Emperor Akihito, then Crown Prince, newly-wed wearing a sokutai and holding a shaku, 10 April 1959

The sokutai (束帯) is a complex attire worn only by courtiers, aristocrats and the Emperor at the Japanese imperial court. Parts of a sokutai are the shaku (), a flat ritual baton or sceptre, and a hat called kanmuri (). Sokutai differs from person to person depending on rank and whether the person is a civil or military official. Military officers wear the outermost layer with split front and back panels, to permit freer movement, whereas civil officials have sewn panels. The highest ranks (from first to third) wear purple; the fourth rank wears maroon; fifth, crimson; sixth, dark green; seventh, light green; eighth, dark blue; and the basic rank, light blue. Persons without rank typically wear mud or light yellow; the darker, fuller shade of yellow was reserved for the emperor. Due to the difficulty of obtaining the dyes required to produce purple and maroon, these colours were changed to black during the Heian Period.

No longer in normal use, the sokutai is however still worn by male imperial court members, including the Imperial family and government officials such as the Prime Minister on rare occasions, such as weddings and enthronement ceremonies. On such occasions women such as an empress or princess wear a jūnihitoe.


On the foundation of a kosode (小袖), which is a white, slender garment covering the wearer to knee level, the Ookuchi-hakama, a pair of red, long hakama, is worn over the kosode and tied off on the wearer's left. Then, the hitoe is worn as an upper garment; a number of layers of akome is worn above the hitoe according to seasonal requirements. The ue-no-bakama, a shorter, white hakama, with an open fly, is worn above the akome, tied off to the right. The shitagasane, a garment typically white, with the characteristic "tail" of the sokutai, the covers the upper body of the wearer. Then, the hampi, a sleeveless vest, often featuring intricate embroidery, is worn over all these layers. The final outer robe is then worn over the hampi.

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