Glossary .. symbols, techniques, styles

 A glossary of common terms and techniques you’ll find about the items for sale. Japanese and Indian textile symbols and techniques can be found here.

Araihari Washing: A technique of un-picking a kimono, washing the individual pieces, then re-tailoring it.. often the pieces are sewn together to form a single bolt to make washing easier

Asanoha: The Asanoha pattern is one of the most popular traditional patterns often seen on Japanese kimono.  Asanoha means: Asa = hemp: no = of: ha = leaf. The regular geometric pattern, though abstract, represents overlapping hemp leaves. Asanoha can be combined with other seasonal motifs including ume and kikko, or feature as the primary element of the design. In ancient Japan, hemp, along with ramie, linden, elm, wisteria and mulberry, were used for making clothing, fibers and paper.

The wives of merchants would wear it, to bring good fortune to the wearer. Because hemp was known for its rapid growth, the pattern was often used for clothes of newborn children. “…[p]arents hoped that infants wearing it would develop with the vigor and toughness of the hemp plant.” The Book of Japanese Design, Kyusaburo Kaiyama.

Camellia: In Japan the camellia flower is called “Tsubaki” and symbolizes the divine. It is often used in religious and sacred ceremonies. It also represents the coming of spring.

Chirimen Silk: Chirimen fabric is a thick, heavy silk crepe, a crinkled fabric made by the weft threads being kept tighter than the warp threads during the weaving process. Weft threads are twisted as they are woven, resulting in a uneven texture.

This weaving technique was developed in Japan over 500 years ago. Threads may be dyed before weaving, or the fabric can be dyed using various techniques after weaving.

Chirimen fabric drapes beautifully, and it is difficult to crease. Therefore it is very popular for making kimonos.

In addition to a wide variety of kimono, many accessories are made using silk chirimen.

  • small bags
  • dolls
  • ornaments
  • furoshiki (wrapping cloths)
  • fabric kanzashi (hair ornaments)
  • obiage (scarf like cloths worn under the obi)

Recently chirimen-style fabrics have been made with cotton, rayon and polyester as they are less expensive and than silk to produce. However, silk chirimen is still the most popular chirimen for kimono fabric.

Depending on the colours and style, chirimen kimonos may be worn for both informal and formal occasions.

Chu-Furisode: A Furisode with sleeves that are around 100cm in length. “Chu” means “medium”

Chuuya-Obi: Sometimes spelled chuya and also called hara-awase obi. A reversible obi, characterised by different patterns on each side. Chuuya means daytime and night time; the earliest chuuya obis were bright on one side and black on the other, like night and day, hence the name. Chuuya-Obi were used by iki-suji ladies in ancient Japan; iki-suji means a kind of kimono expert, such as a Geisha. Chuuya obi are now obsolete and are collectors’ items. They are fequently seen in pictures from the Edo and Meiji periods. The chuuya obi is about 30 centimetres (12 in) wide and 350 cm (11.5 ft) to 400 cm (13 ft) long.

• Date-Eri is a collar which one wears under “Eri” (collar) of the kimono to show as if one wore another kimono under the top kimono.

Fukuro: A type of Obi (also means a bag). Fukuro means double-fold or bag. The Fukuro obi is a slightly less formal style than the Maru obi. The Fukuro obi was created in the late 1920s. The Fukuro obi is made with a fine brocade or tapestry, which is often rokutsuu, which means only patterned along 60% of its length on one side. The back of the Fukuro obi may be lined with a plain silk or brocade, making it less expensive and less bulky to wear than the Maru obi. Even though the Fukuro obi is not as quite formal as the Maru obi, the Fukuro obi can be used for formal occasions. The length and width of the Fukuro obi is the same as the maru obi. Thus, Fukuro obi can hardly be distinguished from Maru obi when tied over the kimono.  A Hon fukuro obi is usually worn with a high class kimono. One side is patterned like a regular Fukuro obi, but the fabric of both sides is connected. They are woven as roll of fabric, like a pillowcase, without seams.  A Hon Fukuro obi  cannot be unstitched.  Hon Fukuro obi are considered to be high quality.

Furisode: Furisode kimonos are worn by unmarried women. Furisode means swinging sleeve. It is pronounced foo-ri-sody, with no stress on any of the syllables. In this description I use the term ‘long’, meaning from shoulder to base of sleeve and not from shoulder to wrist. Women’s furisode come in three types, each with progressively longer sleeves; the longer the sleeve, the more formal it is. Type 1 – Ko-Furisode: the shortest sleeved furisode, with sleeves that are around 85cm in length. “Ko” means small/short but the sleeves of ko-furisode are still very long, much moreso than standard, non-furisode (kosode) kimonos, they are just less long than the other two furisode types. One might wear a ko furisode, for example, with hakama for a graduation ceremony. Type 2 – Chu-Furisode: a furisode with sleeves that are around 100cm in length. “chu” means “medium”. Type 3 – Oh-Furisode: “oh” means big, therefore oh-furisode means big, swinging sleeves, with the longest sleeves of all the furisode type kimonos. Oh-furisode have sleeves of 114 – 115cm. It is the unmarried woman’s most formal kimono, for wear at formal, special occasions and very colourful versions of oh-furisode are worn by brides and known as kakeshita or hon-furisode. Those are women’s furisode kimonos but there is also the Jyusan-Mairi, a girl’s first furisode, which she gets at the age of thirteen

