always closes to the right side, independently of gender.


A fashionable Rokuganese silhouette has clean, straight lines - fitted clothes are seen as unusual and considered very exotic. As men have an advantage on that, it's not uncommon for women to pad out their waist and bind their breasts to achieve the "perfect cylinder" look. A muted palette is common, especially for the lower classes, and the collars of inner layers are often worn visible, and are usually white; Rokugani fashionistas will, however, have a much bigger range of colours and coordinate their inner collars with the outer kimono. The younger the samurai, the more vibrant and spectacular the colours and patterns they will wear.

Usually, men will wear either short kimono\wide trousers sets or normal long kimono, while women tend to go for the long kimono only – but this is not a hard rule. Samurai-kos will wear clothes very similar to their male counterparts; and some women will prefer the hakama/kimono ensemble both for work and even daily wear.


Men’s outfits tend to be simpler in both execution and décor in general. However, male courtiers and younger men do enjoy to wear more elaborate and decorated outfits which compete in complexity and richness with female fashions.

  • Day Wear: Ankle length kimonos (similar to women’s but with a thinner and narrower obi, narrower sleeves and, often, more discreet colours and décor), or hakama with juban and kamishimo.
  • Formal Wear: Traditionally, dark or clan-colour stripped hakama, black or clan-coloured juban, and a black or clan-coloured, crested Haori.
  • Casual Wear: In informal situations (like attending a bathouse, hanging out with friends, being at home etc.), a Yukata can be worn with a light obi.

Lexicon Men:

  • Hakama – Wide and loose-fitting trousers, known for their traditional 7 plaits. Not all Hakama are pleated – and some variants of the Hakama have no divisions, thus making them similar to long skirts, instead of being split into two legs.
  • (Naga) Juban – A narrow-sleeved and tight-fitting kimono that can be long- or short-sleeved. Juban are ankle-, knee- or hip-length, and are worn inside the Hakama.
  • Haori – A loose jacket, worn by both men and women, similar to a hip kimono. It's worn open, and often has intricate décor on the inside of the back.
  • Kamishimo – A “winged” short jacket, worn over a short kimono and Hamakas. The Kamishimo have extremely wide shoulders, making the wearer look broad-shouldered and intimidating. It’s a very male piece of clothing, but samurai-kos are known for wearing them as well.
  • Obi – Stiff belt made of cloth, about 3 inches wide, where the daisho is placed. Normally, the knot is on the back, or, sometimes, on the side.
  • Yukata – A very informal long kimono made of thin cotton. Frequently worn as a bathrobe, or as an informal summer/house kimono.


In general, male and female wear is very similar, but women tend to favour the long kimono. Things like colours (much more vibrant and colourful for younger women than for older or married women) and patterns (the younger the girl, the more space the patterns take) also contain huge clues about the woman wearing it. Even the placement of the obi cord can also indicate if a woman is married (they would place it an inch or so lower than a maiden would).

  • Day Wear: regular full-length kimono, although the fabric, lining and décor will vary according to the season.
  • Formal Wear: the five-mon Kurotomesode kimono is considered the height of formality. In general, the less decorated and the darker it is (or in the Clan colours), the more formal an outfit will be.
  • Casual Wear: again, like for men, Yukata are used as both very informal and summer clothing.

Lexicon Women:

  • Kurotomesode – Crested kimono made of black fabric (or the main Clan colour), this is the most formal kimono a woman can wear. The number of crests (or Mon) indicate the level of formality (up to the maximum of five Mons) of the kimono. This type of kimono has a pattern, but it’s limited to under the obi line.
  • Obi – The female Obi can be much wider than the male obi (usually between half a foot and a foot wide) and is worn tied in an elaborate knot on the back. Foot-wide obi are be folded horizontally in half before being tied.

Samurai wear

While on duty or for everyday wear, samurai usually favour a Hakama and Juban ensemble. Samurai-kos often emulate men in their outfits while on duty, as it is easier to fight and run in them.

Most samurai-ko own normal female kimono, and will wear them regularly. However, it is still easy to tell if a lady in formal kimono is a warrior or not, just from looking at how she wears her clothing: for instance, since it is impossible to tuck a daisho into the very wide female obi, samurai-ko usually wear a thin male obi underneath the large one, to be able to carry place their swords (even when fully unarmed, the second obi will be visible); plus, they will tie back furisode long sleeves, to allow them to draw the sword quickly.

While in armor, before going to battle, or when having to be armed in a formal environment (such in the presence of one’s lord), the Jinbaori is worn. A Jinbaori is a thickly padded, usually sleeveless, overkimono that can be knee or shin length, very similar to modern day trench coat. It closes at collarbone, chest and waist level – either with clasps, ties or straps. It allows to cover up weapons and armour. Under their armour, samurai tend to wear shorter jubans (traditionally made of silk, as silk is hard to cut or pierce, allowing embedded arrows to be removed more easily), as well as loose trousers that are tighter either at the knee, or mid-calf. These trousers were meant to be worn with armour, and specifically, with shinguards.

