Hakama (pleated and divided skirt made in fine strips) ()

Hakama is a kind of wafuku (Japanese traditional clothes) that is put on to cover the lower part of a person's body below the waist. Hakama is put over kimono (Japanese traditional clothes) and tied with the strips. Its prototype was built in the Yayoi period, and hakama was mainly used by men and is regarded as a formal dress in recent times.

In addition, men's trouser-like garment ('ko' used by Imperial Japanese Army), a cover of the lower part of the body that is used as an attachment to the main part of the clothing and so on, may be called hakama figuratively. Women's hakama (with kosode [a kimono with short sleeves worn as underclothing by the upper class], chuburi [medium-sleeved furisode], or furisode [kimono with long, trailing sleeves]) is a standard item as a garment of miko (shrine maiden), clothes for kyudo (Japanese art of archery), a school uniform for women's colleges and high schools in recent times, a formal dress for graduations and coming-of-age ceremonies in present times.


General hakama (umanori hakama [horse-riding hakama]) in present days is shaped such that the lower halves of the diagonal sides of two pieces of a trapezoidal cloth at the front and back are sewn together and the parts below the knees are sewn like a divided skirt. It has such a structure that there is sufficiently wide space when legs are put in and the cloth is left more over at the hem.

The front cloth is pleated, and the pleats are usually called the first pleat, the second pleat and the third pleat starting from the outside. The back cloth is divided into right and left sides and not pleated. The back cloth has a small trapezoidal part in which a plate or cardboard is placed at the upper hem, which is called a koshiita (back plate). The back cloth is longer than the front cloth by the length of the back plate.

A total of four straps (in fact, thin pieces of cloth approximately 21.21-millimeter wide), one from the right and the other from the left sides of the top (or the bottom of the back pleat in case of the back cloth) are attached to the front and back cloths and are used to fix the hakama around the waist. The straps on the front cloth are called maehimo (front straps), and the straps on the back cloth are called ushirohimo (back straps). The front strap is about twice as long as the back strap.

Hakama should usually be put on from the left leg (it is a Japanese custom to start actions from the left). Put your legs into the hakama, tie the straps around your waist from the front cloth to the back cloth and fix the hakama. Cross the straps of the front cloth at the back (the knot of the obi [sash]) once, pull it forward, pass the straps 5 to 10 cm below the front cloth (referred to as [a] below), cross them again (there are various methods of crossing them the second time, such as the right or left of the waist, or the center of the front cloth, but it is generally crossed at the right of the waist) and tie them at the back.

Then make adjustments so that the back plate of the back cloth is brought into close contact with your back, and place it on the knot of the obi (if the waist plate has a spatula, insert it into the obi to fix it.). After that, turn the straps of the back cloth to the front and tie them at the center of the above strap [a]. To tie them, put one of the back straps (referred to as [b] below) on the center of the front strap [a] and put the other one (referred to as [c] below) on it. After laying them in the order of [a], [b], and [c] from below, pass the back strap [c] below the strap [a] and put it on the strap [a] so that three straps [a], [b] and [c] hang over the overlapped part. Then fold back the strap [b] in the reverse direction (if [b] is the back strap extending from the left rear to the right front, fold it back from the knot, and pull the part extending to the right front to the left), and turn the strap [c] round again.

Then knot the loose ends of the back straps.
The straps of hakama are mainly knotted as follows:

Jumonji (Crossing)

This is the most common knotting method and can also be used for formal dress. Fold the above the strap [c] to a width of about five centimeters so that it becomes a horizontal line '一', align its center with the knot, wind the strap [b] around [a] several times and finally make adjustments so that a vertical line '|' comes out from under [a].

Ichimonji (Straight line)

Variations of the cross. The straps of a wide-sleeved hakama (pleated and divided skirt made in fine stripes) for Noh costume are knotted so that they form a straight line which is also used for formal dresses. Do not form the vertical line '|' of the cross and wind the strap [b] around the knot to the end.

Musubikiri (square knot)

This knot is also called shosei musubi and since you can move easily with this knot and it is not likely to get loose, it is also used for martial arts, but it is an informal method of wearing hakama. Tie [b] and [c] in a leaf knot, overlap the remaining strap on [a] and put it behind the strap at the appropriate place. This cannot be done unless the straps are thin and soft. Since shosei (students who are given room and board in exchange for performing domestic duties) in the Meiji period did not fix the hanging parts of the straps from the leaf knot and suspended them in front, it was mostly frowned at because it was slovenly.

