Making My Own Obi From Scratch

Hello, readers!

I’m Anna, and I’m writing to you today to tell you about my process of learning how to make an 帯(obi)!

One of the things I love most about learning Japanese is how excited people get to share their own experiences and pieces of the culture with me whenever it comes up. It seems like everyone has been touched by Japanese culture in their own way. An event like this happened to me recently, and in a very special way: a distant aunt of mine heard of my interest in Japan and sent me a yukata that she had commissioned for herself many years ago, but never gotten to wear! It even came in the original paper wrapping!

The gorgeous, deep navy blue patterned with stark white Japanese chrysanthemums – truly, it was love at first sight. Unfortunately, there is one big problem: it didn’t come with an obi! For readers that may not know, the obi is the sash that ties the yukata closed, as there are no other fastenings on the garment. “Fear not, I can simply make one!” I thought to myself, as I had a bolt of Japanese textile, also seen above, ready for using.

Without the obi, I wasn’t going to be able to wear my new yukata.

So I started turned to Google.

My initial search of “how to make an obi” brought me to many tutorials, videos, and patterns, but all of them were for an “obi-style” belt that mimics the silhouette an obi gives when worn, but does not tie like one. Some of these were beautiful, as you can see below, but they weren’t going to do for me.

I tried refining my search, using words like “authentic”, “kimono obi”, “yukata obi”, but still no luck aside from costumes and low-quality imitation patterns. I was starting to feel like I was uncovering a secret internet conspiracy when I found a break through: a cosplay forum with some vocabulary I hadn’t seen before. I was reasonably suspicious of the source’s credibility, but the user, Enagracus, claimed to be searching for something as culturally authentic as possible, just like me. Here’s the response they got on the thread:

It depends on the type of obi. A maru obi, for example, is very formal and is usually a single wide piece of patterned fabric folded over an interior piece of stiff canvas and stitched on one side. A fukuro obi has a patterned visible side and a plain lining side, so it’s stitched on both ends.

The usual obi with yukata are heko (a long soft scarf usually tied in a bow), hanhaba (a half-width, usually 6 inch obi), or a type I don’t know the name for, which is all one color and woven instead of sewn. What sort of outfit are you aiming for?

– User Mangochutney, cosplay.com

As I did during my search, let’s take a minute to look a bit closer at the types of obi Mangochutney is talking about here:

Maru Obi (丸帯):

A little more than 2 feet wide, these are made from a thick fabric that is lined with sturdy material to hold shape. They are difficult to put on and are very formal, so they are mainly only worn by brides at weddings. Wikipedia describes them as being “the most formal type of women’s obi, though all but obsolete today”.

Fukuro Obi (袋帯):

These obi put emphasis on the patterned fabric used for them, making them still very ornate and formal, while only being half the width (1 foot) of the maru obi. Mangochutney was right that they can be patterned on the visible side and plain on the other, but they can also be entirely patterned or only have patterned fabric only on the parts that are visible when they are tied, depending on your budget!

Heko Obi (兵児帯):

This obi is usually 8-12 inches wide and made of very thin, loose fabric, unusual to the very stiff structure of other obi. Traditionally, heko was only worn by men, and is considered very casual.

Hanhaba Obi (半幅帯):

This is the type of obi most commonly worn with yukata by women, and is relatively casual. It is 6 inches in width, as mentioned in Mangochutney’s response. It comes in many patterns and colors and can be tied in many creative ways thanks to its smaller width.

Sakiori Obi (裂織帯):

I believe this is the type of obi that Mangochutney couldn’t remember the name of. These are a very fascinating example of the variety in obi making, as they are entirely woven from recycled fabric threads! However, they are very casual, not even meant to be worn in public, and are about the same width as the hanhaba obi, 6 inches.

There are many more versions and subversions of obi, but this was a great list to choose from as a turning point for my searches, as Mangochutney had included a good mix of casual and formal styles with varying materials and complexities! From these descriptions, I guessed that the hanhaba obi was what I was familiar with from my time wearing a yukata before. I continued my searches with this in mind, and finally, I began getting results for traditional obi sellers with much more accurate results. However, there was still not a single sewing tutorial to be found!

At this point, dear reader, I was nearly ready to throw in the towel. It didn’t seem like anyone was willing to let me in on how to make the obi I needed.

But then, something miraculous happened!

