Winter is here! At this time of the year your heart and body will certainly cry out for some extra comfort. Already wearing all that’s to be found in your closet but still longing for more cosy warmth? Here is our solution: START WEARING BELLY WARMERS! Belly warmers? What is that supposed to be? Read on and find out how people dress this winter in Tokyo and get to know the true story of how Itoi Shigesato turned a piece of granny underwear into a fashionable must-have accessory!
Written by Uleshka
Once you realized what we are actually talking about, you probably have quite a bad, oldfashioned image in your head! Yes, Japanese style ‘haramaki’ – freely translated as ‘belly warmers’ – are these highly useful items which are either worn in case of illness (stomach ache, kidney pain, problems with your abdominal joints, diarrhea…) or in case of total indifference towards dress ethics (on weekends in Musashi-Kosugi tired Salaryman like to go cigarette shopping entirely wrapped in beige underwear with a nice white ‘belly warmer’ on top).
Altogether this original item does NOT have a very sexy image!
This is probably what you had in mind when you heard the words “health” and “body warming”, right?
…and this is what it SHOULD be like! Spice up your outfit with ‘belly warmers’ in all colors and still enjoy this warm and fuzzy feeling.
But that was yesterday!!! And today all I can say is: I love them! I love them! I love them!
EVERYBODY I know who has seen me wearing one, wants one, too!
And why? Because Hobonichi (the we-write-and-produce-everything-that-we-think-is-good-company – which earns my highest respect here in Japan, by the way) has found a way to transform this old-fashioned health thingy into a super desirable fashion item!
Yes, there are other ‘haramaki’ out there already: Flimsy cutesy ones, which never stay in the right spot. But the ones from Hobonichi are soft, warm, stretchy and juicy! I certainly can’t leave the house without them! Read on why and how Itoi-san got into them and produced this clothing line.
Here is Itoi-san’s story:
Despite the truly uncool reputation of the Haramaki, multi-creator Itoi Shigesato kept wearing one in secret everyday. At that time, it was certainly not for the look of it, but purely for comfort and health reasons. When wearing a ‘haramaki’, you boost your whole blood circulation by warming the entire waist area, which results in: belly warm – body warm!
What happened then? Still super afraid that anyone could notice that Itoi-san himself was wearing something as up-to-date as granny’s knickers, Itoi Shigesato reacted fast when he got an email from a knitting company in Niigata saying: “Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do something together at some point?” A bright light bulb appeared above his head: “I KNOW WHAT I’LL DO! I’LL MAKE COOL HARAMAKI!!!”
And he did!
Itoi’s company runs the huge access website Hobonichi and they wrote emails to a lot of people asking if they would want a ‘belly warmer’ in case they were to produce any. But – in the middle of the survey Itoi actually decided: “No matter what! I’m gonna make them anyway!”
Today they have their 11th collection selling about 15 000 ‘haramaki’ each season.
But how could Hobonichi be so sure it would be a success to produce ‘belly warmers’? And what is so special about them anyway? Here are a couple of good reasons why you should give ‘haramaki’ a try:
Boost your bad blood circulation you certainly have from sitting in front of this screen all day Become fit by looking good!
Since it really warms your whole body, you can wear less in general and don’t have to bury yourself with layers of layers of winter clothes. Besides, a ‘haramaki’ is really small, so you can easily store it in your bag and use it in case you get a little cold later on. It really makes a big difference!
If you have a cold and weak stomach it does wonders (men think digestion, women think about those painful days each month, party-goers think poor kidneys, and in winter time: Think of flu!)
Many people wear it also when they sleep since it generally comforts you and calms your body down. (So wear one the night before your next big client presentation!)
As it was already mentioned in the comments of our maternity design article, ‘belly warmers’ are simply the best during pregnancy!
When I showed mine at my yoga-class everybody screamed: I want one!
Protect yourself from air-conditioning issues! Perfect on board of any airplane (which is maybe why the Hobonichi ‘haramaki’ line is called ‘Hobonichi Airline’) or during summer days when the air-conditioning attacks your body! The strong cold draft certainly makes your body struggle which causes a lot of difficulty for the blood circulation. Many people develop cold kidneys but your ‘haramaki’ helps you to store the heat in the right place.
But apart from all these great reasons for wearing ‘haramaki’ THEY SIMPLY LOOK DEAD COOL and act as the hot accessory to spice up your outfit this winter (if not throughout the year)!
Now you know why people wear them over here (and probably secretly in other parts of the world where there aren’t such nice ‘belly warmers’ yet!).
I feel a bit like a “Haramaki ambassador” to be honest! I’ve simply never experienced any piece of clothing that suited my way of dressing so well and made me feel all gooooood and comfy! Besides – the reactions I get simply speak for themselves: Everybody wants one! Probably because people have worn ‘belly warmers’ at one point in their lives and subconsciously remember how nice and warm that felt but never dared to wear one ‘in public’… or so… Now that they found one that is so well designed, they simply can’t resist!
Every season ‘haramaki’ are designed partly by Hobonichi designers and partly by people they pick. This year’s inhouse designer Rumiko Nango designed a small range called “HOBONICHI WARMERS” for the winter collection.
Illustrator and graphic designer Yukiko Harada designed a cute set of ‘haramaki’ with matching blankets. The most unusual person Hobonichi picked for this year’s winter collection is probably a Marimba player and an essayist Mutsumi Tsuusaki from Kyoto. