What are the Different Types of Kimono Obi?

Amanda R. Bell
Amanda R. Bell
The traditional Japanese kimono is silk and is tied at the waist with a belt known as an obi.
The traditional Japanese kimono is silk and is tied at the waist with a belt known as an obi.

There are several different types of kimono obi, i.e., the sash tied around the traditional Japanese attire known as the kimono. The style of the kimono obi varies among women, men, and children in pattern, length, width, material, and how it is wrapped and knotted. Among these groups, a kimono obi will vary based on where it is to be worn.

Women wear many different styles of a kimono obi. The most formal, known as a maru obi, is very thick, long, and stiff. It is traditionally made with very heavy and ornate brocade fabric, and often tied in a large knot with a train. This style is most common among geishas, i.e., Japanese female performers, and is worn by brides at very formal, fancy weddings.

For other formal affairs, Japanese women commonly wear the darari obi. It is typically brocade where the knot is tied and with either brocade or silk in the sash. It is very long, often 20 feet (6 meters), and is the traditional attire for apprentice geishas. The fukuro obi is characterized by the large pouch it is knotted into and is worn for major celebrations and less formal weddings.

For informal events, the hoso obi is the most popular variant. It is typically made out of silk, often a different color on either side, and can be styled and twisted in many different fashions for festivals and parties. The nagogya kimono obi is used for everyday wear. It is usually worn as a sash or with a small knot, and unlike the more formal obis, is light and easy to get in and out of. Dancers often wear odori obis, which are typically long and tied to accentuate dance moves.

Unlike women, men and children wear much less intricate styles of a kimono obi. For formal events, men wear thin kaku obis. They are typically stripped in pattern and made of very heavy and thick material. The manner in which they are tied determines the formality of the dress. At home and among close family and friends, the heko obi is worn. This variant is often made of soft, light silk and is very wide with little to no train. This style of kimono obi is seldom worn in public except by young boys.

A child's kimono obi usually has a short train and is easy to get in and out of, making them much more child friendly than the adult versions. A tsuke can be worn at formal events, while a shigoki is worn at parties and festivals. These are often made of silk, though young girls may wear brocade versions for very special events. The sanjaku is for everyday wear. It usually has no train, and is knotted into a stiff square using reinforced of cardboard or excess fabric in part of the sash. While the Japanese often wear western or European attire, kimonos and obis are worn by both the young and old at various stages in their lives.

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Discussion Comments


I wore a casual kimono when I was visiting Japan. I stayed with a friend there and wore a kimono just for the experience. My goodness! The kimono obi is so long! I was wearing a simple, silk one but it took a while to tie it. My friend and her mother did it for me. I can't imagine being able to do it myself although I have seen my friend's mom do it all on her own. It takes a lot of practice to get it right.


@fBoyle-- Kimonos are no longer worn every day in Japan. So I don't think that the young generation knows about the varieties of kimono and obi and how and where they're worn either. Kimonos today are often reserved for special occasions. So I suspect that most people own a silk or satin kimono and a formal kimono obi for public appearances. These are used at weddings, holidays and ceremonies. I don't think that most people have the silk kimono obi that matches the day-to-day kimonos for home use anymore.


There are so many rules about the types of kimono and the types of obi used by different people and at different times. How does one remember all of the rules? Do elders know them and teach the younger family members about how to wear a kimono and kimono obi? I think I would forget the rules easily and make mistakes.

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    • The traditional Japanese kimono is silk and is tied at the waist with a belt known as an obi.
      By: miya227
      The traditional Japanese kimono is silk and is tied at the waist with a belt known as an obi.