Saturday, April 30, 2016


Yes, I feel bad. I started my "How to Make a Yukata" tutorial 2 years ago and I still haven't finished it. It's been so long now that my knowledge of waisai (Japanese sewing) has expanded dramatically and now I want to redo the whole thing from scratch... again.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Hakata Ori 博多織

Hakata Ori 博多織


Hakata Ori, or hakata weave, is a stripe-like pattern common on obi and cords.

I adore this weave. I think it's so pretty; I've always been so attracted to hakata obi's, thus I've decided to do this little appreciation post.

Instead of going through the effort to rewriting my own post, I've posted my research below from various sites (so some stuff is repeated). I'm sorry, but re-writing everything into original prose seams a bit daunting to me :P (in other words, I'm lazy).

From Immortal Geisha (slightly edited for this blog post)

Hakata Ori

Named for the region of Hakata-ku, Fukuoka, where it is primarily woven, Hakata is a distinctive thick silk textile, used primarily for obi, but also found on other items where a stiffer textile is necessary, such as handbags, zori, and especially datejime, where it's prized for its stiff texture and ability to hold in place without slipping. Hakata silk is very tightly woven, giving an appearance similar to grosgrain ribbon. When it's being tied, it should have a very distinctive "squeaking" noise as the ridges rub up against each other. This is not a flaw - it is a sign of a good true Hakata weave.

Other common terms for hakata include hon-chikuzen, honchiku, hakata-ori, and kenjo-gara, when referring to the typical geometric design. 

Seasonal Use, Exceptions & Pairings

As hakata is generally displayed in the kenjo-gara design, it is considered seasonless. It is always prudent to keep in mind the weight of the fabric - ro hakata can only be used in the summer, fukuro-sewn hakata only in awase seasons, but hakata weave is by default hitoe, and as an exception these can be used nearly year-round.

Hakata obi are available in all standard modern obi sizes - hanhaba, nagoya, and fukuro.
Motif Variations

Kenjo-Gara 献上柄

(see below for meanings for this motif)

While black and white is by far the most common colour combination for hakata weave, it is available in a multitude of other variations, several of which represent the five elements in Chinese mythology, or the five virtues of Confucianism.[2]
  • Purple - Righteousness 
  • Green - Benevolence 
  • Red (also pink) - Propriety 
  • Yellow - Trust 
  • Blue - Wisdom 
  • Auspicious Nature
Due to the religious connotations of the standard kenjo-gara formation, hakata can be considered auspicious.

Motif in Literature & Other Usage


Hakata was generally considered too casual and too "drab" for the average woman. However, as is their style, Geisha turned something mundane into something profoundly iki. While still technically too casual for most women, Geisha, especially of the Hakata district, are known to wear hakata fukuro obi with even the most formal kurotomesode outfits. There are also many examples of hakata darari obi for maiko.

From, however I've expanded, edited, and added some stuff.


KENJOU 献上柄 design (shown above) is one of the most traditional design. It is originally from Hakata, Fukuoka Pref. in Kyushu, JAPAN. 

Each woven stripe has a meaning:

A : Stripe (OYAKO JIMA = Parent and Child) 
The thicker line is regarded as parent and thinner one is child.
"A" has thinner lines between thicker ones.
This means "parents are guarding their children"

B : Kaki (Hanadai or Hanazara) 
This motif comes from Buddhist's prop. A flower base for Buddha and Hotokes.
You can see this line has roll- printing of the base.

華皿 はなざら (Hanazara)
C : Dokko
This is also Buddhist's prop motif. This is a prop Buddhist priest have.
This is also roll-printing design of the prop, Dokko.

独鈷 どっこ (Dokko)

D : Oyako Jima
This stripe is also Oyako jima, but see, this stripe means; children will guard their parents.

From JAPAN BLOG by AubergineFleur. Slightly edited for this blog post.

All About Hakata Obi  博多帯のそれぞれ (英語で)

正絹博多織 献上博多八寸帯
When someone refers to a Hakata obi 博多帯, usually what they mean is one specific weaving design of the Hakata obi called “kenjō” 独鈷, and also called “tokko” 独鈷, which resembles, and is so named for, the single-prong vajra Buddhist ritual implement, which looks kind of like <<=>>. 

