By Mike Sullivan
Often in period dramas, movies or even anime you will notice the hats that people wear when travelling, for many people they are seen as cool and are quite often associated with samurai. In fact normally the hat they will wear is called a Sandogasa (三度笠)which is a wide hat but which allows your face to be seen. However, for more dramatic movies, especially violent or more ‘cool’ films, samurai will often be depicted wearing a Takuhatsugasa (托鉢笠). This is a hat which is similar but as it is designed to really block the sun and protect the face from the elements it really covers the face and allows the wearer anonymity.
Don’t get disappointed if you are presented with a Sandogasa hat
As such tourists to Japan are quite often disappointed, especially anime or samurai fans, when they are given the opportunity to wear a traditional Japanese hat and discover it is a Sandogasa. This is an example of how just like not every Japanese guy is a samurai or ninja, not every traditional hat is a Takuhatsugasa. So it is important that if you visit Japan and you want to wear a hat which covers your face (and look ‘cool’) then you really do need to specify which kind of hat you want to wear.
Details about a Sandogasa
The Sandogasa hat itself is quite wide, in order to protect your shoulders from rain, etc, but is also very light. It is woven from bamboo or sedge and inside there is a circular band called an Atamadai which helps the hat fit perfectly on your head. The making of a hat isn’t too complicated, however it is recommended that you buy one from an actual Japanese craftsperson so that you can claim it to be more authentic.
The name of Sandogasa三度笠
Although the hat is often seen in movies and dramas being worn by travellers, whether samurai or yakuza (gangsters), however the name of this hat consists of three characters which provide an insight into its origin. The first character 三 (san) means three and the second character 度 (do) means times, so three times, and the final character 笠 (gasa) literally means shade but is also interchangeable with hat. So the name of the hat is related to something happening three times, in this case it actually refers to foot messengers who normally wore this hat and who travelled three times a month between Edo (Tokyo’s previous name), Osaka and Kyoto. As the Sandogasa was their favoured hat it became named after them.