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October 31, 2012

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 WardIn 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-ed TPO 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 ObiSha-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.

Iromuji &Hakata Obi KS Haru 06 2

* Here is an example of a similar floral Kyoto Nishijin weave obi which uses the weft to make the design, just for the sake of comparison. (Kimono Salon Spring 2006)


Senshoku jiten: Nihon no dentō senshoku no subete 染織事典―日本の伝統染織のすべて (Textile Dictionary: Everything about Traditional Japanese Dyeing and Weaving). Taryūsha 泰流社, 1987

Kimono yōgo jiten きもの用語辞典 (Dictionary of Kimono Terminology). Supplement with UK Spring ’06. Hachette Fujingaho アシェット婦人画報社, 2006

Personal conversation with Hakata craftsmen at Tobu department store, Ikebukuro (Fall 2008?)

Photo of geisha in hakata obi borrowed with permission from “Kimono and Kitsuke,”original source 定本 着つけと帯結び百科

See also IG Forums “Hakata obi?
(The inspiration for this post, since someone there kindly linked to this blog)

*Click Blogmura logo for other blogs (in Japanese) on Kimono
(and increase my ranking there!)

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Petition to delay the imminent destruction of Mes Aynak in AfghanistanSh*t Japanese Girls Say 日本の女の子がよく言うこと