Floral Design Hakata Obi
However there are many other designs woven into hakata obi, many floral rather than geometric, and the most ornate ones are prohibitively expensive.

* For more on the design and meaning see Bokunan-do's page on Kenjou Design. 

Japan Map
“Hakata obi” is actually short for “hakata-ori no obi,” an obi of hakata weave. The Hakata obi is named for its place of origin in Fukuoka prefecture, where it is still woven today. The weaving technique was introduced to Japan the Katei era (1235-1238) by Mitsuda Yazaemon who went to Song-dynasty China and studied weaving techniques there. In its early period, it was a genuine form of Chinese weaving, referred to in Japan as “kara-ori” 唐織, “mainland-style weaving,” and was made of silk imported from China, although now the silk is produced in Japan. 

Fukuoka City - Hakata Ward
In 1600, the domain feudal lord, Kuroda Nagamasa, sent the Shogun as tribute hakata material in the kenjō design, and from thence on, the kenjō design became a hallmark of Hakata obi. The special quality of the hakata weave is the warp is used to make the design (unlike the Kyoto Nishijin weave 西陣織 which uses the weft), the threads are of varying thickness, and it makes a special silk noise called “kinu-nari” 絹鳴り. The silk material is also very firm and holds its shape well, so the tying of the bow of the obi does not come loose. Traditionally Hakata obi were hand-woven on a loom, but now they are often made on a jacquard loom, allowing for more gorgeous designs, some of which I believe are now computer generated.

Nagoya Hakata Obi
Hakata obi of the kenjō-tokko design are primarily made into a Nagoya obi or a hanhaba (half-width) size obi. Both may be either single-layered (hitoe) or double-layered (fukuro). There are also summer sha-gauze weaves in a kenjō-tokko design hakata obi, basically a loose weave, with a simple over-under pattern in the parts without design.

DSC_2614-edTPO for Hakata Obi

Hakata obi of the kenjō design are fairly informal for the ordinary wearer. Based on observation, a Nagoya obi style can be worn with “fudangi” 普段着 everyday wear, everyday-wear tsumugi, and komon (simple all-over pattern kimono). An hanhaba hakata obi is even less formal, but can be worn with “fudangi” everyday wear, everyday-wear tsumugi, and yukatas.

<-- Mirror Image!

Summer Sha-weave Kenjo Hakata Nagoya Obi
Sha-weave Nagoya hakata obi’s are often worn with ro-weave komon in the summer, and a sha-weave Hakata obi, whether Nagoya or hanhaba, dresses up a yukata. Maiko-san in Kyoto often wear sha-weave Hakata Nagoya obi’s with their yukatas in summer. One of my favorite Japanese bloggers on kimono wore a sha-gauze hakata Nagoya obi with her elegant Chikusen yukata last year, see Yukata Elegance: "Wa-bijin wo mezashite" 

Summer Hakata Ra-weave

Likewise for the similar summer ra-gauze weave Hakata obi. 

Geisha in Kurotomesode and Hakata Obi
Hakata obi’s with the kenjō-tokko design are typically not worn with anything more formal than a komon, such as a tomesode, except by professionals such as Geiko-san (the Geisha of Kyoto), Japanese traditional-style dancers, and Noh performers. There are some extremely fancy hakata obi’s with a design other than kenjō-tokko that come in the formal fukuro-obi style. These are often worn with iro-muji kimonos.

Personally, I tend to wear kenjō-weave hakata obi’s (both hitoe and awase) often with yukata. This is because most of my hakata obi are the hanhaba size, so too informal to wear with much else. I do occasionally wear my non-kenjō design hanhaba hakata obi with my everyday-wear indigo tsumugi-kasuri kimono. I have become a bit of a Hakata-obi maniac, and have more than any sensible person needs. The one I wear most often is a dusty pinkish-purple (maroon) hassun Nagoya obi which I often wear with my indigo tsumugi-kasuri kimono, or just about anything else for that matter. As far as I can remember I only have two summer Hakata Nagoya obi, one is an egg-shell white sha-weave hakata obi which I wear with my summer ro komon or a high-end yukata, and another is a blue sha-weave hakata obi I wear with a high-end Chikusen yukata.

