(Un)Common Terms

I don't expect that everyone coming to this blog is likely to be fluent in the terms most closely associated with kimono. I know that I'm not, but I'm learning more every day. There are lots of books out there on kimono and the wearing of kimono, but the last thing that you want to do while reading a blog is to try to find those. To that end, I'm providing this page as a quick reference for some of the terms that are likely to crop up during my discourse. While I try to define some of the less common ones in my text, I don't do that for all of the terms I use.

And why do I not simply call them by their English translations? I feel that does not give proper respect to the culture from which these items come, and while Romanization of these words is not perfect, it is, at least, a step in the right direction. It can also be somewhat cumbersome and inaccurate; after all, while an obi is, in essence, a sash or belt, I don't feel that either of those words fully embraces what it is to be an obi.

To keep me from waxing too poetic on these definitions, I have referenced "The Book of Kimono" by Norio Yamanaka as well as "The New Kimono" from the editors of Nanao Magazine.

eri: collar

geta: raised wooden sandals

hadajuban: Undershirt worn next to the skin under kimono (I have one with tube sleeves instead of more fluttery sleeves to go under light-colored yukata.)

hakama: pleated skirt or pants (It's really quite difficult to tell at a glace if hakama are split or not, as the pleating pattern is the same for both. For convenience, all of mine are in the 'pants' style.)

hakamashita: These are the short kimono-tops that I have for wearing with hakama. Thanks to the shorter length, I don't have to worry about tucking them to account for the rise in the hakama.

hanao: the straps of geta and zori.

han-eri: half-collar (usually a removable, decorative collar attached to the juban)

hanjuban: half-length under-kimono (the ones I made have sleeves that look more like regular kimono sleeves, with a certain amount of 'flutteryness.')

haori: coat worn over kimono; does not overlap in front.

homongi: visiting kimono

juban: under-kimono (a general term for most garments worn under kimono like hadajuban, hanjuban and nagajuban)

kitsuke: dressing, fitting, helping someone dress; also used to group the things one uses to dress, such as koshi-himo or obi-makura.

koshi-himo: sash (usually a thin sash used to keep juban and kimono held closed under the obi. In our household, this is usually abbreviated to 'himo')

michiyuki: 3/4 length travel coat (closes in front with squared-off collar)

miyatsuguchi: the opening in the under-arm section in the side seam of the kimono. (No, this is not a term that comes up in every-day conversation, but I love that there is actually a word for this part of the kimono.)

musubi: knot or bow (I usually use either the kai no kuchi or 'clam's mouth' musubi and the taiko or 'drum' musubi for tying my obi)

nagajuban: full-length under-kimono

obiage: a scarf or sash that is used to cover the obi makura

obidome: a brooch or decoration for the obi. It's usually pinned to an obi jime, but not always.

obi-ita: a thin, moderately flexible stay inserted in the obi to help it maintain smoothness at the wearer's front

obijime: decorative woven or braided cords worn across the front of the obi

obi-makura: a pad or pillow used to give musubi shape (I usually use it for the taiko musubi)

ohashori: excess fabric in the midsection of the kimono that is folded over at the waist and partially concealed by the obi. (Again, not one that comes up in casual conversation.)

susoyoke: a half-slip, fashioned as a wrap-around skirt.

tabi: split-toed socks (I favor the traditional cotton ones that fasten on, but you can find many stylish knit ones these days, too)

tsubo: thong fastening on geta and zori that goes between the big toe and second toe

yukata: unlined summer kimono

zori: sandals (often patent leather or similar, unlike geta which are wooden)


  1. Enjoying reading your blog. One of the things that I am finding a little confusing, is which garments go where, and for what season, especially as there are variations of a garment (i.e. Juban) Would it be possible to diagram the layers and seasonal variations?

  2. I'm so glad you're enjoying the blog! I have a post planned for Juban that I will try to get up in the coming week.Getting some diagrams together might take a little longer, but I appreciate the suggestion and will do my best to follow through.

    1. Thanks, I just think that it would make designing a complete outfit (then making it) a bit easier. BTW- Swa the fockwear pattern. will get soon. Have also bee looking at Pinterest, and the local fabric store for design ideas.

    2. I totally understand and look forward to seeing what you come up with. Until I manage to get more of my posts out of their draft stage, you may consider investing in "The Book of Kimono." This is a book (in English) written by the founder of one of the kimono academies in Japan,and (to the best of my knowledge) is still used as its text book. It has points on dressing (for women and men) and diagrams that should give you an idea of what you're looking at, as far as layers go.

    3. Wonderful! will look it up on Amazon. thank you

    4. What are your thoughts on this book"Kimono Design: An Introduction to Textiles and Patterns" found wile browsing for the book you mentioned.

    5. That one is currently on my Amazon Wishlist. I've had a chance to browse through it quickly, and while I SUSPECT that it is along the lines of "Traditional Japanese Pattern's and Motifs," I think it has more in the way of accurate text in English.

    6. Was in Kapan Center Yesterday, and they had a copy of Kimono Design: An Introduction to Textiles and Patterns. was able to thumb through it a bit. It was broken up into the seasons, and had examples of fabrics and motifs that would be appropriate for that particular season. There are 2 sealed copies available and one "browse" copy .

  3. You doing ok? haven't seen any updates for quite a while.

    1. Thank you very much for checking in! I am, in fact, doing quite well, though am in the middle of a move. As a consequence, all of my kimono and ephemera are somewhere in a densely packed storage unit and will be until we are finally settled. I've been trying to come up with something to post to assure whomever might be curious that I'm just fine, but clearly, I have so far failed.

  4. I know the feeling well, having helped friends move, pack, and unpack storage units. Stay well, and hop0e you can resume posting here soon.