A Pair of Beautifully Sashiko Stitched Heel Guards: Akutogake
ca. early to mid twentieth century
each: 3 7/8" x 14", 9.5 cm x 35.5 cm
This is a pair of sashiko stitched akutogake or heel guards. In old Japan people wore accessories to give protection to the body while working, traveling on foot, and the like. Hand guards, gaiters of shin guards, instep guards and heel guards were worn as added protection against abrasion.
These akutogake were placed around the heel of the foot and tied in front. They are hand stitched from white or undyed cotton and have been sashiko stitched in deep blue, thick, cotton thread. As the blue cotton thread has bled onto the white cotton base, it seems that this blue cotton is not dyed in natural indigo.
The motifs stitched onto the guards are interesting: in the center are three triangular shapes, possibly but not certainly, a variant of the yabane or arrow feather motif. Flanking this central stitched design are two blocks of stitching which are a version of the kaki no hana or the persimmon flower.
By looking at the accompanying photographs we can notice the wear, the slight staining and the abrasion to the pair of heel guards which shows that they were indeed worn by someone in old Japan.
A really lovely set of a quickly disappearing hand made accessory from the past.