Brown-Black Hakata NagoyaWhen to wear Hakata obi, seasonally –wise?

Hakata obi’s are worn all year round. If you want to get really fancy, and have funds to buy the different types, you could wear a awase (double-layered) hakata obi with a awase (lined kimono) during the winter months from late September to early May, a hitoe (single-layer) hakata obi with a hitoe (unlined) kimono in the spring and fall months of mid-May to Mid-June and late August to late September, and a sha-gauze weave hakata obi with an “usumono” (sha, ro, hemp) kimono in the hottest part of summer from June to early September. Most hakata obi of the kenjō-tokko design, when made into a Nagoya obi, seem to typically be single-layer, and these in particular are often worn all year round, with the exception that the sha weave is only worn during the summer months. For more on what to wear when in general, see post “Kimono Seasons,” which has several kimono seasonal charts from kimono magazines.

Some Japanese information. I haven't translated it yet so I don't know if it's the same information as above. From here.





Another Japanese link. "博多織について" here.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Miyatsuguchi - Continued

Adding to my post about the miyatsuguchi....

Apparently, there was a time when all holes, or openings, in the kimono were called "8 Holes". Not exactly sure why but maybe it was because there are 8 all together.

Below is a list of the names of the kimono openings. (From here.)

- 長着の穴について - Nagagi no ana ni tsuite - "Long Clothing Openings"

1. 首を通す穴 - Kubi o toosu anaHead Opening
2. 足を通す穴 - Ashi o toosu anaFeet Opening
3. 右手を通す穴(※右の袖口)Migite o toose ana (migi no sodeguchi) - Right hand opening
4. 右の振り八つ口 - Migi no furiyatsuguchi - Right sleeve edge opening
5. 右の身八つ口 - Migi no miyatsuguchi - Right body opening (armpit opening)
6. 左手を通す穴(※左の袖口)- Hidarite o toose ana (hidari no sodeguchi) - Left hand opening
7. 左の振り八つ口 - Hidari no furiyatsuguchi - Left sleeve edge opening
8. 左の身八つ口 - Hidari no miyatsuguchi - Left body opening (armpit opening) 

Over the course of time, I'm assuming that the "8 hole" bit was dropped out of some of terms. For example, the opening on the edge of the sleeve is called "furiguchi 振り口" in some sources and "furimiyatsuguchi 振り八つ口" on others. "Sodeguchi" may have been "sodemiyatsuguchi" at some point as well. But they are pretty long terms; it's not wonder why the terms were shortened.

Perhaps the miyatsuguchi kept it's full name because otherwise it would have been just "body hole" and then it wouldn't be clear whether it was the head opening or not.

Hitoe Kimono Sewing Terminology

Hitoe Sewing Terminology Diagram
(Female hitoe shown. Descriptions below.)

1. 袖口 sodeguchi sleeve hole
2. 袖幅 sodehaba sleeve width
3. 袖丈 sodetake sleeve length
4. 袖口下 sodeguchishita lower sleeve edge
5. 丸み marumi rounded edge
6. 袖下 sodeshita sleeve bottom
7. 振り furi "Swing", sleeve edge (Not on male kimono)
8. 肩幅 katahaba shoulder width
9. 袖つけ sodetsuke sleeve seam
10. おくみ下がり okumisagari buried okumi length
11. 剣先 kensaki "Point of the Sword"
12. 身八つ口 miyatsuguchi underarm hole
13. 抱き幅 idakihaba "hugged" width
14. 掛衿 kakeeri collar guard
15. 衿中心 erichuushin collar center
16. 上衿幅 uwaerihaba upper collar width
17.ゆき yuki center to edge length
18.肩山 katayama highest part of the shoulder
19. 袖山 sodeyama highest part of the sleeve
20. 前袖 maesode sleeve front
21. 衿山 eriyama top collar edge
22. 衿 eri collar
23. 前身頃 maemigoro front panel, (下前 shitamae the panel tucked under when tied)
24. 合いつま幅 aizumahaba width were collar meets okumi
25. 下前幅 shitaerihaba bottom collar width
26. 後ろ身頃 ushiromigoro back body panel
27. おくみ okumi extension panels
28. 衿先 erisaki collar origin
29.衿下 erishita length between collar and skirt hem
30. おくみ okumi (表面 hyoumen outside surface)
31. おくみつけ okumitsuke okumi seam
32. 前幅 maehaba front width
33. 裾 suso skirt hem
34. おくみ幅okumihaba okumi width
35. 後ろ幅 ushirohaba back width
36. 脇縫い wakinui under arm seam
37. 前身頃 maemigoro front panel (上前 uwamae the outward panel when tied)
38. 前幅 maehaba front width
39. おくみ幅 okumihaba okumi width
40. つま先 tsumasaki hem "toe"

