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Kimono Sash: The Japanese Belt

Kimono Sash: The Japanese Belt

7 minute read

Fashion has always played a significant role in any culture. Few pieces of clothing highlight this fact more than a kimono sash. From its infinite possibilities to the messages it allows you to send, the kimono sash can make or break your outfit.

Read on to learn all you need to know about the kimono sash and how people wear it.

What Is a Kimono Sash?

Originating in Japan, a kimono sash is a decorative belt of varying shapes and sizes worn with either a kimono or yukata. This garment began as a simple thin belt and developed over time into an essential accessory and style icon.

Today, the kimono sash has multiple names, including:

  •  Obi
  •  Obi sash
  •  Obi belt
  •  Japanese belt
  •  Traditional obi belt
  •  Japanese obi belt
  •  Japanese kimono obi belt
  •  Kimono obi
  •  Japanese kimono sash
  •  Yukata belt

Japanese Obi Sash

Japanese Obi Sash

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Pink Japanese Obi Sash   Product Type: Japanese Belt Composition: Cotton, polyester & canvas Width: 7.1 in / 18 cm Cute rabbit print Adjustable   Free Shipping in the U.S. Processing Time: Orders are processed within 24-48 hours Customer Satisfaction Guarantee: 30-day return policy… read more

Is There a Difference Between an Obi and Sash?

Though each garment resembles the other, an obi differs from an ordinary sash. The obi is a complex sash worn by men and women in Japan.

What Is the Purpose of a Kimono Sash?

An obi belt keeps kimonos in place and determines their formality. Wearing the same kimono with a different obi can create an entirely different style and sense of occasion.

Here are some well-known types of obi belts worn in Japanese culture and their uses.

Fukuro Obi

The fukuro obi is a women's obi worn with a furisode, a kimono with very long hanging sleeves. Fukuro obi belts are expansive and often consist of brown and gold silk. They display decorative embroidered patterns on the ends once the wearer knots the sash.

Tenga Obi

Another formal belt, the tenga obi, is a kimono sash worn during festive events. This garment contains luxuriously patterned fabric for maximum style, though it is easy to wear.

Nagoya Obi

The nagoya obi has a narrow section that allows you to achieve the taiko musubi, a famous obi knot.

Nagoya obi belts are pretty light and can be worn for semi-formal events in Japan.

Odori Obi

The odori obi has a width of 15 centimeters and is up to four meters in length. Its patterns are synonymous with Japanese dance, festivals, and kabuki theater performances. Traditionally, only kabuki actors and geisha would wear this belt during artistic events.

Chuya Obi

A reversible traditional belt with two different-looking sides, the chuya obi consists of two fabric pieces sewn together.

One of its sides has a standard pattern for everyday wear. The other features rich decorations that match a more elegant kimono.

Hanhaba Obi

The hanhaba obi is an informal sash mainly worn with a kamon or a yukata kimono.

Maru Obi

The maru obi is the most formal kimono sash. Measuring four meters long and 33 centimeters wide, it features beautiful patterns dyed on both sides. The strap also has an incredibly thick, weighty, and rigid material, making it challenging to wear.

Darari Obi

Known as the women's obi or belt of the geisha apprentices, the darari obi can reach up to six meters long. This measurement makes it possible to achieve the taiko musubi or dadari musubi, a particular knot tied by geisha apprentices.

This obi also contained an embroidered emblem of the apprentice's geisha house.

Kaku Obi

This men's obi had a 10-centimeter width and varying degrees of formality, depending on the fabrics used. For instance, people would pair a cotton kaku obi with a yukata, while silk obis were for more formal outfits.

Heko Obi

The heko obi is an informal sash characterized by flowing, lightweight material. Since the obi's knot was easy to make, the heko obi was perfect for little girls.

How to Make a Kimono Sash?

Obi belts consist of various materials, including linen and cotton.

Many consider silk a necessity for kimonos meant for formal occasions. The fancier the event, the higher the silk's quality will be.

Sometimes, the belts made from silk and for special occasions can cost more than the kimono itself. Fortunately, you can find affordable lightweight silk obi for informal events.

That said, the most common kimono sash material today is polyester because it is easy to tie and maintain.

How Do You Tie a Traditional Obi Belt?

Since obi belts have no fastening, people tie them in a bow, drum knot, or other attractive knots.

You could tie your sash at the front or back, depending on the knot you choose. Initially, many tied the obi at the front. Doing so was more manageable and allowed the wearer to tie their sash themselves.

As the belts became more flamboyant, their knots became more elaborate and often got in the way when tied at the front. Tying knots at the back also became more fashionable. Wearing back knots gradually grew popular until it became the standard in the 20th century.

Where to tie the obi on the body mostly depends on gender. Women fasten obi around the abdomen. Men tie their belts around their waist or above the hips.

Most ways of tying your kimono sash may seem complex, such as the tateya musubi. Still, you can try a few more straightforward methods. The bow tie is the easiest way to tie your obi belt.

To do so:

  •  Make a vertical crease: Take about an arm's length from one of your obi's ends and fold it vertically in half. Hold the folded end on your left.
  •  Wrap your obi around you: Place the sash around your shoulder, then wrap it twice around your waist while holding the left end.
  •  Make a triangle shape: Form the right end into a triangle, ensuring it is narrower towards the left. Then, tie the two sides together.
  •  Open the right side: Unfold your sash’s right side, fully exposing its width.
  •  Determine the bow's size: Fold the rest of your sash’s right side according to your preferred bow size.
  •  Bring the left side down and over the folded right: Slide your belt’s left side underneath its right.
  •  Roll the left side towards you: Roll the belt's left side towards you and insert it behind the obi.
  •  Move the bow to the back: In a clockwise direction, move the tied bow towards the back while exhaling.

What Are the Different Clothing Parts to Accessorize a Kimono?

While the obi is often the most prominent part of your kimono, you can include other accessories. You could accessorize your outfit with geta, special wooden footwear worn underneath kimonos. Some geta include tabi socks, which are typically cotton socks.

Women's accessories include paper hand fans, silk haori jackets, and color-coordinated handbags. Other women have an obi bustle tied, with the knot peeking from underneath the obi.

Get Your Kimono Sash Today

Known for being elegant, fancy, and luxurious, kimono obis are complex garments with plenty of cultural significance. Worn to both formal and informal events, an obi is a cornerstone of the Japanese lifestyle.

At Eiyo Kimono, we have a carefully curated selection of obi belts on sale. Our shop features quality materials and stunning decorations designed with great care.

Search our kimono sash catalog to get your hands on an exquisite, celebrated piece of Japanese culture and fashion.

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