What Are Japanese Samue?

Samue are a type of traditional Japanese clothing. Originally called "uwappari" or "monpe,” it was worn over kimono and a little different than what samue would become. Samue were worn by Buddhist monks while performing their daily chores (samu). Even today, monks in most temples wear samue as a uniform.

The wearing of samue eventually spread to artisans. Over time, it came to be regarded as a garment worn by those involved in traditional Japanese cultural arts such as pottery and folk art.

Today, samue are widely popular among the general public as clothing made for relaxing, and for everyday use. Their comfort, ease of use, the spirituality and history associated with traditional Japanese clothing with a collar, and their fashionable appearance are attracting renewed attention.

What Is It Like To Wear Samue?

Each samue is a set consisting of a jacket and a pair of pants.

The jacket is tied at the inner and outer sides with two strings and has a collar just like kimono. The waist of the pants is made of an elastic band and strings, making them adjustable without requiring a belt. The jacket width and hem of the pants are made to fit loosely. The ankle is usually tied with elastic bands or strings to prevent dust and sand from being kicked up into the pant leg.

Created to be worn while doing chores at temples, samue are functional and allows freedom of movement. Despite their practicality, they have a Japanese-style collar (eri), to maintain a sense of respectability and decorum. In Japan, there is a saying, “Eri wo tadasu” meaning “stand tall and be confident. Demonstrate a firm attitude and determination toward things.”

Where Did Samue Come From?

"Samu" in the word samue refers to all kinds of chores, such as cleaning, performed by Zen monks as a part of their mindfulness training. Like zazen, it is an indispensable part of Zen Buddhism and is still practiced today.

The samue is a "robe" (koromo) worn while performing samu. Initially, it did not have a specific shape. As a result, it evolved into a comfortable yet elegant garment that is easy to wear and to work in. In recent years, the popularity of samue has been spreading as comfortable and fashionable clothing for artisans of traditional Japanese arts and cooks, as well as the general public.

What Are Samue Made Of?

Samue are often made of cotton, hemp, and polyester. Some are made of silk or wool. Various fabrics, from thin to thick, are used according to the seasons, climate, and occasion.

Can Anyone Wear Samue?

Samue are Japanese-style garments that have similarities with Western clothing.

They are unisex and designed to be worn loosely with the size adjustable strings. Traditional Japanese clothing, such as kimono, is known for being difficult to put on and for restricting movement. Samue, on the other hand, are easy to wear and allows you to move freely. This makes samue great gifts as well.

How and When Can I Wear Samue?

To wear a samue jacket, slip the sleeves on and tie the inner and outer strings together in two places.

Pants can be put on just like jeans or other pants. There are two types of pant hems, elastic and strings. Pull the strings around your ankle and tie them when you want to adjust them. If the pants have waist strings, adjust the strings like a belt to fit and tie them.

Samue can be worn for any occasion or situation.

Some people wear them for going out, while others use them as loungewear while relaxing. Samue are perfect to wear while doing gardening or housework, being active, meditating, or practicing zazen.

In Japan, inns and hotels sometimes offer samue to be worn as pajamas. Many of our customers have continued this style at home.

Samue and Jinbei - What’s the Difference?

While samue and jinbei appear quite similar, there are three major differences.

1. Pants

The major difference between samue and jinbei is the pants. Samue pants go down to the ankles, and jinbei are half pants that go down to the knees.

2. Sleeves

The next major difference is that jinbei have shorter sleeves and slits on both sides woven with thick and strong thread to improve ventilation. Samue jacket sleeves are usually longer than those of jinbei, and come in long, rolled-up, and elastic varieties.

3. Seasonality

Jinbei are designed to keep the wearer cool during Japan's hot and humid summers. Samue are worn year-round and come in variations to match the season.

Do Samue Come in Different Sizes?

Children's sizes range from 2’11” to 4’11” (90 cm to 150 cm). Adult sizes range from SS to 4L. Samue were initially designed to be worn loosely. If you are worried about the fit, it is better to choose a large size.

What Is the Difference between Women’s and Men’s Samue?

Samue are essentially unisex garments. As long as the size fits, a samue can be worn by both men and women.

That said, in our store, you will see "Women's Samue." These are made in sizes for petite women and come in more feminine designs and colors.

How Do I Care For My Samue?

Laundry labels indicate how to care for each garment, so please be sure to check it before washing.

◎ Machine Washing

Machine-washable samue can be washed with other clothes in a standard household washing machine, though using a laundry net is recommended.

Do not use a tumble dryer, as it may cause the fabric to shrink.

Do not use fabric softener for summer samue and jinbei, as it may cause the fabric to shift and tear.

Do not use detergents containing bleach.

◎ Hand Washing

For hand-washable samue, wash by pressing gently. Samue dyed with plant-based dyes, such as persimmon or indigo, will fade when washed, so please be careful not to wash them with other items, as they may transfer colors and stain them.

◎ How to Dry

After spin-dry:

1. Remove the samue immediately from the washing machine

2. Stretch out wrinkles by hand (folding and patting samue with your hand will further elongate wrinkles)

3. Hang to dry in a well-ventilated, shady place (direct sunlight exposure may cause fading or discoloration)

◎ How to Iron

Samue made of natural fibers tend to wrinkle easily, so ironing them with an appropriate top cloth will give them an even more beautiful finish.

In the case of summer samue (Omi chijimi, Yoryu, Shijira, etc.), the fabric has been purposely made uneven in a style called "shibo," so pressing with an iron will remove those unique and beneficial qualities of the fabric. Instead, if steam is applied without pressure, rather than using a flat iron, wrinkles can be removed without losing the "shibo".

※How to Care for Samue and Jinbei [Part2]

What Should I Look For When Buying Samue?

We offer samue in different materials and thicknesses depending on the season. We recommend selecting one according to the time of year you intend to wear it and your area's climate.

Are you buying it to relax in your room, go out, or do some active work? The shape of the sleeves, the number of pockets, and the fabric you desire may depend on the intended use.

As for the size, consider focusing on the waist, because if the waist does not fit, the garment cannot be worn. Refer to the size chart on each item page and choose a larger size if you are in doubt.

What Makes Wasuian’s Samue Special?

We own and operate a factory specializing in making traditional Japanese garments; samue, jinbei, and hanten. It's located in Gunma Prefecture's Kiryu City, which has a 1,300-year history of textile production. We manufacture the widest variety of samue made in Japan.

At Wasuian, we are working to attract and train young artisans. This ensures that Japanese traditions and techniques are adequately handed down to future generations.

We work with textile factories throughout Japan and use a wide range of materials, from those used for more than 1,000 years to those made with modern technology. We have inherited the original techniques of Japanese-style clothing in terms of the collar, shoulder specifications, and sewing methods while proposing uses and designs that match modern life.

Wasuian's values are "tradition and modernity," "old and new styles," and "inheritance and innovation."

Where Can I Buy Samue Made by Wasuian?

We accept orders online via our official website at WasuianJapan.com. We carefully ship each item directly from Japan to any destination worldwide.

Of course, if you are visiting Japan, feel free to stop by our headquarters, which is located in Gunma Prefecture. We have a store next to our factory where you can see, touch, try on, and purchase our authentic samue, jinbei, hanten, and more.

Our address is :

6-429-1 Sakaino-cho, Kiryu-shi, Gunma 376-0002, Japan

Whether you visit us or shop online, we look forward to being of service.

Tags: Samue