Defining 重ね・Kasane

重ね - What's the context?

Rather than going into a lengthy discussion of kasane in its historical context I wanted to explore the word and then think about its implications. It may be much more than anyone wants to know. I’m referencing a few dictionaries I have on hand as well as some on-line that I use frequently.

Jim Breen’s definition is: 重ね 【かさね】 (n) (1) pile; heap; layers (e.g. of clothing); set (e.g. of boxes); course (e.g. of stones); (ctr) (2) counter for things that are stacked, piled up (or layered, etc.) (after a word from the “hito-futa-mi” counting system); ED

Another one on SpaceALC shows it in the past tense as 重ねた (kasaneta) – superimposed.

Other contexts are:
重ね塗り [kasane nuri – literally overpainting]
• overspray(スプレーの)
• recoating
重ね塗りの [kasane nuri no] overglaze

In the context of clothing (and perhaps textiles?):
重ね着 (kasanegi)= kasane + wear (to wear)
• layered clothing
• layered look(衣服の-ifuku no
• layering(保温またはファッションとしての- hoon mata wa fuashon toshite no
重ね着する (kasanegisuru) – to layer

Looking further:
重ね(kasane) has several pronunciations, depending on context:, chō, or omo(i) (heavy). P. G. O’Neill’s Essential Kanji shows the verb kasa (neru/naru) as “pile up.” In the context of omo, the meaning is “think, important” or “value.”

Kodansha’s furigana English-Japanese Dictionary uses the term in defining ‘layer’ as in coat of paint. If you look up ‘pile’ 重ね is used to refer to a ‘stack of books.’

Kenneth G. Henshall’s A Guide to Remembering Japanese Characters has even more of offer. It adds ‘fold’ as a third definition (thinking of Hiroko Harada’s work). 重大(judai) – seriousness、重さ(omosa) – weight、and 三重 (mie) – three-fold, are examples given for each context. Henshall says that at one time, the characters 人 (hito-person)、土 (tsuchi-ground) and東 (higashi-east) were combined for its literal meaning of a “(heavy)sack or a “person standing on ground carrying heavy sack.” The idea of piling up and folding simply derive “from the idea of adding to the weight being carried.” There’s more but it goes into an aspect completely unrelated to textiles.

I didn’t realize, until I read Henshall that ‘fold’ was part of the “works” and when I looked up ‘fold’ in my furigana dictionary, I did actually find kasane as part of the definition. I’ve learned a new word. I could understand the context and meaning by ‘reading’ Harada’s work, but still wanted more  specifics. All of this brings to mind something one of my instructors at Meredith said often during her art history lectures. All of the information we needed was ‘in the image’ or work being viewed. It’s all there, you just have to look.


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3 Responses to “Defining 重ね・Kasane”

  1. neki rivera Says:

    great post, thanks !invaluable for any japanophile.
    so i am doing kasane nuri with kakishibu!

    • Susan Says:

      Thanks! Your kakishibu is lovely, saw it on your blog and read your older ones on the topic. What patience you have! It’s a worthwhile pursuit though, I think.

  2. onesmallstitch Says:

    thank you, I’ve printed a copy, I’ve learned a new sense of the word in both Japanese and English. so my stitched handwoven scraps are kasane, yeah!

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