The obi, a colorful accessory crafted from a long rectangular piece of fabric, is the wide belt or sash that decorates the waist of Japan's historical costume, the kimono. Traditionally, kimonos feature a single length of cloth sewn into a flat, angular shape with little body definition. Kimono style is about bulk, not body lines, and the obi adds to this look through complex and beautiful knots or bows. Today, kimono and obi wear is typically restricted to weddings or other formal occasions, festival costumes and martial arts uniforms, although some styles remain appropriate for everyday wear.
Bunko Musubi (Box Bow Knot)
Wrap a plain sash around your waist to hold the kimono closed and knot it in front. Hide the sash with a datejime, or undersash. Tie the datejime once in the back, then once in the front and tuck the ends to the inside.
Locate the short, folded end of the nagoya obi and hold it above the left shoulder. Drape the obi diagonally across the back. Leave the end free at the top of the left shoulder.
Wrap the opposite end of the obi from the right waist to the left waist, then bring it around the back. Slip an obi ita under this layer of back wrapping to help hold the shape of the obi.
Wrap the obi around the front again, then bring it to the center of the back. Scrunch or fold the obi right at the center of the back to make it narrower.
Take the folded end of the obi from above the left shoulder and place it upright against the middle of the back, between the shoulder blades. Fold it in half in a downward direction.
Hold a koshihimo evenly in front of the waist and bring both ends to the center of the back. Crisscross the ends at the back and hold them above the shoulders, making an "X" that holds the obi's vertical fold in place.
Fold the rest of the long hanging end of the obi into a rectangle. Pinch the middle together to make a bow shape and press it against the opposite, vertically folded end of the obi.
Lower the koshihimo ends so the "X" holds the bow against the body. Tie the ends at the front of the waist and tuck the loose ends into the obi.
Hold the obiage at the back of the body, between the vertical fold and the bow. Tie the ends in front of the waist.
Pull the vertical fold down over the center of the bow, creating a "knot" look. Wrap the obijime around the back, over the bow, and tie it again in front of the waist.
Pull down the ends of the bow so they point downward in bunko fashion.
Obi tying usually requires a friend's help.
Nagoya obi are typically 130 inches long and differ from other types with the short end, or "te", sewn into a stiffened fold. Begin the bunko style with this folded end.
Obi tying requires a few different accessories. For this style, make sure to have koshihimo (long ties), obi ita (a 1- to 2-foot long bending board), obiage (a sash), obijime (a cord) and datejime (an undersash.)