The Ties Binding the Heart of Japan
Obi-musubi (Sash knots)
With the arrival of the 18th century, Edo (present-day Tokyo) grew to a population of one million and
became one of the top consumer cities in the world. As warfare ceased and society became peaceful,
prospering tradesmen and artisans began to foster culture amidst remarkable progress in the economy.
Obi-musubi came into fashion around this time as well. Before then, obi was nothing more than a belt that tied the kimono. It gradually evolved to a broader, longer item—an accessory that people used not just for function, but also to look stylish. Obi became more elaborate with variations in weave, color, and pattern, which triggered trends in new ways to tie them.
There was also a social class system at the time, classified by occupation—samurai, farmers, craftsmen, and merchants—and there was a certain way to knot their obi according to their occupation. Thus, it was possible to discern social position, occupation, marital status, and so forth by how someone tied their obi. Within those rules, people were creative and expressed their own sense of style with a diversity of obi-musubi.
It is said that there are now over a hundred ways to tie obi, but most are variants of knot styles born in the Edo period (1603–1868). This culture has been passed down through the generations.