Chomusubi (bowknot)

Used for sashinuki (a type of hakama, pleated trousers for formal wear), such as ikan-sokutai (full traditional ceremonial court dress worn by Shinto priests). Shimai bakama (hakama for Noh) is put on by tying its straps in a chomusubi in Noh shite-kata (main role) of Konparu-ryu school. Tie [b] and [c] in a chomusubi and put the ring and hangings under [a]. Women's hakama are mostly put on by tying its straps in a chomusubi or wamusubi (ring knot) and lengthening the hangings for decoration.

It may be said that it is desirable to put on the front cloth of hakama so that the obi is slightly visible, but it is not a formal manner. It is a formal etiquette to put on hakama so that the obi is not visible.

The hems of a nagagi (full-length garment) put on under hakama may be tucked up or a short nagagi covering the hips and thighs may be tailored for hakama.


Umanori hakama and Andon hakama

A hakama with a partition (gore) inside is called umanori hakama and a hakama without a partition is called an andon hakama. The andon hakama was invented in the late Edo period when the townspeople also put on hakama and it was initially regarded as informal, but it is currently used as formal wear like umanori hakama. Since there are various types of hakama, they should be divided into two general types of hakama.

General hakama

Men's hakama as described in the above section, 'Structure.'
A hakama is made of striped silk, such as Sendai-hira (hand-woven silk fabric with vertical stripes) and can be used as formal wear with montsuki (a blazoned haori [a Japanese half-coat]).

Shimai bakama (hakama for Noh)

Special hakama used by Nohgakushi (Noh actors) during shimai (Noh dancing in plain clothes) or maibayashi (an abbreviated style of Noh). Refer to the related section.
The term Shimai bakama may be used instead of 'umanori hakama.'

Mai bakama

A hakama is used for classical Japanese dances, sword dances, and so on. This hakama closely resembles an ordinary hakama in appearance than a shimai hakama, and is designed so that it does not get wrinkled or folded while standing and sitting.


A hakama that was created based on a hint from the trousers worn by Portuguese who visited Japan in the Sengoku period (period of warring states). Its hems get narrower to ankles and this hakama is suitable for activities and mobile. It later evolved into nobakama (literally, hakama for fields), yamabakama (literally, hakama for mountains), tattsuke (hakama for work) and so on.

Onna bakama (hakama for women)

Onna bakama were mostly put on as girls' school uniforms from the Meiji period to the early Showa period. Even today they are used as regular uniforms for female teachers and college students on graduation days. Most hakama skirts that are currently in use are andon bakama, which consists of a long wrap skirt and has no koshiita (back plate). Miko of some shrines, female members of modern imperial families, players of gagaku buyo (ancient court music and dance) and so on put on hakama of the type that have divided legs like men's hakama. Onna bakama is different from men's hakama in the number of pleats at the front and back.


A hakama used as men's costume in the Heian period, such as ikan-sokutai (full traditional ceremonial court dress worn by Shinto priest) and hunting clothes. For details, refer to the related articles of kukurio no hakama (Japanese male skirt with strings in the lower sleeve edge to be adjusted).

Nejimachi hakama

It is a hakama mainly putting on with juni-hitoe (12-layered ceremonial kimono) and is a kind of umanori hakama. Unlike umanori hakama that is tailored by tucking, nejimachi hakama is tailored by gathering. In addition, waist straps are characteristic; ordinary hakama skirts have front and back straps, but the back strap of this hakama joins the front strap to form a ring at the left-side of the hakama. At present, there are two types of hakama: 'Naga-hakama' (long hakama) which is put on with juni-hitoe and 'kiri-bakama' (short fringe hakama) which is put on with keiko-shozoku (a type of female formal costume) and falls to the ankles.


Also called nobakama or yamabakama, this hakama evolved from karusan and was used as work clothes. It was widely used in rural districts. The waist was loose and the divided legs were so thin movement was easy. Also called no-bakama. In wartime, since it was suited for air defense exercises for the home front, women were forced to put on monpe (women's work pants), which were a kind of yamabakama. Currently, yobidashi (sumo ushers who announce the names of wrestlers, sweep the ring, and so on) of grand sumo tournaments, sceneshifters of Kabuki (traditional drama performed by male actors) or tekomai (float leading dancers) wear hakama.

[Original Japanese]