The Price of Vestments

The Price of Vestments

Back in May, a company that sells Shinto vestments had an advert in Jinja Shinpō. That is not so unusual; what is less common is that they printed the asking prices for most items. Since these were made public, we can safely assume that they are neither ridiculously high nor implausibly low; while there is bound to be variation depending on the source and the quality, these prices are probably representative. I will give all the prices in yen, as that is the currency they are sold in. For these purposes, ¥100=$1; the difference at the time of writing is not worth worrying about in the context of a rough idea of how much these things cost.

Before getting into the prices, I need to make a confession. There are various grades for many of the items, and I am not entirely sure of the differences in every case. It is often to do with the material, for example whether they are made of polyester or silk, but in other cases I cannot even read the kanji, and I can only assume that it is something to do with the quality of the silk, or with the other parts of the outfit that are included.

Let’s start with the basics. Every priest needs a hakuë (a white kimono), a pair of hakama, and a pair of shoes. They also need socks and underwear, but you already know how much those cost. (There are special kimono undergarments, but they cost about the same as western style ones, because there is enough demand in Japan for mass production to be sensible.) If you go for the cheapest options, you can get a polyester kimono for ¥6,300, sandals for ¥1,300, and hakama for ¥11,000. That’s about ¥20,000. (We are being very approximate here.)

However, that isn’t enough. Let’s assume you are male for now. In that case, you also need, at a minimum, a kariginu to wear over the top, an eboshi hat, and a shaku (the wooden board that priests hold). Unfortunately, shaku are not on the price list, but kariginu start at ¥30,000, and eboshi at ¥24,500. So that’s about ¥75,000 in total. Unfortunately, this will not cover you for more important matsuri, because, as mentioned earlier, those have different vestments. At a bare minimum, you need a hō, instead of the kariginu, and a kanmuri, instead of an eboshi. (There are a couple of other things, but they don’t seem to be listed.) Hō start at ¥147,000, while kanmuri are available from ¥62,000. So we’re now pushing ¥300,000 for a basic set of vestments for one person.

What if you want to get higher quality, in silk? The top quality kimono listed is ¥19,500, although that is in rayon (I think). The hakama go up to ¥65,000, while the eboshi is ¥35,000. The kariginu start at ¥100,000, and hō are ¥168,000, with ¥73,000 for a kanmuri. So you can probably put together a single set for ¥500,000. That might well be worth the investment, as you should be able to use them for decades.

One set of vestments for a female priest is listed as ¥163,000, in silk, or (probably — this is one of the places where the description is not completely clear to me) ¥142,000 in synthetics. You would have to buy the fan separately, which suggests that this does include the headgear. This is more expensive than a male priest, but there is less demand for female vestments.

What about miko? You could get away with a basic white kimono, for ¥6,300, and a pair of scarlet hakama, at ¥18,500. (The company will also rent you this set for New Year, for ¥4,000. If you add underwear, because your part-time miko don’t own kimono underwear, and an overjacket so that they don’t freeze to death, it will be ¥7,000. Most jinja would be better off buying, because they are likely to need them at least a dozen times. If you know what you are doing, Japanese clothes are one-size-fits-all.)

Incidentally, kagurasuzu, the bells on a short stick used in sacred dance, are about ¥23,000, and slightly more expensive (¥24,000) if they are made for children.

Vestments are, as we can see, certainly not cheap, but not ruinously expensive. Even so, smaller jinja are sure to make them last as long as possible.

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