I truly don’t know how I found it, but I happened to click on this video shown above of a girl making a yukata from scratch. As luck would have it, included in the video is a brief tutorial of her making an obi! By slowing down the video, I was able to write down her steps and create measurement tweaks to accommodate my limited fabric based on the information from the cosplay forum thread. In summary, this is what I came up with:

  • 12 inches wide (add quarter inch seam allowance)
  • 20 inch  1 length, 2 lengths 50 inch (add quarter inch seam allowance)
  • 6 inch wide 120 inch long fusible, semi-lightweight interfacing 
  1. Sew 1 of the 50 inch pieces to each width end of 20 inch length
  2. Fold to half width (6 inches) 
  3. Iron interfacing on half the width of entire 120” length (wrong side out)
  4. Sew along full length on open side of fold
  5. Sew one width end of tube closed
  6. Turn inside out (so right side faces out)
  7. Fold in raw quarter inch edge of open width and whip stitch closed

I couldn’t believe after all that, it was only 7 fairly simple steps to assemble the obi! But I was relieved to finally know what to do.

As my sewing plan requires seams on the width of the obi, rather than a continuous length of fabric, as my fabric isn’t quite long enough, it unfortunately isn’t perfectly accurate like I hoped. However, I think the end result won’t show these inaccuracies too badly! Furthermore, I think it’s worth mentioning that during my research, I found many independent online ateliers and ready-made suppliers who sold beautiful pieces. Particularly on Etsy, there were a plethora who might have fulfill my obi needs just fine, and saved me a lot of trouble! But, I wanted to take this as an opportunity to learn more, not just about fashion and tailoring, but also Japanese culture.

Because of this, I’ve learned so much about the complex and beautiful variations in traditional Japanese obi, and I can’t wait to show you all my sewing process in my next article!

Japan Day 2021

Mark your calendars; SJA’s Japan Day 2021 is on its way! This year’s Japan Day will be completely virtual, and everyone is welcome to join. All activities are free; we just ask that you sign up in advance.

For additional information, including event details and registration, please refer to https://sjastudy.org/japan-day-2021/. We can’t wait to see you!

2021-03-27T01:44:00

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JAPAN DAY 2021

Introducing: SJA Youth Bloggers!

Hello there! It’s the SJA Youth Committee, here with an exciting announcement: we are beginning the SJA Youth Blogs! Right here on sjastudy.org, you’ll be getting weekly blog posts from us about a whole host of topics. There will be articles on the things we’re most passionate about, current events related to Japan, and updates about SJA told from a youth lens. We will also hope to have guest bloggers once a month contribute their stories, too. Stay tuned!


Keep reading for more information about the bloggers:

Anna Fry

はじめまして! I’m Anna, and I very much look forward to being able to share my passion for Japanese culture and for SJA through this youth blog! I am the secretary of the SJA Board, and I work closely with the Outreach and the Arts subcommittees. I am a junior in high school and have been studying Japanese for 3 years now. My motivation to learn Japanese comes from my dream to study fashion in Japan, so look forward to news on Japanese fashion in some of my blog posts! 

よろしくおねがいします!

Maya Green

こんにちは!My name is Maya, and I am a board member and on the Youth Committee for SJA! I am a senior at Washington-Liberty High School. I am in my third year of studying Japanese and am applying to colleges in Japan. My interest in Japan comes from being part Japanese on my mom’s side. I watch a lot of anime with my family; we really enjoy discovering new anime together. I’ve been to Japan and would like to go back as soon as we are able to travel!

よろしくおねがいします!!

Sophia Field

Hey y’all! I’m Sophia and I’m part of the SJA Board, as well as a Youth Committee member and Event Committee member. I’m a senior at Arlington Tech, and will hopefully be heading off to college next year! My interest in Japan comes from my mom showing me classic Japanese animes at a young age. I’m also interested in all styles of martial arts, with 10+ years of training, which definitely plays a big role in my interest. Sadly, I’ve been unable too travel to Japan yet, but I do plan on going sometime in the next few years. I can’t wait to write some blog posts for y’all!

Talk to you again soon!

Happy 2021!

SJA is excited to offer our popular free and fun programs via zoom. Please look out for an updated information on registration and activity contents through our newsletter and Facebook page.

  • Free Japanese classes for youth and adult – 2021 Winter Session TBD
  • Origami workshop – starting in January
  • Setagaya-Arlington exchange program
  • Japan Day – March 27 & 28

We look forward to studying Japanese and the Japanese culture together. Interested in sharing your love of Japan and the language? We always are looking for new volunteers. Please contact us anytime at sja2018sja@gmail.com.

Volunteer Opportunity

Would you like to get connected to a community of Japanese and Japan-enthusiasts? Enjoy learning about the culture of Japan, or enjoy sharing your love of Japan with others? Interested in brushing up your Japanese while helping others learn English (or vice versa)? SJA is always looking for volunteers to help with our programs and events. Please contact us for current and future volunteer opportunities.