Hakama: A pleated garment worn by both men and women, often seen in martial arts, with 7 folds, a stiff backboard and long ties that have a complex way of being tied. The Hakama has significant meaning applied to its design. The seven folds in the hakama represent seven virtues of the Samurai – Yuki (courage), Jin (humility), Gi (justice), Rei (chivalry), Makoto (honesty), Chugi (loyalty), and Meiyo (prestige)

Hanhaba Obi: The hanhaba obi is half the width of other obis, one of the hoso obi types, and is a single layer obi. The hanhaba obi is a casual obi for wear at home, under a haori (kimono coat), with children’s kimono or with summer yukata. I can be tied with a smallish, flatter knot, such as a clam knot

Haori: A kimono shaped jacket, designed to be worn on top of a kimono. Originally worn by men only; women were allowed to wear them after the Meiji era and women’s ones became all the rage in Taisho era (1912-1926). Haori are versatile garments, as they translate well into western-world outfits too, looking good when worn either dressed up for the evening or dressed down with jeans

Hige-tsumugi: Tsumugi is wild silk, which has a textured surface and hige-tsumugi (hige means beard, in Japanese) has a sort of hairy texture to the surface, popular in Japan, with a surface texture of little loose threads. Tsumugi silk is especially expensive, as it is wild silk, made from cocoons where the silk moth has cut its way out, leaving a hole in the cocoon, so that, when spun, it has to be frequently joined by hand, which gives the thread the an unevenness that provides the texture when woven. This makes it difficult and time consuming to spin the silk, which makes it incredibly expensive fabric

Himo: Braided ties, usually silk, used to hold a haori jacket closed. Women’s ones are tied and untied but men’s ones are too complicated to tie, as they have a different knot from women’s ones, so they are hooked on and one side is unhooked to open the haori

Hitoe: Literally “one layer”. Hitoe used as a noun is a name for the unlined silk summer kimono. As an adjective, hitoe is used to describe a single-layered garment

Houmongi: Sometimes spelled homongi. Literally translates as ‘visiting wear’. A type of semi-formal kimono. Houmongi can be worn at any age and any occasions from a formal ceremony to daily occasions such as visiting a friend’s house. They have no mon (crests). Houmongi is less formal than the furisode (formal dress for unmarried women) or tomesode and slightly more formal than a tsukesage. Characterised by patterns that flow round the bottom and right up over the shoulders, over the seams and onto the sleeves

Ichime-gasa: Checkerboard pattern

Igeta: One of the kimono patterns. It looks like the mouth of a Japanese traditional well, which looks rather like a noughts and crosses (tic tac toe) grid

Ikat: Ikat fabric is made (dying the threads before they are woven so the pattern emerges on the loom. It is a fascinating process and one that, once you recognize it on cloth, will be sure to make you wonder about the time and skill involved in creating it. The technique is sometimes called “fuzzy weave” since the patterning is often blurred because even the most accurate dying and weaving may not align the differently dyed threads exactly. When only the warp threads are ikat-dyed, this is a single ikat and you will see the “fuzziness” running in only one direction. When both the warp and weft threads are dyed before weaving, this is a double ikat and the fuzziness runs in both directions

•  Iromuji (色無地 ) are a type of kimono without any colored patterns. They are of one solid color, which can not be black or white, as these have their own names and unique uses. Quite literally, the translation of Iromuji is “plain color”. They may sport woven patterns in the color of the kimono, but never of any other colors. Those woven jacquard patterns are called rinzu.

Iromuji kimono exist in any color, although most of the time subdued colors are used, which gives them a more mature and elegant vibe. Bright colors are connected to youth and more often found in kimono styles like the furisode.

Additionally they can have 0 to 5 family crests (so called mon), depending on their formality. Rather casual ones would have 0, while an iromuji with 5 crests would be considered highly formal.

Jinken: Artificial silk made from a natural fibre, created from pulped plant fibres. Jinken is much the same as rayon, also a natural fibre often used to simulate silk

Juban: Sometimes spelled jyuban. Underwear. A han juban is a short kimono top, worn as underwear, a naga juban is a long underwear kimono. Juban means underwear and all the types are often called hada juban. Immediately under the outerwear kimono, one wears the naga-juban kimono, naga meaning ‘long’ and juban meaning ‘underwear’. Only the collar edge of the naga-juban can be seen at the neck edge of the outer kimono, but it can create a subtle balance to the entire outfit. The naga-juban also shows when the hem of the kimono is lifted to walk. The naga-juban is often just called a juban. Of course there are several kinds of naga-juban; some are for the use on the ceremonial occasions with mourning kimono or bridal furisode, Others are for rather casual occasions with tsukesage and so on. Rinzu, chirimen or muslin are usually used as the material of naga-juban. With summer kimonos, sha or hemp are mainly used. Each material has its own characteristics. It is said that a nagajuban is a hidden smartness. Men’s nagajubans are often very ornate, with all-over patterns or fabulous scenes or images on the top of the back, this is known as ‘hidden beauty’ and became popular when it was decreed that only nobles and samurai class men were allowed to wear ornate outer kimonos, all other men must wear only subdued ones

 Kalash”: The Kalash is a sacred waterpot – a symbol of Creation, Divinity and Immortality and an essential accessory for Hindu Puja. The kalash is filled with pure water and mango or betel nut leaves arranged around the mouth. Betel nut, copper coins and grains are added and for those who can afford it five precious stones like pearl, diamond, emerald, sapphire, ruby and gold.
Finally, a coconut is placed on the mouth of the kalash and a red and yellow sacred thread tied around the kalash.
During any Hindu ritual worship, it is customary to invite all the deities to attend the event and bless the devotees. The kalash provides a place for the deities to be seated – the seats being represented by the leaves. In some scriptural hymns the kalash embodies the unity of the Hindu trinity. The mouth is the seat of Vishnu, the throat the seat of Shiva and the base the seat of Brahma. The belly represents all goddesses and the Divine Mother. Thus in this small urn the presence of all gods and goddesses is symbolized. This exemplifies that all the gods are essentially one and are emanations of the same Supreme Power. The kalash is often seen in combination with the swastika.

