Have you ever wanted to try hanging a fashionable charm to a pencil case or bag? Japanese children love to attach cute straps with charms onto their belongings. These straps not only serve to differentiate one’s belongings, but are also used to display one’s hobbies and personal taste.
Local Kitty themes – Hello Kitty outfitted according to local custom or dressed as popular regional characters. (Courtesy of ASUNAROSYA Co.,Ltd.) Ⓒ1976,2014 SANRIO CO.,LTD.APPROVAL NO. S544912
Sisters having fun with trends by attaching various straps to their bags.
When looking for a great strap, the first place to start are cell phones. Most Japanese cell phones have a small opening specifically designed to hang a strap, which serves as a ‘stage’ to display one’s personal style for many people. While some people prefer to adorn their phones with just one sparkling charm, like a jewel, others choose to adorn their phones heavily with several large charms, such as stuffed toys.
Straps adorned with the popular character of bear “Kumamon”.
Among cell phone straps, a small type of charm called “Netsuke” is very popular. These have small dolls, etc., the size of an adult’s fingertip, attached to a string made of a tight braid.
The “Gotochi Kitty” (Local kitty) strap series is a favorite among both adults and children. These Netsuke combine the popular character “Hello Kitty” which originated in Japan, with local popular items and specialties. The first such charm to be released was the Hokkaido lavender-field themed Local Kitty in 1998.
Ever since then, countless varieties have been created, including Kumamoto Prefecture’s Kitty held by the popular regional character of bear “Kumamon,” Nagoya’s Kitty standing on top of a Nagoya Castle rooftop ornament, Kyoto’s Kitty wearing a kimono and holding a traditional Japanese umbrella, etc. Because they are available in each respective region and either purchased on vacation or received from a family member as a souvenir, such charms bring joy and make people want to show them off to their friends.
The Hokkaido lavender-field themed “Gotochi Kitty”. (Courtesy of ASUNAROSYA Co.,Ltd.) ©1976,2014 SANRIO CO.,LTD.APPROVAL NO. S544912
Kimono Culture as the Origin
Netsuke with a round charm to hold a small bag onto the waist band. (Courtesy of Kyoto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum)
Why do Japanese people like cell phone straps so much? It could have something to do with the kimono worn by Japanese people since the olden days. About 300 years ago, Japanese people wore kimonos in daily life that did not have any pockets and placed their valuables, such as money and medicines, in small bags which dangled from their waists. During this period, “Netsuke” were used to firmly hold such bags.
Netsuke had decorations resembling small dolls which stuck out from the top of the Obi belt. In time, these evolved into trendy items and objects of art. Such Netsuke came in various designs of personal expression, including dolls, masks, dogs, turtles, monkeys, birds, etc.
People in the olden days adored artistic Netsuke works. (Courtesy of Kyoto Seishu Netsuke Art Museum)
It is therefore believed that the Japanese penchant for straps is rooted in such culture which treasured these delicate items.