Webmaster Intern


Perfect opportunity for college student or recent graduate seeking real world work experience! SJA, grassroots Japanese language and cultural advocacy non-profit based in Arlington, VA is currently seeking a part-time webmaster intern to assist with managing its WordPress website and adding new content. Primary duties are: 

  • create web posts and design pages on SJA activities, as guided by the Board
  • manage co-editor content from volunteer contributors

The experience on WordPress or website management is highly desired. Interest in Japanese language and culture is most welcome.

Estimated time commitment of about 10 hours per month. Happy to coordinate with your school for academic credit if desired.

Interested? Send your resume with cover letter to sja2018sja@gmail.com

Origami Workshops

SJA offers origami workshops periodically for young learners and grown-ups alike interested in learning origami paper folding, an art form and one of the oldest parts of Japanese culture. We strive to provide easy-to-follow instructions to create simple yet adorable models anyone can enjoy. Our instructors are trained and certified under the Taro’s Origami Studio Artist Basic Certification Course.

Our workshops focus on basic folding techniques that will provide a lifelong skill to transform a piece of square paper into intricate sculptures. Incorporating elements of Japanese tradition, our workshops touch upon the importance of proper posture, mindful breathing and respect. Simple Japanese vocabulary, such as the names of models we create, are also introduced.

Past Workshops and Program History

  • Summer Youth Program – 2019
  • Origami and Paper Art – After school enrichment program at ATS (Arlington Traditional Elementary School)
  • Summer Origami Workshops (virtual) – 2020
  • Fall Origami Workshops (virtual) – ongoing
Summer Origami Workshop

We learned a lot and had great fun making origami this summer! Through a total of six sessions from July to August, students learned basic skills such as book fold and diagonal fold, as well as more challenging techniques such as petal fold and inside reverse fold. What do those terms mean really? It means that students can now have a skillset to make a samurai helmet, a paper balloon, a crane and Pikachu with ease.

At our workshop, we always start with steps to help us get ready for folding paper. We make sure that our hands are clean (no sticky fingers or covered with Cheetos powder). Sit properly in front of a flat surface without clutter. Have a long spine, relaxed shoulders and neck, we take a deep belly breath in and out. Now are ready.


The easy-to-follow instructions from Michiko and Seiko helped all students at different skill levels create adorable origami models. The workshops also introduced Japanese names and pronunciation for each model. The instructors enjoyed being together with SJA students and having the fun of folding origami as much as kids did or better.

Fall Origami Workshop

Fall workshops are on the third Sundays at 5:00 p.m. starting in October.  Please register first and we will send you a Zoom link. The workshop will be suited for students of any age from kindergarteners to retirees looking for a new hobby. A great opportunity for a family activity as well. All skill levels are welcome.

October 18
November 15
December 20

Halloween origami Jack O’lantern and more
Thanksgiving Turkey and Pumpkin
Star, Snowman and Santa

Setagaya-Arlington: Language and Culture Exchange

Online Event

Session Times: 
Sep 12 (8-9pm) 
Oct  10th (8-9pm)         
Nov  14th (7-8 pm)       
Dec  12th (7-8pm)    


All Saturday evenings

Are you interested in Japan?  Are you studying Japanese or want to communicate with Japanese students in Tokyo?                                      

We’ll have a Language and culture Exchange with Setagaya, Tokyo, by Zoom. You can practice Japanese and help Japanese students to practice English. It’s a monthly event, and you can choose which date to register. Come for once or all four. It’s really flexible and each session is independently conclusive, so you do not have to worry about missing a session. We start a new session each month. It’s free! 

Please sign up from the link below by two days before the session you would like to participate. We’ll provide you the zoom link. 

What You’ll experience:

– Practice conversational Japanese (beginners welcome)
– Learn local info
– Chance to get connected and make new friends

SETAGAYA

Setagaya is one of the most populated districts in Tokyo, and the second largest in the capital, yet it is also one of the quietest and most peaceful. Near the bustling neighborhoods of Harajuku and Shibuya, Setagaya is a haven of peace. It’s mainly a residential area, and a great place to take a walk to discover the charm of Japanese houses. At the heart of this district, trendy Shimo-Kitazawa remains an island of artistic expression.

You can also discover Kinuta Park, which is particularly beautiful during the seasons of hanami and koyo. If you’re traveling with children, Hanegi Park has one of the largest children’s playgrounds in Tokyo. And don’t miss Todoroki Keikoku, central Tokyo’s most unconventional green space, a forest-like park located in a ravine formed in the Yazawa riverbed. It isn’t far from Gotoku-ji temple, where the famous maneki-neko was born.

from Japan Experience (https://www.japan-experience.com)

Arlington County Fair 2020 – Virtual Events

Calling for Middle and High School Gamers!