Kasuri: One of the Kimono patterns. As it is woven with pre-dyed threads, sometimes an undyed part appears. That part is used as motif. These ikat fabrics are made by selectively binding and dyeing parts of the warp or weft threads, or even both, before the fabric is woven. It is an arduous and exacting process. For either silk or cotton fabrics, the threads are stretched on a frame, selected design areas are bound, then the hanks of bound threads are immersed in the dye pots. In meisen silk kats, both warp and weft are bound and dyed. For warp ikats, it’s the warp threads that are bound and dyed. The fabric is woven with plain wefts, as all of the patterning is in the warps. The irregular, feathery design outlines are a characteristic feature, where the dye seeps under the bindings slightly. In contrast, vertical pattern lines are crisp and smooth. For weft kasuri, more juggling is possible. It’s the wefts that are bound selectively and dyed, and the weaver has a little freedom in positioning the dyed pattern areas exactly during the weaving process. This makes quite complex motifs possible. It presumes, however, that the bindings were done with much care and precision. Fabric ornamentation with elaborate weft-ikat motifs is known as “picture kasuri,” or e-gasuri. Sometimes the warps are printed or painted before the final weaving process. The fabric below appears to combine techniques

Kiku:Chrysanthemum (Kiku)(and Spider chrysanthemum with wild tendril petals) is an auspicious symbol of regal beauty, rejuvenation and longevity. Used as the Imperial Seal of Japan, it also represents autumn and is associated with the Chrysanthemum Festival (Kiku-no-Sekku) held on the 9th day of the 9th month.

KikkouKikkou 亀甲(tortoise-shell) represents a geometric pattern with hexagonal units resembling a tortoise shell.
Originally from China, it was then used in Japan during the Heian period as a wish for longevity. The pattern was frequently found on court dress, and later on warriors’ kimonos and armour. It also appeared on objects of Buddhist art, lacquer ware, and metalwork.  It is often joined with other motifs.
毘沙門亀甲 Bishamon kikkou is a geometric pattern that changes the tortoise shell design. Its unique shape is created by linking together 3 tortoise shells and removing their inner lines. It’s called Bishamon kikkou, because this pattern is usually found on Bishamonten’s armour.

Kinran: Textile woven for use in Buddhist temples and Buddhist clothing. Kinran is woven with real, 24 carat gold thread. The construction of this cloth is based on a  plain-weave fabric, made practically invisible by the laboriously-inserted supplementary weft design threads of flat gold-leafed paper and silk thread.  The Japanese gave the name ‘kinran’ to this type of gold-threaded brocade. Kinran fabric was initially imported from China beginning in the 13th century. The first Japanese-produced kinran was woven in the famous Nishijin textile-producing district of Kyoto in 1592, and during the two subsequent centuries, the Chinese kinran techniques were refining and sometimes improved upon by the Japanese. Kinran seems to have initially been created for use for making costumes in the Noh theatre, and as Noh costumes were made specifically for theatrical purposes, it was possible to develop weaves and colourful designs without having to take into consideration their practicality. Eventually, there evolved a larger local market for kinran fabric, including their use in Buddhist temples as kesa and altar cloths. By the mid-Edo period, many Nishijin weavers of Kyoto worked for a particular patronage; some wove for the court, some for daimyo, some for Shinto shrines, some for Buddhist temples, and some for the Noh schools. In the Buddhist temples, kinran altar cloths such as this one would have shimmered impressively in the flickering light of the altar candles. The process of creating this textile was an extremely time-consuming and delicate task. The gold threads consist of an overlay of pure 24-carat gold hammered foil lacquered to a very fine tough paper made from the bark of the mulberry tree. The resulting gold leaf paper, typically covered with arrowroot starch, was cured for a day or two prior to being hand-cut into tiny strips. These strips of ‘hirakinsha’ (flat gold thread) are woven in as the weft on a hand-loom. The results, as in this case, are stunning. The gold foil, being pure, never tarnishes, and the best mulberry paper, being soft, never crumbles.

Komon: Means fine pattern or repeat pattern. Kimono with a small, repeated pattern throughout the garment. This style is more casual and may be worn around town, or dressed up with a formal obi for a restaurant. Both married and unmarried women may wear komon (see also Edo Komon)

 Koubai-Ji: “Koubai-Ji” is the name of the cotton fabric for summer. It has a fine woven checked pattern; which is not flat like regular “Kimono or Yukata”, and has a tasteful texture.

Kumihimo: Braided cord, most often used to make himo and obijime. It used to be also used to fasten samurai armour pieces together

Manji: Also called mangi and saaya, buddhist cross in the form of a swastika that stands for good fortune, luck and well being, a symbol of plurality, eternity, abundance, prosperity and long life. It also signifes Buddha’s footprints and the Buddha’s heart. The swastika is said to contain the whole mind of the Buddha and can often be found imprinted on the chest, feet or palms of Buddha images. It is also the first of the 65 auspicious symbols on the footprint of the Buddha. It is often used to mark the beginning of Buddhist texts.

Maru Obi: A type of obi. The maru obi is the most formal obi, with both sides fully patterned and pattern along its entire length. The classic maru obi measures 33cm wide. Maru obi with narrower width can be custom made for a petite client. The maru obi is usually made of elaborately patterned brocade or tapestry, which is often richly decorated with gold threads. However, due to its exorbitant cost and weight (which makes it uncomfortable to wear), the maru obi is rarely worn today, except for traditional Japanese weddings and other very formal occasions. Both outside and backside are beautifully patterned. Fully patterned Maru-Obi appeared in the end of Edo era, 1603 to 1687 and it was most popular during the Meiji and Taisho eras. In the Edo era, Maru-Obi was luxurious and the most formal one for wealthy people. Due to its thickness, Maru-Obi can’t be folded in half like contemporary Obi. So, it is worn unfolded. Even if it looked gorgeous, it was hard to wear because of its thickness and heaviness. Moreover, it was expensive. These days, Fukuro-Obi (double fold-Obi) is worn instead of it. Maru-Obi is worn only on the special occasions such as wedding

MeisenMeisen silk, generally crisp and supple, is one of the Japanese silks fabricated by weaving pre-dyed threads, utilizing the tie-and-resist ikat technique (ikat is an Indonesian term widely utilized to refer to this technique).

In this process, the threads, silk or cotton, are first stretched on a frame. Selected design areas are tightly bound to prevent the dye from penetrating and the hanks of threads are immersed in the dye pots. The bound portions of the yarns resist the dye and when woven, as a result of the threads not being perfectly aligned, create shapes with charmingly uneven edges.

Other Japanese textiles that are made with variations of this technique are cotton kasuri,omeshi silk and tsumugi silk. (described below).

Meisen silk was a popular fabric for casual kimono from 1910 to 1950, in part because it was more affordable, and in part because the designs, frequently drawing on Western influences, seemed adventurous and innovative. Even today they retain a contemporary sensibility.

• Michiyuki: a traditional “kimono coat” is called a michiyuki. It’s meant to be worn when going out in the street, to protect the kimono from getting dirt or wet, and also to make the wearer warmer. Michiyuki can have different lenghts,from short, waist-line ones to others as long as the kimono itself. It is usually plain color, or has discrete, simple patterns – which makes sense, since it’s made to suffer more wear than the kimono underneath it.

Different from haori (another traditional kind of kimono over-garment) michiyuki has a square neckline, and is usually closed by buttons. It’s also mostly made for women – while haori was a male outfit that ended up having female version too after Meiji period (1868-1912). Also different from haori, michiyuki is always worn closed.

Michiyuki are three-quarter length coats with square necklines. The most common materials for michiyuki are crepe fabric, silk and satin. Michiyuki often have no patterns, but can also feature stripes, checks, or other designs that are more subtle than those of most kimonos and related garments.

 Momiji: Momiji. Maple Leaf or Red Trees. Japanese traditionally admire and revere autumnal leaves just as they celebrate blossom in the spring. Momijigari is a celebration of beautiful autumn leaves, started by aristocracy during the Heian era 794 – 1185AD.

 Mon (?), also monshō (紋章?), mondokoro (紋所?), and kamon (家紋?), are Japanese emblems used to decorate and identify an individual or family. While mon is an encompassing term that may refer to any such device, kamon and mondokoro refer specifically to emblems used to identify a family. An authoritative monreference compiles Japan’s 241 general categories of mon based on structural resemblance (a single monmay belong to multiple categories), with 5116 distinct individual mon (it is however well acknowledged that there exist lost or obscure mon that are not in this compilation).

The devices are similar to the badges and coats of arms in European heraldic tradition, which likewise are used to identify individuals and families. Mon are often referred to as crests in Western literature; another European heraldic device similar to the mon in function.

Kimonos can have one, three or five Mon on them, the most formal being five.

Nagoya obi: The most convenient obi today is the nagoya obi. First produced in the city of Nagoya at the end of the Taisho era (1912-26), the Nagoya obi is lighter and simpler than the fukuro or maru obi. The nagoya obi is characterised by a portion of the obi being pre-folded and stitched in half. The narrow part wraps around the waist, while the wider part forms the bow of the obi tie. When worn, a nagoya obi is tied with a single fold, while a maru or a fukuro obi, being longer, is tied with a double fold. Most nagoya obi is less expensive a maru or fukuro obi. Nonetheless, its design can be stunning

Obi: A sash for kimono. Maru Obi is ranked the highest of all the formal Obi. It originally has twice the depth compared with that of others. Maru is usually a sumptuous obi which has the same pattern on both sides.
Around the late 40s, Maru Obi was developed into Fukuro Obi, a little less deep and heavy and slightly easier to put on. Fukuro Obi still has ceremonial or formal aspects, but can be worn on rather casual occasions too. Fukuro has the pattern on the front side only.
Nagoya-Obi is used in the wide range of occasions from casual to formal. It was invented in the Taisho Period. You can distinguish Nagoya-Obi from others because of the difference of their shapes. Nagoya-Obi has a narrow part and a wider part, the narrow part being a folded section.
Hanhaba means “half the width”. Hanhaba Obi is usually put on with casual kimono, so that you can ‘do little things’, that is, be more mobile and flexible. The main feature is “easy to put on, easy to take off”. The reversible ones are often seen with gorgeous embroidery.

Women’s obi types

Women’s obi in scale:
1. tsuke/tsukuri/kantan obi
2. hanhaba obi
3. Nagoya obi
4. Fukuro obi
5. Maru obi

  • Darari obi (だらり帯?) is a very long maru obi worn by maiko. A maiko’s darari obi has the kamoninsignia of its owner’s okiya on the other end. A darari obi can be 600 centimetres (20 ft) long.
  • Fukuro obi (袋帯 , “pouch obi) is a grade less formal than a maru obi and the most formal obi actually used today. It has been made by either folding cloth in two or sewing two pieces of cloth together. If two cloths are used, the cloth used for the backside of the obi may be cheaper and the front cloth may be, for example, brocade. Not counting marriage outfits, the fukuro obi has replaced the heavy maru obi as the obi used for ceremonial wear and celebration. A fukuro obi is often made so that the part that will not be visible when worn is of smooth, thinner and lighter silk. A fukuro obi is about 30 centimetres (12 in) wide and 360 centimetres (11.8 ft) to 450 centimetres (14.8 ft) long.
    When worn, a fukuro obi is almost impossible to tell from a maru obi. Fukuro obi are made in roughly three subtypes. The most formal and expensive of these is patterned brocade on both sides. The second type is two-thirds patterned, the so-called “60 % fukuro obi”, and it is somewhat cheaper and lighter than the first type. The third type has patterns only in the parts that will be prominent when the obi is worn in the common taiko musubi.
  • Fukuro Nagoya obi (袋名古屋帯?) or hassun Nagoya obi (八寸名古屋帯 , “eight inch Nagoya obi”?) is an obi that has been sewn in two only where the taiko knot would begin. The part wound around the body is folded when put on. The fukuro Nagoya obi is intended for making the more formal, two-layer variation of the taiko musubi, the so-called nijuudaiko musubi. It is about 350 centimetres (11.5 ft) long.
  • Hoso obi (細帯 “thin sash”?) is a collective name for informal half-width obi. Hoso obi are 15 centimetres (5.9 in) or 20 centimetres (7.9 in) wide and about 330 centimetres (10.8 ft) long.
  • Hanhaba obi (半幅帯 or 半巾帯 , “half width obi”?) is an unlined and informal obi that is used with a yukata or an everyday kimono. Hanhaba obi are very popular these days.[ For use with yukata, reversible hanhaba obi are popular: they can be folded and twisted in several ways to create colour effects. A hanhaba obi is 15 centimetres (5.9 in) wide and 300 centimetres (9.8 ft) to 400 centimetres (13 ft) long. Tying it is relatively easy, and its use does not require pads or strings.The knots used for hanhaba obi are often simplified versions of bunko-musubi. As it is more “acceptable” to play with an informal obi, the hanhaba obi is sometimes worn in self-invented styles, often with decorative ribbons and such.
  • Kobukuro obi (小袋?) is an unlined hoso obi whose width is 15 centimetres (5.9 in) or 20 centimetres (7.9 in) and length 300 centimetres (9.8 ft).
  • Hakata obi – 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.
  • Hara-awase obi (典雅帯?) or chūya obi is an informal obi that has sides of different colours. It is frequently seen in pictures from the Edo and Meiji periods, but today it is hardly used. A chūya obi (“day and night”) has a dark, sparingly decorated side and another, more colourful and festive side. This way the obi can be worn both in everyday life and for celebration. The obi is about 30 centimetres (12 in) wide and 350 centimetres (11.5 ft) to 400 centimetres (13 ft) long.
  • Heko obi (兵児帯 , “soft obi”?) is a very informal obi made of soft, thin cloth, often dyed with shibori.Its traditional use is as an informal obi for children and men, and there were times when it was considered totally inappropriate for women. Nowadays young girls and women can wear a heko obi with modern, informal kimono and yukata. An adult’s heko obi is the common size of an obi, about 20 centimetres (7.9 in) to 30 centimetres (12 in) wide and about 300 centimetres (9.8 ft) long.
  • Hitoe obi (単帯?) means “one-layer obi”. It is made from silk cloth so stiff that the obi does not need lining or sewn-in stiffeners. One of these cloth types is called Hakata ori (博多織?), which consists of thick weft thread interwoven with thin warp thread with a stiff, tight weave. (Obi made from this material are also called Hakata obi (博多帯?).) A hitoe obi can be worn with everyday kimono or yukata. A hitoe obi is 15 centimetres (5.9 in) to 20 centimetres (7.9 in) wide (the so-called hanhaba obi) or 30 centimetres (12 in) wide and about 400 centimetres (13 ft) long.
  • Kyōbukuro obi (京袋帯 , “capital fukuro obi”?) was invented in the 1970s in Nishijin, Kyoto. It lies on the usage scale right between Nagoya obi and fukuro obi, and can be used to smarten up an everyday outfit.A kyōbukuro obi is structured like a fukuro obi but is as short as a Nagoya obi. It thus can also be turned inside out for wear like reversible obi. A kyōbukuro obi is about 30 centimetres (12 in) wide and 350 centimetres (11.5 ft) long.
  • Maru obi (丸帯 , “one-piece obi”?) is the most formal obi. It is made from cloth about 68 cm wide and is folded around a double lining and sewn together. Maru obi were at their most popular during the Taishō- and Meiji-periods. Their bulk and weight makes maru obi difficult to handle and nowadays they are worn mostly by geishas, maikos and similar. Another use for maru obi is as a part of a bride’s outfit. A maru obi is about 30 centimetres (12 in) to 35 centimetres (14 in) wide and 360 centimetres (11.8 ft) to 450 centimetres (14.8 ft) long, fully patterned and often embroidered with metal-coated yarn and foilwork.
  • Nagoya obi (名古屋帯?), or when differentiating from the fukuro Nagoya obi also called kyūsun Nagoya obi (九寸名古屋帯 , “nine inch nagoya obi”?)) is the most used obi type today. A Nagoya obi is set apart by its distinguishable structure: one end is folded and sewn in half, the other end is of full width. This is to make putting the obi on easier. A Nagoya obi can be partly or fully patterned. It is normally worn only in the taiko musubi style, and many Nagoya obi are designed so that they have patterns only in the part that will be most prominent in the knot. A Nagoya obi is shorter than other obi types, about 315 centimetres (10.33 ft) to 345 centimetres (11.32 ft) long, but of the same width, about 30 centimetres (12 in).
    The Nagoya obi is relatively new. It was developed by a seamstress living in Nagoya at the end of the 1920s. The new, easy-to-use obi gained popularity among Tokyo’s geisha, from whom it then was adopted by fashionable city women for their everyday wear.
    The formality and fanciness of a Nagoya obi depends on its material, just as with other obi types. Since the Nagoya obi was originally used as everyday wear, it can never be part of a truly ceremonial outfit, but a Nagoya obi made from exquisite brocade can be accepted as semi-ceremonial wear.
    The term Nagoya obi can also refer to another obi with the same name, used centuries ago. This Nagoya obi was cord-like.
  • Odori obi (踊帯 , “dance obi”?) is a name for obi used in dance acts. An odori obi is often big, simple-patterned and has patterns done in metallic colours so that it can be seen easily from the audience. An odori obi can be 10 centimetres (3.9 in) to 30 centimetres (12 in) wide and 350 centimetres (11.5 ft) to 450 centimetres (14.8 ft) long. As the term “odori obi” is not established, it can refer to any obi meant for dance acts.
  • Sakiori obi is a woven obi made by using yardage or narrow strips from old clothes as weave. Sakiori obi are used with kimono worn at home. A sakiori obi is similar to a hanhaba obi in size and extremely informal.
  • Tenga obi (典雅帯 , “fancy obi”?) resembles a hanhaba obi but is more formal. It is usually wider and made from fancier cloth more suitable for celebration. The patterns usually include auspicious, celebratory motifs. A tenga obi is about 20 centimetres (7.9 in) wide and 350 centimetres (11.5 ft) to 400 centimetres (13 ft) long.
  • Tsuke obi (付け帯?) or tsukuri obi (作り帯?) or kantan obi is any ready-tied obi. It often has a separate, cardboard-supported knot piece and a piece that is wrapped around the waist. The tsuke obi is fastened in place by ribbons. Tsuke obi are normally very informal and they are mostly used with yukatas.

Obiage: An obi scarf, worn through the rear knot, to help hold it in place, and tied at the front at the top of the obi, then tucked slightly under the top edge of the obi. The younge the wearer, the more of it is allowed to show at the top of the obi. The obiage covers the obi makura, the padding worn inside the rear knot of the obi, holding the makura in place

Obidome: A decorative piece, rather like a brooch, through which and obijime is threaded. The obidome sits at the centre front of the obi sash and, when an obidome is worn on an obijime, the obijime is tied at the back, inside the rear obi knot

Obijime: A cord, usually braided silk, worn through the rear obi knot, helping to hold it in place, and tied in a special knot at the centre front of the obi sash, The ends are pulled back round the sides and then tucked into itself
Oh Furisode: “Oh” means big and “furisode” means swinging sleeves, therefore oh furisode means big, swinging sleeves, with the deepest sleeves of all the furisode type kimonos. Oh-furisode have sleeves of 114 – 115cm. It is the unmarried woman’s most formal kimono and very colourful versions are worn by brides and known as kakeshita

Omeshi: A textile woven with strongly twisted pre-dyed silk threads. There are two types of Omeshi, one is Hiraori-Omeshi and the other is Chirimen Omeshi. By 1960, Omeshi Kimonos hold 80% of Kimono market share, but now, produced only in small quantities. Omeshi Kimonos were ranked the highest in pre-dyed silk Kimonos, and were extremely valuable. Its texture is firmer than Chirimen

•Rinzu silk: The intricately woven rinzu designs, resembling brocade in complexity of pattern, require great skill and expertise and are, in consequence, among the most expensive Japanese silks.

The use of different types of silk threads for the warp and weft creates contrast between foreground and background, adding luster and texture to the fabric.

The designs are often double layered; on top of the woven design may be a layer of a dyed design, either from shibori (tie-dyed), yuzen (hand-painted) or some other dying technique.

These silks vary in weight from very fine lining to heavy wedding kimono weight, and are notably soft to the touch.

Ro silk: Ro fabric is loosely woven from very fine silk threads, creating sheer, airy, summer kimono. Horizontal and vertical lines are shown by the gaps in the weave, created by braiding pairs of threads over one central thread. Patterns and designs are resist dyed after weaving, typically using stencils. Sometimes ro kimonos are hand painted and embroidered.

• Rōketsuzome or short rōzome is a traditional wax-resist textile dyeing technique in Japan, akin to Indonesian batik.

Roketsuzome (ろうけつ染め/ろうけつぞめ) or Rozome (ろうぞめ), as it is more commonly known, is a form of dye resist technique in Japan. Though similar to batik, in the sense that they both make use of wax as the medium of dye resist, they differ in the sense of tools and textural effects produced. Roketsuzome basically means ro/ろう (wax), ketsu/けつ (resist or block out) and zome/ぞめ (dye).

Rozome was known as Rokechi, a method of stamping wax on fabric back in the 7th and 8th century. However it became unpopular and passion for this art was only revived in the early 17th century as a stencil-and-dye art. In the 20th century, passion for Rozome was reawakened with access to local and imported wax.

Instead of using the tjanting/canting, this method utilizes a variety of brushes to produce the finished design. Some of the brushes include Rofude (used to paint the hot wax onto the cloth), Surikomi (for blending colour), Irosashi (for fine details), Jizome or Hikizome brush (a big flat brush and for background work). Usually the brushes are made of tightly packed badger hair. Brushes give more control to the artist; therefore gradations can be done, unlike the layered application of colour in batik. This offers a more handmade look to the piece and gives it a sense of refinement. Other ways of producing Rozome cloth would be printing them with rollers and using stencils.

Saaya: Also seen as Saayagata and sayagata. Buddhist crosses, (swastika). Sayagata is a pattern of interlocking manji (swastika) (sometimes spelled saayagata). Swastika are also sometimes called manji and mangi

• Saga Nishiki (佐賀錦 Saga-nishiki) is a form of brocading from Saga prefecture, Japan. It is a unique form of brocading in that Japanese paper is used as the warp. This paper is coated in either gold, silver or lacquer. The weft is a silk thread which is dyed. As the technique is time-consuming, only several inches are produced each day.

• Sasanoha (笹の葉) bamboo leaves
A clump of three, four, or five thin pointed leaves. The points of the leaves are always oriented downwards. It is very common for sasanoha to appear without take.

Sashiko: Literally, “little stabs”. A form of decorative reinforcement stitching (or functional embroidery) from Japan. Traditionally used to reinforce points of wear or to repair worn areas or tears with patches. This running stitch technique is also often used for purely decorative purposes in quilting and embroidery. The white cotton thread on the traditional indigo blue cloth gives sashiko its distinctive appearance, though decorative items sometimes use red thread.

• Sayagata:  the manji is often found as part of a repeating pattern. One common pattern, called sayagata in Japanese, is made of of interlocking manji, left- and right-facing manji joined by lines. As the negative space between the lines has a distinctive shape, the sayagata pattern is sometimes called the “key fret” motif in English.

Shiborizome: More often known as just shibori. An intricate tie-dye method of making a pattern on fabric. Tiny sections of the fabric are tied or gathered and stitched before it is dyed. The bound area does not absorb the dye, so, when the thread is removed, it leaves a pattern of white dots. A completely shibori kimono can take an entire year to produce. Shibori is greatly prized by the Japanese, who are aware of how painstaking it is to create. Shibori has been made around the 4th century B.C.

• Shippō (also shippou, shichihou, nanatsutakara) (lit. seven treasures) is a design derived from cloisonne work in which a metal object is carved in high relief and the removed portions are filled with colored enamel. The seven treasures are a traditionally Buddhist concept. The earliest appearances of shippō on textiles are preserved at Shousouin and date to the Heian period. During the Edo period it became more common to combine shippō with other motifs and it became popular as a motif on women’s kimono.

Shippō is an auspicious design and is therefore non-seasonal. However, it is often featured on kimono that are to be worn in times in which one would want good luck, such as weddings, children’s kimono for Omiyamairi and Shichi-go-san, and new years.

 Swastika: In South Asia, the swastika is omnipresent as a symbol of wealth and good fortune. It is used as a religious symbol in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism, which can be traced to pre-modern traditions. In the Sinosphere, countries and regions that were historically influenced by the culture of China, such as Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Vietnam, Singapore and China itself, the symbol is most commonly associated with Buddhism. They are commonly found in Buddhist temples, religious artifacts, texts related to Buddhism and schools founded by Buddhist religious groups.

Taisho Roman: Design characterised by the modern and romantic fashion mixed Japanese and European cultures in Taisho era.

The Taisho Era (1912-26), sandwiched between the boldly modernizing Meiji Era (1867-1912) and the militarist tide of early Showa (1926-1989), deserves more recognition than it gets.

Taisho is Japan’s Jazz Age. Can it be summed up in a phrase? It often is:ero-guro-nansensu — eroticism, grotesquerie, nonsense.

The term “Taisho Roman” refers to the cultural stylings of the Taisho Period of Japanese history (1912-1926), combined with the shortened form ‘romantic’. An appropriate English translation might be “romantic vintage”.