Special Occasions

  • Mourning: White is the colour of mourning for Rokugan. Full white is an impressive sight, for few will wear full white if not mourning – as it is considered a bad omen. Thus, someone in mourning will only wear the white garments for a few months. After the proper mourning period is over (a few months for someone truly important or close, or a few weeks for distant relatives or brothers-in-arms), it is traditional to keep wearing a bit of white (like a hairband or obi) on the outfit to remind other of the loss, but go back to wearing normal colours. Full black kimonos, five crested (with no decor whatsovever) are called Mofuku, and are a more subdued (and less dramatic) outfit for mourning.
  • Death: A corpse will be dressed in white and then cremated, but the kimono will be closed to the left side, not the right. It is a bad omen for a living person to wear the kimono closed to the left side – like wearing white while not in mourning, it is almost like tempting Emma-O to take you.
  • Seppuku: Someone who is about to commit seppuku will spend the night before the ceremony writing their farewell letters to friends and loved ones. While doing so, the person will be dressed fully in white, in mourning for himself, and will complete the seppuku in the same outfit.
  • Deathseekers: Deathseekers of the Lion Clan will sometimes choose to wear full white (or almost fully white) clothing, and close their kimono to the left side. Indeed, they are dead men (or women) walking - effectively, they died at the moment of their great disgrace, and this sort of clothing further nails such status, making their shame known to all.

Last edited by Doji Yuri on Tue Jan 03, 2017 9:41 am, edited 15 times in total.

Seasons & Styles


Flowers, birds and insects are common design for kimonos, but, unlike more abstract patterns or representation of auspicious objects like fans, natural objects have a deep seasonal meaning. Some are month-related (like pine for January, plum for February, irises for May), but most are have a connection to the season, like cherry blossoms for Spring, Koi or flowing water for Summer, deer or maple leaves for Autumn, and snowflakes for Winter (winter entails the New Year, which calls for cranes, rising suns and pines, bamboo and plums).


Each Clan, family and even school has a special Mon or Kamon (crest). Mon are worn two on each side of the collar, one on the back and two on the back of the sleeves – but five-crest kimono tend to be saved for extremely formal occasions. The Mons can be repeated (most commonly the Clan Mon) or different (Clan, family and/or school).

Most of the time, a samurai who wears Mons openly prefers the three-crest kimono: one Mon on the back (usually the Clan Mon) and two on each side of the collar (traditionally, the family Mon goes on the left, over the heart, and the school Mon goes on the right). Some Bushi favour a variant of this, with the two Mon on the sleeves instead the chest -- with the school Mon on the right sleeve, to “guide” their swordarm.


Fashionable ladies and gentlemen will wear all colours (assuming the season and combination is right), and not just their Clan colours. Generally, those are saved for highly formal (or celebratory) occasions. To wear always the same two or three colour combination would be remarkably boring – and unthought-of. Outside court and other formal affairs, most of the time it is not possible to determine a person’s clan just from staring at her or his clothes – unless it’s someone with a terrible lack of imagination, or a clan fanatic.

Seasonal Palettes

Rokugani samurai will vary the colours of their wardrobe depending on the time of the year. There are several combinations for each month and festivals, with, one (or more) colour layered over another. Each of these combination has a proper name, and the list that follows is but a small example (as there are so many more):

  • January: Pine Sprout – Green layered on Deep Purple
  • February: Redblossom Plum – Crimson layered on Purple
  • March: Peach – Peach layered on Khaki
  • April: Cherry – White layered on Burgundy
  • May: Orange Flower – Deadleaf layered on Yellow Purple
  • June: Artemisia – Sprout layered on Green Yellow
  • July: Lily – Red layered on Deadleaf Yellow
  • August: Cicada Wing - Cedar Bark layered on Sky Blue
  • September: Aster – Lavender layered on Burgundy
  • October: Bush Clover – Rose layered on Slate Blue
  • November: Maple – Vermillion layered on Grey-green
  • December: Chrysanthemum – Lavender layered on Deep Blue

Clan Colours

Every Great and Minor Clan have colours that symbolize membership in their clan. Samurai’s Armor will always be crafted in the colours of the clan, as will most of their formal attires.


  • Crab – gunmetal grey, blue, brick red
  • Crane – sky blue, white, grey/silver
  • Dragon – emerald green, yellow/gold
  • Lion – gold/yellow, earth tones, orange
  • Phoenix – red, yellow/gold, orange
  • Scorpion – blood red, black, gold
  • Unicorn – purple, white, gold


  • Badger – brown, black
  • Bat – black
  • Dragonfly – blue, brown, gold
  • Fox – brown, green
  • Hare – red, white
  • Mantis – sea green, black
  • Monkey – orange, brown
  • Ox – blue, black
  • Sparrow – shades of brown
  • Spider – black, white, grey
  • Tortoise – light green, white

The Language of Kimono

The fastest way to discern details about a woman is by looking at her kimono. Unmarried young women usually are recognized by wearing the long furisode sleeves and Musubi obi – unlike the “chu-furisode” shorter sleeves of married women. The colours of their kimono are much more vibrant and colourful, and the patterns and decors take up much more space than that of an older or married woman, who wear blander colours. The placement of the obi cord also denounces a married woman, who places it an inch or so lower than a maiden would.

A married woman will not get in trouble for wearing a maiden’s kimono (the fashion police is still not a thing in Rokugan) but she might get strange looks, and (in some cases) a bad reputation. Just like it would happen if a woman wore their obi tied in front (traditionally associated to prostitutes), a married woman wearing maiden’s outfits gives off the wrong impression, i.e. that she is still “free for the taking”.

The same thing applies to how the kimono is worn. Only an unmarried maiden can think of showing a hint of shoulder and bosom. Likewise, a married woman will wear the kimono collar closer to her neck, concealing what is considered the most sensuous part of a woman: the back of her neck.

A final note: the more colourful and decorated a kimono is, the more "informal" it is. Sobriety and simplicity denotes formality in Rokugan. The only exception to this seems to be Court, where formal kimonos can be seen side to side with spectacular displays of couturier skill and incredibly ornate kimonos.