The Japanese culture is indeed very rich in culture and tradition. From culinary, crafts, sports and even fashion, the traditional Japanese culture is undoubtedly rich in every single aspect. For one, the kimonos which were worn for centuries in ancient Japan is wildly popular, and distinctly related to the Japanese culture. It even serves as an inspiration to modern-day fashion, where kimonos are upgraded so that the classic wide sleeves could be incorporated into the modern fashion.
Aside from kimonos, many other aspects of traditional Japanese fashion are worth noting. With the Japanese’ high regard for culture and tradition, each piece is definitely representative of the traditional Japanese. They also come with a meaningful and significant history underneath. Another example of such is the hachimaki, which is a traditional Japanese headband.
Understanding What A Hachimaki Really Is
One of the interesting facets of Japanese traditional fashion is the hachimaki. Alongside the kimono, it is one of the regular items of clothing worn by the ancient Japanese - though it is believed to be more important when worn for certain occasions. A hachimaki is a headband that could be worn by both men and women.
The hachimaki is made from a piece of cloth that is either red or white in color. As mentioned in the earlier paragraph, it can be worn on multiple occasions as it generally represents perseverance, courage, and effort. Examples of events where wearing a hachimaki id given more importance will be cited in the article later on.
The Meaning and History Of Japanese Hachimaki
The word “hachimaki’ in Japanese means “helmet scarf”, which is quite a straightforward description as it is indeed a scarf worn like a helmet. In present-day fashion, the hachimaki can be compared to a bandana.
There is no historical record which accurately states the origin of the hachimaki. Making its beginning uncertain. However, there are several theories made by Japanese historians as to its origin. For one, a popular theory associates the cloth to the traditional garb worn by early religious ascetics. Making the origin of the hachimaki religious in nature.
On the other hand, some believe that these headbands originated during the feudal era as headbands worn by samurai. It was believed that the original purpose of the hachimaki is to keep the samurai’s helmet in place by fastening the helmet to the skull. It was also believed that the ancient samurais gained more benefits by wearing the hachimaki, aside from keeping their helmets on. In fact, it was also used to absorb excess sweat and keep long hair in place - far away from the eyes. The hachimaki is also often associated with the ninja culture, where ninjas are often seen donning a hachimaki.
In a way, the hachimaki is also part of an important era in Japanese history. This item of clothing is most notably used during the Second World War. Back then, the hachimaki was used by kamikaze pilots as part of their military uniform. These pilots would frequently wear a hachimaki with the inscription of “Kamikaze” written in kanji, especially right before flying to death on a crucial mission. It is important to note that the concept of “kamikaze” is looked upon in Japanese culture, as they regard the ability to sacrifice oneself for his country the greatest contribution anyone could ever give. Hence, the hachimaki is seen as a symbol of courage and strength.
When To Wear A Hachimaki
While the hachimaki originates from traditional Japanese culture, that doesn’t stop the present day Japanese from wearing the hachimaki. Both Japanese men and women still regard using the hachimaki for special occasions that require strength, courage, and perseverance. In modern fashion, the hachimaki is adorned with the rising sun motif to match the Japanese flag. However, some opt to put encouraging slogans on his or her hachimaki. The most common slogan written on a hachimaki is ‘Nippon Ichi”m which translates to “Best of Japan”
As mentioned earlier in the article, there are certain occasions which call for the presence of a hachimaki. These are enumerated below, with a brief explanation for further understanding.
During Sporting Events
Perhaps the most popular occasion where the hachimaki can be spotted in abundance is during sporting events. This comes to no surprise as a lot of Japanese martial arts like taekwondo and judo have used the hachimaki as part of the traditional ensemble in the past. Athletes were commonly found wearing a cloth headband during competitions.
These days, it is less common to find athletes donning the hachimaki. Instead, it is more common to find the audience or spectators wearing a hachimaki. Spectators would also often write saying on their headpiece with words to encourage and show support for their favorite athletes.
While the first example cited above was not surprising, the second one is. In Japan, it is common for women who are in labor to wear a hachimaki while giving birth. Since labor is universally (not just in Japan) seen as a challenging instance, Japanese women wear a hachimaki to represent courage.
Daily Life: School and Office/Workplace
It is not uncommon for a hachimaki to make an appearance on a Japanese’ everyday life. In fact, a lot of students and office workers are commonly found wearing a hachimaki. Since the hachimaki signifies strength, effort, and perseverance, the hachimaki is representative of an individual’s desire to get past a trying situation. Some students even go as far as wearing a hachimaki while studying to ask for guidance.
For example, Japanese students who are about to embark on a big test wear a hachimaki on the day itself to represent the effort and perseverance that they need to ace the test. Similarly, office workers are also found donning a hachimaki when workload becomes too heavy and challenging.
While not in a traditional office per se, laborers who engage in strenuous physical labor are also common users of the hachimaki. Similar to how the ancient samurai used the hachimaki, it is a great way to catch perspiration to prevent the sweat and hair from getting into one’s eyes.
While the hachimaki is often seen as a symbol of strength, it is also interesting how it is being used during rallies and political demonstrations. During rallies, it is very common for people to wear a hachimaki.
Where To Buy Hachimaki in Present Day Japan
Anyone who wishes to buy a hachimaki in Japan would find that it is quite easy to buy in Japan. For whatever reason, whether it is to have a symbol of courage and strength or simply to have a fun Japanese souvenir, one may find that buying a hachimaki is easy and effortless.
Thanks to the internet and the boom of e-commerce, it is quite easy for anyone to purchase a hachimaki nowadays. Anyone with an access to the internet can simply order at one of the many sites that sell hachimaki. While ordering, one will find that buying online provides almost the same experience as purchasing from a physical store.
Online stores allow users to customize their own hachimaki in a variety of ways. For one, users may select the color of their hachimaki. Of course, options are usually limited to white, red and black which are the traditional hachimaki colors. Next, users can opt to customize their own saying. For some stores, there is a custom selection of phrases that they can opt to place in any part of the headband. A popular example of this is “Hissho” in kanji, which translates into the English phrase “Must Win!”.
The best part about purchasing a hachimaki online, aside from the convenience, is the affordability. A single headband does not cost too much, with average prices at $3 to $5. Other cheaper alternatives could be found in selling sites such as eBay or Rakuten. However, one must always be wary when transacting in eBay as transactions done directly from buyer to seller, exposing buyers to more scams. On the other hand, a more trustworthy shopping platform in Japan is through Amazon JP.
It comes to no surprise that Amazon, a well-loved online shopping platform in Japan even carries a selection of hachimaki. This is the perfect option for users who want to shop with convenience since Amazon offers quick and versatile shipping methods as well as various payment methods. It is also easier to look at seller ratings and buyer feedback to help one decide which seller he or she should buy from. This gives the buyer additional peace of mind and confidence in the transaction.
Of course, one can always opt to buy through physical stores. Usually, tourists would easily find at least one store in a commercial district selling a hachimaki. This is the easiest options for tourists opting for a souvenir since translating and understanding websites written in Japanese can prove to be quite challenging.