Traditional Japanese Clothing: Haori And Hakama

What Is A Haori?

The haori is a jacket with a hem that falls along the hip. It’s traditionally worn on top of a kimono. The jacket is often closed by fastening the haori himo, also known as cords, onto loops inside the jacket.

The collar is also quite thin and inconspicuous. It’s similar to an overcoat that one from another culture might wear. 

The arms also tend to be large and loose. Some formal haori will also have crests sewn onto them, typically on either side of the shoulder.

There aren’t usually any other intricate designs or embroidery on a haori, although some will have an elaborate lining on the inside. 

Some haori can also be worn a little bit longer than at this hip. Some will almost reach floor length, while others would be hemmed around the thigh area. 

The History Of The Haori 

The haori emerged during the Edo period of Japan when what little money people had was typically spent on clothing.

They were often worn by Japanese men who fell into the merchant class. At the time, those who ruled Japan implemented some dressing requirements that people were expected to abide by. 

When geisha were more prominent in Japan, they sometimes wore a haori over their kimono.

Before geisha wore haori in the 1800s, they were only ever worn by men. However, geisha were known to push the envelope regarding fashion and often broke rules and started new trends. 

What Is A Hakama?

The hakama is a pair of traditional trousers that sit at the waist, where they are tied. They are wide-legged pants that resemble skirts from afar.

Two types of hakama have been created and worn in Japan. One is the umanori hakama, worn by horse riders and forest workers, and there’s the andon hakama, known as the lantern style. 

Hakama pants made it easier for those who would ride horses or have to perform more active movements to dress respectably without having their movement restricted.

Many rules were adopted for how and when men and women would wear hakama, as formal and informal interpretations were designed. 

The pants tie high up at the waist, and the hem falls to the ankle. There’s a special type of kimono called a hakamashita that is worn underneath the hakama to create an entire ensemble.

There are four himo, or straps, that help to tie the hakama. The longer himo ties towards the front, and the shorter himo ties at the back. 

Hakama are also often paired with Japanese sandals and tabi, which are known as split-toe Japanese socks that are designed to be worn with sandals. 

The History Of The Hakama 

Before Japan implemented hakama as part of their traditional garb, this trouser style was worn in China by the Tang and Sui dynasties.

They were often seen as part of traditional dress for Japanese students attending school before uniforms were implemented. 

Young boys would also wear a specific type of hakama as part of Shichi-Go-San, which is a coming of age tradition for Japanese boys starting when they are five years old.

Many men and women were also required to wear hakama for most purposes. 

In the age of the samurai, the hakama also made up their traditional outfits known as kamishimo.

When samurai would attend formal settings, such as the shogun’s living space, they would wear long hakama known as naga-bakama

Several interpretations of the hakama came in and out of style or required dress throughout history. Women wouldn’t wear hakama nearly as much as men would.

Sometimes, female school teachers would wear hakama, as would miko, or shrine maidens, and aristocratic women. 

Shrine Maidens In Tokyo

Are Haori Still Worn Today?

The haori is still worn by people in Japan today. While it was typically a men’s garment, women also wear it. The haori is not a part of everyday dress like it was a long time ago.

You may occasionally see someone wearing a haori when attending a festival or during an important milestone or event in their life. 

Haori is also popular with older Japanese women, but they may also be worn by Japanese women of varied ages when they want to dress up or feel more formal.

You might also see haori worn when attending Japanese theater or watching a performance in Japan. 

When a haori is worn as part of formal attire, it’s commonplace to see the wearer’s family crest embroidered on the fabric. This was considered to be an integral part of a man’s haori

What Is Two Person Haori?

Two-person haori is actually a pretty fun game played in Japan. It’s played with two people; one in the front and one in the back.

The person in the front will wrap their arms behind them, while the person in the back will put their arms through the haori sleeves. The person at the back will then pretend to be the arms of the person in front. 

Are Hakama Still Worn Today?

Hakama are still worn in Japan today, though not at the same frequency or according to old requirements. Sometimes, men will wear hakama to formal events, such as a formal tea ceremony or a wedding. Sumo wrestlers will also sometimes wear a hakama when attending a formal gathering. 

It’s also common for those who practice Japanese martial arts to wear a particular type of hakama. This hakama will have asymmetrical pleating and be worn as much as they might choose.

Shinto kannushi priests also wear hakama almost all of the time; these particular priests can often be seen at shrines helping to perform ceremonies. 

The only time women will typically wear hakama is when they are graduating from their martial arts training. Miko will also still wear hakama when they are helping the Shinto kannushi priests perform ceremonies. 

Hakama may also be worn by participants in various other popular activities in Japan, including Japanese archery, known as kyudo, calligraphy competitions or tournaments, and hyaku nin isshu, which is a Japanese card game. 

However, younger Japanese women are beginning to incorporate hakama into their dress, such as when they graduate school. They are often styled in more modern ways, and they are more liberal with color combinations. 

How Dressing Requirements Have Changed In Japan 

The way a person from Japan dresses isn’t nearly as regulated as it once was. Traditional dress is still appreciated in many facets of modern Japanese culture.

Japan has done a great job preserving and celebrating many parts of its history. 

The country is much more open to fashion influences from around the world. That said, Japan also has various subcultures of fashion and different ways of dressing that have inspired fashion trends worldwide for a long time. 

You might not see traditional Japanese fashion as often as it used to, but not all traditional dressing forms have been lost in Japan.

You still have plenty of opportunities to see the artistic creations that have been preserved in places like museums and shops while also appreciating how liberal and creative Japan has become when it comes to fashion. 

Can Non-Japanese People Wear Haori Or Hakama?

It’s not usually considered appropriate for non-Japanese people to wear traditional clothing as part of their regular dress or on formal occasions.

However, when visiting Japan, you will sometimes be offered or encouraged to wear traditional dress, such as a kimono or haori, when attending a festival or a ceremony. 

Kimono Rental Shop In Japan

In some ryokans that you may stay in, you may be offered to wear a haori, along with a yukata. A yukata is similar to a kimono, but it’s considered more casual garb.

If given one in this circumstance, you can show your appreciation and wear it. 

There are also shops in Japan that allow people to rent traditional Japanese garments, including a haori or hakama. You’ll often find these shops in cities or towns known for honoring Japanese tradition, including Kyoto, Asakusa, and Narita.

Some of these shops also allow you to have photos taken in this traditional dress. 

Regardless of the circumstance in which you may wear a piece of traditional Japanese clothing, be sure to do so with respect and appreciation for how significant that clothing is to the rich and vast history of the country.

How To Make A Haori

MT Lee
My fascination with Japan began several years back at a roadside bonsai stand while on vacation. I became more interested in the where and why's more than the trees themselves. My love of Bonsai led me to further research my interest in the gardens where they originated from and the places and people that surrounded those little trees. My curiosity was well rewarded upon visiting Saitama where the National Bonsai Museum was located and Omiya Village the bonsai mecca for lovers of this ancient art form. Exploring many towns and villages and even making my way to Japan's furthest southern prefecture of Okinawa. I hope to share my love of this wonderful and exotic place with all those who want to know more about Japan.