Kimono Flea Market ICHIROYA's News Letter No561


Fancy obi bow for furisode- the book is available at Amazon Japan:



As we sell kimono on internet, we are often asked to choose a matching obi sash for kimono. Sometimes customers attach photos of the kimono they have and ask us to show some recommendation of obi of the kimono. We are always happy to show some recommendations.


Sometimes we are asked to `include' a sash to go with the kimono our customters choose. It seems these customers feel obi sash is just a narrow simple tie.

It may be because of the experience of staying in Ryokan during the travel to Japan (many customers visit our webstore to find a reminder of Japan trip). At most Ryokan, Japanese hotels, they have simple yukata like relaxing wear for the visiters. They have simple narrow tie made of the same textile or simple solid color with the yukata. So it is so easy, you can just tie as you like to close the yukata. There is no need of folding at the waist or anthing!


I like wearing yukata they have when I stay at Ryokan. They are roomy and relaxing and make us feel we are really travelling! If you have visited Japan and stayed at Ryokan, I hope you felt the same. 

However, as you can see in our website, obi section has huge numbers. There are different types-for example, hanhaba(narrow type) obi is easy but other obi, especially to go with formal kimono, the obi are quite decorative. You must be surprised and wonder why you need to wear such a stiff and heavy sash! Some obi are more like wrap around corset rather than sash...

Before mid Edo period(Edo 1603-1868) obi sash were just like the sash of Ryokan yukata-simple and narrow tie, not decorative type. People tied in front or side, it was quite free. The width was less than 9cm(approx 3.5 inches). When political situation became stable and people's quality of life became better, rich class people became interested in fashion eventually and along with the trend of flowing pattern of kimono (bold design from right sholder to bottom, called Kanbun moyo), obi started to take more attention. Just as some other fashion items, fashion leaders were working girls. In only one century time, obi became three to four times wider and people competed to make luxurious obi. Obi was just a secondary thing for kimono as a tie but by being stimulated by bold design of that time, obi became to take more important role. With the pattern around bottom of kimono, obi became to have variety of design both dyed and woven and textile also had quite a lot of variety. The tide started from rich people but even merchant class people ( according to their hierachy system, merchant class was the bottom) had this trend of luxurious obi. Obi went ahead for luxury- it is ironic, obi used to be a sash to close kimono but became to need other narrow sash such as obijime or obiage to support the luxurious obi!

You might have felt strange to see Otaiko square bow first time. Also many style obi bow needs supporting sash called obi pillow, obi makura:


One of our staff said, when she was working in kimono, one foreign tourist asked, `Is this pillow for your nap? Do you take off this pillow and use it when you sleep?'

Square bow might not look gorgeous, but with the bow, you can see elaborate woven patterns or one point pattern in poetry. The present obi have this history-decorative and stiff obi. Square obi bow is simple but good to show the patterns of obi and also bring out the kimono pattern.

A very charming kimono stylist we know, her name is Eriko Otake- she is suggesting making obi from almost anything! That is wonderful to lower the hurdle of kimono wearing. Many people think wearing kimono is special and feel awkward.


Yes, we see our customers from abroad ALREADY creating new bow style and using new ideas, such as using scarves as obi age, leather belt for obijime. You may be going ahead of us!