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Japanese Obis

The Japanese obi is the belt or sash of the traditional Japanese garment, the kimono. The kimono, including the obi, is traditionally worn during Japanese formal ceremonies and festivals by both men and women. Japanese obi are made in a variety of materials and size from silk to cotton and from only four inches wide to longer than a foot.

Informal obi are thin, while formal obi, worn mostly by Japanese women during ceremonies, are much wider. These wide, formal obi do not hold the kimono closed as obi were originally designed to do. Instead, these kimonos need to be held closed by straps within the kimono layers with the obi tied in the back rather than in the front.

Obi come in many parts and can be layered with ribbons or additional matching bows, all held together with pins and straps. All of the different varieties of obi are worn in different ways depending on the formality of the function and the identity of the wearer. For example, a butterfly bow is worn by women during more casual occasions, while a taiko bow is used in more semi-formal to formal occasions and only by married women.

Quick Facts

  • Often the decorative modern-day obi is not capable of holding its shape on a body without support. Thin layers of cardboard wrapped in fabric are placed between layers of obi acting as stiffeners to keep the obi from bunching up
  • The Heko obi can be worn by men of all ages at the comfort of his own home, but only by men between the ages of 15 and 25 in casual public events. The formal kaku obi is worn by all men
  • Obi also refer to the belts that are worn in Japanese martial arts. These belts indicate the level of skill of the martial artist. In karate, the beginners have white obi, while advanced martial artists wear black. However, not every Japanese martial art uses symbolically colored belts

Recommended Items at Auction

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Japanese Embroidered Silk Obi
May 29, 11:00 AM EDT
Japanese Embroidered Silk Obi
by Willow Auction House
Est: $100- $150
$500 Bids

Sellers Who Sell Japanese Obis

Willow Auction House

Willow Auction House