Koromogae, Rethreaded*

This week has been the hottest so far in Sacramento this summer, so I’m thinking a lot about what to wear to keep the heat at bay.

In medieval Japan, people wore lightweight clothing during the spring and summer, and heavier winter kimono through the colder months. The change from summer to winter clothing (and vice versa) was controlled by the calendar, not the weather. The Japanese have a term for this: koromogae, which means changing clothing at the turn of the seasons.


During the Edo Period (1600-1868), koromogae took place on April 1 and October 1. Although the winter change-date remains October 1, modern Japanese perform the spring koromogae on June 1 instead of in April.

The concept of koromogae appears in my upcoming debut novel, Claws of the Cat. The novel takes place in May 1565 – after koromogae. In the novel’s opening scene, Portuguese Jesuit Father Mateo finds himself wearing a summer kimono in weather that’s anything but warm – and wondering why!

The term koromogae doesn’t appear in the novel, but the wearing of summer kimono after the proper calendar date reflects Father Mateo’s adherence to this Japanese custom.

Have you ever read a small detail in a book and later learned it had a much more developed history than you imagined?

*This post is actually a reboot from August of 2012, but since the heat is on my mind this week I thought I’d share this one again.