The generic meaning of kago is "basket;" but the word is applied specifically to one particular kind made of split bamboos, having a light roof atop and sometimes a strip of cotton stuff on one side to ward off the sun's rays, and swung on a pole which two men-one in front and one behind-bear on their shoulders. This is the country kago, still the general means of conveyance in mountainous districts, where jinrikishas are not practicable,-sometimes even where they are. The person carried squats much in the same way as the Japanese are accustomed to sit, except that the posture is semi-recumbent. He does not experience any difficulty in (so to say) abolishing his legs. The kago has been variously modified as to details at different times and places. The old norimono of the towns, so often mentioned by travellers of an early date in their descriptions of Daimyōs' processions, was but a glorified kago. Being larger and more stately, it might perhaps be termed a palanquin. The specimens preserved (for instance at the Ueno Museum in Tōkyō) show the extent to which luxury was carried in this conveyance, where the bamboo structure of its rustic prototype was exchanged for costly lacquer, where carefully fitted slides having jalousies bound with silk kept out the profane gaze of passers-by, and finely wrought metal fastenings at every available point proclaimed in heraldic language the occupant's aristocratic birth.
We are not aware at what period the kago was introduced. But it must have been comparatively late, as in mediæval days exalted personages escaping from the pursuit of their enemies are recorded to have done so pick-a-back on the shoulders of some sturdy henchman. Old pictures show us the Emperor Go-Daigo fleeing in this guise somewhere about the year 1333. At that period the only known vehicles seem still to have been those lumbering bullock-carts so often pourtrayed in art, which had for centuries served the Japanese nobility in their pleasure parties round the old capital, Kyōto. But probably it was only round the capital that roads on which they could be used existed, nor were they in any case applicable to occasions demanding speed and secrecy.