[Hakata Ori Obi: Handed Down Across Generations]

The tradition of passing down kimonos from parent to child, then from child to grandchild, is a concept we often hear of. Thanks to my own mother and grandmother, I've inherited kimonos and obis. Among them, the Hakata Ori obi has grown on me as something I desire to wear more as I age.

Hakata Ori, a weaving technique for silk fabrics used in obi production, is rooted in the region centered around Fukuoka City, Fukuoka Prefecture. It complements both yukatas and kimonos, making it convenient to tie casually when wearing traditional Japanese attire. While the essence of kimonos lies in enjoying the interplay between fabric, patterns, and accessories to capture the seasons' moods, the Hakata Ori obi offers the unique advantage of being suitable all year round. It's rather uncommon to find a fabric that can be worn with a wide range of kimonos throughout the year. The sight of sumo wrestlers or kimono-clad individuals donning Hakata Ori obis is quite familiar. The obi is known for its firmness, lightweight suppleness, and how it snugly embraces the body, providing a comfortable and secure fit.

During the Edo period, Kuroda Nagamasa, the first lord of the Chikuzen domain, collectively named the Hakata Ori obis presented to the shogunate as "定格献上" (official tribute fabric). While a variety of patterns existed within Hakata Ori even at that time, the 定格献上, now referred to as the "献上柄" (kenjo pattern), became the established design sent to the shogunate every year. Its popularity among samurai was due to its resistance to unraveling once tied, making it convenient when securing a sword to the waist. This widespread acceptance catalyzed its recognition nationwide.

The recognizable motif of Hakata Ori, isn't it the kenjo pattern? This traditional, consistent pattern is a key feature of Hakata Ori, characterized by a repeating motif. It features a unique combination of the vajra symbol (tokko) and a floral dish (hanazara), woven using the raised pattern technique in the warp threads, giving rise to the term "献上博多" (Kenjo Hakata). The stripes on this pattern are named "parent-child stripes" and "filial piety stripes," where the former symbolizes "parents protecting their children" and the latter represents "children honoring their parents." In 1976, it was designated as a traditional craft by the government.

As the production of obi fabrics gained prominence from the mid-Edo period onwards, the term Hakata Ori became synonymous with obi. By the later Edo period, regulations were relaxed to promote economic development in the domain, leading to its popularity among commoners. However, with the decline of obi orders after the end of the Edo shogunate, the industry had to adapt to modernization. While the demand for traditional Japanese attire saw a significant drop due to major historical shifts, technological advancements allowed for the creation of diverse products, extending beyond pure silk to become a part of everyday life.

From my student days, the Hakata Ori obi has been a staple with yukatas, and spotting these obis at festivals and such might be due to my familiarity with Fukuoka, my hometown. Today, opportunities to experience Hakata Ori extend beyond just obis; it's becoming more accessible through various everyday items. In Fukuoka City, there are galleries where you can witness the craftsmanship and products of Hakata Ori. Once you've laid eyes on it, you won't forget its distinctive patterns. So, whether it's in people's homes, around town, or at festivals, how about keeping an eye out for the kenjo pattern of Hakata Ori?

Wakamatsu Showroom