Hitoe Sewing Terminology Diagram - Inside Out Back View
(Female hitoe shown. Descriptions below.)
1. 後ろ袖 ushirosode sleeve back
2. 掛け衿 kakeeri collar guard
3.肩当て kataate shoulder guard
4. くりこしあげ kurikoshiage tuck created for the collar gap (Not on male hitoe)
5. 背縫い senui back seam
6. いしき当て ishikiate kimono seat guard
7. 後ろ身頃 ushiromigoro back body panel (裏面 rimen underside surface)
8. 前身頃 meamigoro front body panel
9. おくみ okumi
10. 裾 suso skirt hem
11. 後ろ幅 ushirohaba back width
12. 前幅 maehaba front width
13. おくみ幅 okumihaba okumi width

Images scanned from 新きもの作り方全書. Translated by me (I tried my best but I am no expert. They may be inaccurate.)

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Miyatsuguchi 身八つ口 - Armpit Opening

Have you ever wondered why there are those openings in the armpits of female kimonos? Not surprisingly, I've heard this question come up a few times when fellow Westerners engage in kimono discourse. Usually, the answer has to do with ventilation. Others have said it's useful for adjusting the ohashori. One Japanese presenter even said it was useful for Japanese men to slip their hands into a woman's kimono (WOWZERS!! lol)

Woman putting hands through openings to adjust ohashori. Image from here.

This opening in the armpit has a name; miyatsuguchi 身八つ口. It can be found on modern female kimono and not men's.

Underarms of woman's and men's kimono, respectively. Image from here.

But you know what though? After having worn kimono for a few times, I noticed the "ventilation" holes didn't really make a lick of difference. It was still hot as hell!!! Besides, being that men are generally warmer in body temperature and can wear just as many modern kimono layers as women, wouldn't their kimono have the openings too?

So despite how often it's mentioned, I'm not convinced that the uses listed above are the main reason why the armpit openings persist in female kimono. They are more subsequent uses.

This hole is, surprisingly, older than the modern kimono itself. The openings can be seen on the layers of the Juunihitoe. I suspect that the opening came along with Hanfu (Chinese clothing) when Japan began importing and adopting Chinese culture during the Heian period. (But, unfortunately for me, I do not know enough about Hanfu yet to find any examples but rest assured I will investigate).

Below is a replica from the 12th century and you can see the edges of the miyatsuguchi bowing out behind her arms.
Images from here.

Below shows the costume of a "Courtier in regular court dress, hitatare, like warrior, in Muromachi era". You can see miyatsuguchi behind his large draping sleeves as well.

Images from here.

Since it appears that men did have them at one point, the opening seems to be mostly characteristic of garments with large draping sleeves, specifically, kakusode 角袖"square sleeves" (*), rather than gender.

I believe the function of the miyatsuguchi is to allow for movement on garments with square sleeves that are meant to drape. On modern female kimono, being that the obi is so wide, arm movement would be constricted if the body sides and sleeve edges were sewn closed. This is because the back edge of the opening will move separately from the front edge, thus absorbing displacement during movement.

Liza Dalby mentions this in her book "Kimono: Fashioning Culture";
"If these sleeves had been sewn to the sides of the kosode, free movement of the arms would have been severely inhibited." (p.44)
With historical clothing, I can imagine the opening would have also helped the many layers of kimono remain flat. It's basically the kimono equivalent to the function of the yoke on the back of a man's blouse. The pleats sewn below the yoke allow for extended arm movement.
Shirt Yoke 
Man's shirt showing shoulder yoke with pleats. Image from here

Since the sleeves on men's kimono no longer drape significantly below the obi, there isn't a need to keep the sleeve edges open. Arm movement isn't a problem because it has all this unbounded fabric at the sleeve and torso at its disposal.

Rear view of male costumes in Aoi festival ~ Japan 2015. Image from here.

The miyatsuguchi isn't necessary for everything. In this outfit below, there are no openings in the outer garment; instead the entire length of the sleeve is sewn to the body. This of course prohibits the use of an obi around it but clearly it wasn't intended to be used with one anyways. (I guess ventilation wasn't an issue in this case either).

"Woman of the upper warrior class in formal costume." The Costume Museum.

Additionally, the miyatsuguchi isn't present on kimono with smaller sleeves.

"Katsura-me or peasant woman of Katsura village selling food in Kyoto". The Costume Museum.

When the kosode first emerged, it was tied with only a cord and the sleeves were as long as the length between the shoulder and the hip were the obi was tied. Therefore, the sleeves were sewn closed against the body. Once the sleeves began to lengthen beyond the obi again around the 16th century did the miyatsuguchi reemerge, for both men and woman at the time.

In all honesty, I feel like talking about the functionality of the opening in terms of the history of the square sleeve would be more interesting of a conversation than saying it was for ventilation. So I'm curious; why is the ventilation answer the most popular? Is it that the movement functionality is just taken for granted? Maybe it is just not that well known? I've also read on forums and blog posts that it is for the ohashori but clearly the opening was being used well before the ohashori was.

There are some characteristics of the modern kimono that are a result of more tradition than function. The ohashori, for example, has become a permanent part of the kimono aesthetic even though it's not really necessary. Maybe the miyatsuguchi has been regarded as something like that.

But this leaves a different mystery. The kanji of the word miyatsuguchi 身八つ口 translates to "body eight hole". Why the word eight?

 (*) - Added note: 

I came across a garment with miyatsuguchi that doesn't have kakusode (square sleeves) but tsustsusode 筒袖 (tube sleeves). Therefore, the opening is required for garments wrapped at the waist, regardless of sleeve shape. (Image from here.)

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Concerning the name of geta

Being that I did some research for that geta post I previously did, I uncovered an interesting phenomenon; Oiran geta appear to have been incorrectly labeled in English and the error has spread everywhere.

In English, they are referred to as Koma geta. It's mentioned on the English Wikipedia page and repeated on several websites. However, when I translated the name into Japanese 駒下駄 (Koma Geta); only the smaller, classical two teeth geta come up in searches. On the Japanese Wikipedia page for 下駄 (geta), Oiran geta are referred to as 吉原下駄 (Yoshiwara Geta).

In fact, so far I haven't found any Japanese references to Oiran Geta as "Koma geta".

Below is a description on koma geta (from here):
During the late 17th centery, around the Joukyou era, the platform and teeth were carved from one plank. The teeth were low, thus it's name resembles the word for horse (for the hooves) [Please note I translated this myself and my Japanese isn't all that great]. 
The diagram below (from the page cited above) shows the low, two-teethed geta as koma geta.


In this next diagram, the large geta are called "Three-teeth Geta"

When I search for 駒下駄 (Koma geta), the following type of geta comes up.

Image from

Now I'm curious as to how and why that name got used for Oiran Geta in English in the first place. Not surprisingly, my attempts to follow citations on the internet have either sent me in circles or to dead ends, at least so far. 

Japanese Womens Folk Costumes

Ie no Hikari Association (1960)

きょうどのふうぞく - [Native Customs]

Found this amazing book at the library! Wish I could sign it out but I couldn't, so I resorted to taking photos.