Free Game, Tutorial and More

Do you like to play Rocket League, Fortnite, or Minecraft? This is the event for you! SJA & Game Gym is hosting an online game bash. In this free two-hour session, you will have a bit of training and a lot of gaming and will also get to learn about game arcades in Japan! While staying home safe, get connected to other teens via a safe and fun game environment supervised by Game Gym. Register here, but hurry. Spaces are limited.

DATE
TIME
WHO
CAPACITY

August 16
4 to 6 PM
Middle and High School gamers
20

Connect to Setagaya, Tokyo LIVE

Arlington Career Center is the sister school with Tokyo Engei High School in Setagaya, Tokyo. And Setagaya is the host town for American athletes for Tokyo Olympic 2021. The youth in Setagaya are going to report about their town live on 14th from 8:30-9:00pm.

DATE
TIME
WHERE

August 14
8:30 to 9:00 PM
Zoom

Learn more about Setagaya

Summer Workshops

We are excited to offer online workshops during this summer. As in-person events will be limited for the foreseeable future, we would like to explore digital media to engage our community of young students and adults who love to learn about Japan and the language. All workshops are free but some requires a prior registration as a number of participants/audiences is limited. Please review the information below and make plans to join our casual, fun, and friendly activities for everyone.

Hiragana & Katakana Mini Tutorials

Grab a “quick bite” of Japanese

During these 15 minute Facebook Live mini lessons, the instructor and SJA board member, Satoko Best, will show you how to write the Japanese alphabet with the correct stroke order and the essence of calligraphy.  These classes are appropriate for beginners.

WHAT: 15 minutes quick lunch time tutorial
WHEN: Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 12:30PM -12:45PM
June 16 – July 2,  2020   
LEVEL: Beginner
WHERE: Facebook Live

Classes are already underway, but you can watch the recordings from the prior classes on SJA’s Facebook page and join us for these additional classes: 

June 23-25  
–  6/23: Writing Japanese Katakana from ア行、カ行、サ行 (a-i-u-e-o, ka-ki-ku-ke-ko, sa-shi-su-se-so)  
– 6/24: Writing Japanese Katakana from タ行、ナ行、ハ行 (ta-chi-tsu-te-to, na-ni-nu-ne-no, ha-hi-fu-he-ho)  
–  6/25: Writing Japanese Katakana from マ行、ヤ行、ラ行、ワ行 (ma-mi-mu-me-mo, ya-yu-yo, ra-ri-ru-re-ro, wa-wo-n)  

June 30-July 2
– 6/30: Writing Japanese Hiragana Dakuon が行、ざ行、だ行、ば行(ga-gi-gu-ge-go,za-zi-zu-ze-zo,da-zi-zu-ze-zo,ba-bi-bu-be-bo)  
– 7/1: Writing Japanese Katakana Dakuon カ行、ザ行、ダ行、バ行( ga-gi-gu-ge-go,za-zi-zu-ze-zo,da-zi-zu-ze-zo,ba-bi-bu-be-bo)    
– 7/2: Writing Japanese Hiragana & Katakana ぱ行&パ行(pa-pi-pu-pe-po), youon(ex. kya-kyu-kyo), sokuon (small letter tsu)

Basic Japanese Class for Adults

Do you want to learn basic Japanese and brush up conversation skills? 

Join our Zoom Basic Japanese Class over the summer for adults. You’ll learn how to say “I like something”, ” I eat/drink something”, and “What time is it?” etc. It’s free, but the slots are limited.  Also, please sign up at least 24 hours before each class starts, so that we can send the Zoom link to you in time.  If you haven’t used Zoom before, when you sign up for the class please mention that in the Comment Box.  If you have any questions, please email sja2018sja@gmail.com

Sign up at: https://tinyurl.com/AdultS2020 

Youth Origami Workshop

Let’s Make Origami Together!
Learn basic folding skills to make simple animals to Pikachu

Come join us to learn the simple pleasure of origami crafts via online workshop (30 minutes) at 4:00 p.m. on Wednesdays in July and August. The first few sessions focus on basic folding skills and we aim at making crane and Pokemon characters at later workshops. It is free but a prior registration is required for a limited number of students. After registration, we will send you a zoom link.