In terms of wafuku, Taisho Roman often begins with Taisho-era kimono, or kimono that have similar visual cues, such as bright colors and/or large, bold designs. The kimono is then heavily accessorized with elements of Western fashion from the 1920s, and occassionally touches of the 1910s or early 1930s.
Tomesode: Tomesode is the most formal kimono worn by married women at a wedding and other official celebrations, especially, black tomesode (black is kuro tomesode, all other colours are called iro tomesode/irosode), which has a black background, is the most formal among Tomesode Kimonos. Colored tomesode feature a pattern against a colored background. All the patterns of tomesode Kimonos appear only at the bottom or with the family crests. Pronounced toe-may-so-day, with no stress on any syllable

Tsumugi: A silk textile woven with hand-spun threads from wild silk cocoon fibres. It doesn’t have a glossy or smooth texture, but a tasteful rough texture. Very time consuming to produce, as the silk fibre has to be joined repeatedly, due to the hole in the cocoon where the silk moth exited, so a very expensive silk. (Also see hige-tsumugi)

Tsumugi was originally spun, woven, and sewn into a kimono by one person for the use of her household, so there are many distinct regional variations. However, all tsumugi can be readily identified by its characteristic slubs and sheen. The slubs (rough lines in the weaving) are created by spinning the silk. Initially tsumugi fabric is very stiff, due to the starch applied during spinning, but the more times it is worn and washed, the softer it becomes. Very old tsumugi is as soft as silk fabric woven from untwisted threads.

Broken threads left inside the silk cocoon are collected by the farmer. These are degummed in a hot water bath with sodium bicarbonate (baking soda) and sulfurous acid (a mild bleach). After rinsing, they are hung to dry out of direct sunlight. After drying, the silk floss is placed in a bath of ground sesame seeds and water. The oil from the sesame seeds makes it easier to draw individual threads to be spun.

The floss is handspun (mawata). The spinner uses saliva to adhere the new threads to the old ones. This produces the characteristic sheen and stiffness of tsumugi. After spinning, the thread is dyed and then woven into tsumugi. The most popular patterns include shima, ichimatsu, and kasuri. After weaving, the fabric is steamed to set the dyes and then made into kimono.

Uchikake: Uchikake is a highly formal kimono worn only by a bride (and, perhaps, a stage performance). Until the Edo period, it was worn by women of Samurai, warrior, or noble families on special occasions. Since then, it had become a part of Japanese traditional bridal costume. Now it is only used for a wedding ceremony. The Uchikake is often heavily brocaded or embroidered, all white or spectacularly coloured and patterned, and is worn outside the actual kimono and obi, as a sort of coat. One never ties the obi around the uchikake. It is intended to trail along the floor, which is why it is heavily padded along the hem. It is an exceedingly heavy garment, often around 5 kilos. The design and technique for the Uchikake is wonderful and sophisticated. In Kansai district, Uchikake is also called Kaidori. An iro-uchikake is a very colourful one and a shiro-uchikake is a plain white one. Uchikake are incredibly expensive items, nowadays brides usually just hire one for their wedding; even then it can cost well over £1000 to hire one for the day. They make spectacular display items, if one has the space for one

 Ume: Plum (Ume) is the first flower to bloom in the spring and is known as the ‘Flower of Peace’. A protective charm against evil, it also represents longevity, renewal and perseverance. Identified by rounded petals.

• Urushi: Thread, usually silk, is coated with lacquer, then used to weave beautiful textile art. Textile with urushi weave is found on some kimonos, on obis and is particularly popular on haori kimono jackets. Urushi is sometimes just a coloured lacquer but often it’s metallic, found in shades of gold, silver, pewter, copper, bronze and a whole rainbow of metallic colours. On some garments it is quite subtle, on others it is bright and spectacular.

Yabane: Fletching (the feathered flight on the end of an arrow). The repeat pattern using this motif is called yagasuri

Yukata: Cotton Kimonos without linings worn as bathrobes or as casual clothes for the summer.

Yukata are worn by men and women. Like other forms of traditional Japanese clothing, yukata are made with straight seams and wide sleeves. Men’s yukata are distinguished by the shorter sleeve extension of approximately 10 cm from the armpit seam, compared to the longer 20 cm sleeve extension in women’s yukata. A standard yukata ensemble consists of a cotton undergarment (juban), yukata, obi, bare feet, sandals (geta), a foldable or fixed hand fan, and a carry bag (kinchaku). Kinchaku are used by both men and women to carry cellphones and other small personal items. For men, an optional hat may also be worn to protect the head from the sun. Yukata literally means bath(ing) clothes, although their use is not limited to after-bath wear. Yukata are a common sight in Japan during the hot summer months.

Traditionally yukata were mostly made of indigo-dyed cotton but today a wide variety of colors and designs are available. As with kimono, the general rule with yukata is that younger people wear bright, vivid colors and bold patterns, while older people wear dark, matured colors and dull patterns. A child may wear a multicolored print and a young woman may wear a floral print, while an older woman would confine herself to a traditional dark blue with geometric patterns. Men in general may wear solid dark colors. Since the late 1990s, yukata have experienced increasing popularity.

Yukata are worn at outdoor summer events such as hanabi (fireworks) displays and bon-odori festivals. Yukata are also worn at traditional Japanese inns (ryokan), especially after bathing in hot springs (onsen).

•Yūzen (友禅染) is a Japanese dyeing technique for fabrics.

Silk-weaving families can be traced to the 15th century in the famous Nishijin weaving center of Kyoto, where elegant fabrics worn by the emperor and the aristocracy were produced. In the 17th century, designs on textiles were applied using stencils and rice paste, in the yūzenor paste-resist method of dyeing. The yūzen method provided an imitation of aristocratic brocades, which were forbidden to commoners by sumptuary laws

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