4th Lesson: Obi

Last lesson I was talking a lot about Kimono, so today I will start to show you more about obi and their ranks, too. This will be easier than Kimono, don’t worry. 😉

I guess you all know, but just in case: the obi (帯) would be translated with belt and you tie it over the Kimono. The obi keeps the Kimono together, thus it won’t slip. To tie an obi you mostly need two things which are called obiage (帯揚げ) and obishime (帯締め).


Depending on the color of obi, obiage, and obishime the appearance of the Kimono can change completely. 😉

Roughly, there are four types of obi and they all have a rank.

① The lowest rank is the so called hanhaba obi (半幅帯), which characteristic is that it is half-wide than the other obi.


hanaba obi hanhaba obi 2

Normally, you tie it over a yukata, but you also my tie it over a komon, an edo komon (without kamon), or iromuji (without kamon). Because hanhaba obi are casual, they are not tied over a tsukesage, homongi or other formal Kimono.

② The middle-ranked nagoya obi (名古屋帯) can be tied more differently. From yukata until homongi would be fine. The characteristic of a nagoya obi can be found in his form, as it is already folded except of the part, which will become the taiko (太鼓).


nagoya obi nagoya obi 2

There are two types of nagoya obi: one has some kind of a lining inside and one without lining. The ones with lining have a higher rank than those without. Even the pattern can be different. Very popular one is the so-called point gara (ポイントがら) which is a pattern placed in the middle of the front and in the middle of the taiko part.

nagoya obi pointo nagoya obi pointo 2

③ A very formal type of obi is the so called fukuro obi. They are not folded and longer than nagoya obi. You coordinate them to formal Kimono, that means edo komon with kamon and higher. As fukuro obi are long (up to 4.5 meters), you can’t tie a normal taiko. The most common tying would be a nijutaiko (二重太鼓), there also can be tied big ribbons (chohmusubi 蝶結び) and other specific tying which are called kawari musubi (変わり結び).


fukuro obi fukuro obi 2

On the left picture you can see pretty well that on part of the obi is without pattern and just black. This is the difference to the next type of obi.

④ The last type and highest rank is the maru obi (丸帯). It is the most formal obi. The usage doesn’t really change to fukuro obi, except that maru obi have pattern on the inside and outside without interruption. Today they are mostly tied to wedding Kimono, because they are expensive. Another consequence of their high price is that nowadays they are not bought that often. Most maru obi you see online are antique.


maru obi maru obi 2

So far with the basic terminology. Later we will learn more about Kimono and their ranks as well as their coordination which can rank a Kimono up or down.

Last week I was too busy with work, so I couldn’t take any pictures of my own obi or obi musubi. But hopefully I can add at least some obi musubi pictures next week.

P.S.: If you liked the obi examples, you should take a look here Shinei !! 😉


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Read more about kimono, Kumamoto, and me at japandigest.de


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