WHAT: 30 minutes origami crafts
WHEN: 4 pm on Wednesdays from July 8 to August 12
LEVEL: Anyone (Beginner)
WHERE: Zoom – Prior Registration Required

Registration Form

Session 1 (July 8): Simple Animals – Basic Folding Skills
Session 2 (July 15): Flying Objects – Airplanes and such
Session 3 (July 22): Samurai Hat
Session 4 (July 29): Playful Things
Session 5 (August 5): Origami Everyone Admires – Crane (you need to make water-bomb)
Session 6 (August 12): Bonus Session – Pikachu and Evee (Session 5 is required or if you can make crane yourself)

Virtual Cultural Exchanges

credit: Mix Ojiya

Want to meet and talk to students and families in Japan?  Two great ways for our middle and high school students to connect with students in Japan!

Online “Home Stay” with Japanese Middle School Students
Hello, middle school students in Arlington! Do you want to make a trip to Japan but can’t? Join us for a Zoom chat with Japanese middle school students in Setagaya, Japan. Setagaya is a Host Town for Team USA for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics in 2021. We’d like to connect students from both locations to experience a mini online homestay. What would you like to know or talk about concerning Japan? Please let us know.  Japanese students want to chat in English, but if you know some Japanese, you can practice it, too. You can sign up for both days, 7/18 & 8/1, if you want. It’s free! 

WHAT: 40 minutes zoom chat with Students in Japan
WHEN: July 18 and August 1
LEVEL: Middle School Students
WHERE: Zoom Link – Prior Registration Required

To sign up, click here.

Zoom chat with Japanese University Students for High School Students
Want to know about Japanese college? Want to chat with Japanese students in Japan? Tsukuba University in Japan is willing to do both (August 5th & 6th). One day is chatting with Japanese college students. If you know some Japanese, they’ll help you to practice it. Another day is an open house of bachelor Degree Program offered in English (science/engineer), where you can learn more about Tsukuba University, which  has produced three Nobel Laureates and offers various degree programs in English, including International Social Science, International Medical Science, Global Issues, and Interdisciplinary Engineering.

WHAT: 40 minutes zoom chat with College Students in Japan and college information session
WHEN: August 5 and 6
LEVEL: High School Students
Media: Zoom Link – Prior Registration Required

You can learn more about  Tsukuba University’s Bachelor Degree Program at: http://www.global.tsukuba.ac.jp/undergraduate/programs?lang=148

Participation is free but space is limited.  High School students in Arlington, VA, please sign up by June 30th. After that, we’ll open it up to the other High School students in the DC Metro area. 
Please sign up at this page.

Tea Ceremony Demonstration

Find beauty behind the ancient art of Tea Ceremony

Join to watch tea ceremony on Facebook Live every Sunday at 3pm.  The tea ceremony live has been broadcasted since April and the response has been overwhelming! People from all over the world have joined.  Some make their own cup of tea at home and enjoy watching on Facebook, while others have made their own matcha after the broadcast has ended.
 
Lockdown is hard for many reasons, but you will find beauty and tranquility through the Omotesenke experience.

WHAT: 60 minutes tea ceremony demonstration
WHEN: Every Sunday at 3:00 pm
LEVEL: Anyone
WHERE: Facebook Live

Intro to Zazen & Japanese Zen Buddhism

Take Deep Breath and Calm Your Mind

Kanzenchi (Peter Pocock–delrayzen.org) will lead a class through online demonstration of zazen (half-lotus, Burmese, seiza or sitting on a chair) plus some introduction to Japanese Zen Buddhism (our lineage is from Shunryu Suzuki, who was in Calm your mind in the heat of summer!  On Sunday, July 26, from 4-5 pm, SJA Board Member, John McLaughlin, and Del Ray Zen Buddhist priest Peter Pocock, will provide a brief introduction to Japanese Zen Buddhism as practiced by our Soto-shu lineage, as well as to Zazen. After some warm-up exercises, participants will have various sitting positions demonstrated, such as full and half-Lotus, seiza, Burmese-style, and sitting in a chair. Then, everyone will experience a brief sitting (5-10 minutes) followed by a chant in Japanese and English. After a Q&A session, participants are welcome to stay for a longer sitting of 15-20 minutes. Whether you already have experience with Zazen or not, you’re welcome to join us on Wednesday evening and Saturday morning sittings through a zoom link at delrayzen.org

WHAT: 60 minutes: lecture, guided sitting meditation practice, Q&A, and additional sitting (optional)
WHEN: Sunday, July 26 from 4:00 pm to 5:00 pm
LEVEL: Anyone
WHERE: Zoom link

Join Zoom Meeting
https://us02web.zoom.us/j/81152860851?pwd=enpYdm1vdXYya1M1MFlwcWg3Nlh5QT09
Meeting ID: 811 5286 0851
Password: 622262