The obijime is one of the essential items when one wears kimono; it's a string used to hold a kimono sash in place. It's also called the obijime cord.
The obijime was first used during 1804-1817, in the Edo period. Kabuki actors who were popular around that time tied strings on their kimono sashes in order to prevent their costumes from coming undone, and these strings developed into obijime. These strings became popular among women who wore them by copying kabuki actors, and since they were very useful they came to be established as "obijime" among the common people as well. It was sometimes called the "obitome cord" in some regions.
Generally, there are three kinds of obijime cords: "round cord," "square cord" and "flat cord."
In the beginning there was only the round cord, but the others have emerged since the Meiji period. Similarly, the length of the cord, which was short during the Edo period, gradually became longer, and after the war products that were quite long began to appear.
The cords are braided, based on Japan's traditional crafts. The technique of braiding a dozen threads using various patterns creates different rhythms depending on the color and thickness of the threads, resulting in a wide variety of expressions.
The thread material is mainly died silken thread; finishing a single obijime cord requires great skill and concentration. Some obijime have a modern style, and obijime cords made by mixing glass beads into the threads during the braiding process glitter beautifully and attract attention; such cords are favored as items that convey one's tastes in dressing herself. Experts of braided cords consist primarily of traditional craftsmen, but the number continues to decrease every year; recently, the shortage of successors has become a problem in various regions of Japan.
The obijime, as one of the kimono cultures that have been accumulated over a long period of time in Japan - a land of four seasons - can be largely categorized into the obijime cords that are woven in the specification for summer season and the obijime cords that have the specification for the three seasons of spring, autumn and winter. They are respectively coordinated with kimono in consideration of the season and other factors such as time, place and opportunity.
In recent years, due to the development of air-conditioning units, the use of beaded obijime has risen, irrespective of the season. Furthermore, although the obijime was not usually employed when wearing yukata, in recent years more people have come to wear obijime with yukata.
Method of Use
The obijime is an accessory used only when women wear Japanese traditional clothing. The basic method of use is to pass it from the back of a puffed-out bow in the kimono sash (beneath the ring made with the lappet of the bow) toward the front, and then firmly tie a "komamusubi" knot (a tight knot) or the like at the front. The obijime is worn in the way of drawing a single line over the kimono sash, but the position of the string when viewed from the front differs according to the age and manner of the person wearing the kimono.
(For example, it's arranged slightly downward for an elderly person or slightly upward for a young person.)
The unused portions of both ends of the string are hemmed in around the sides, and according to custom, on auspicious events they are inserted from the bottom upward; on occasions of mourning they are inserted from the top downward.
Production areas include the following:
The kinds of cloth used include the following: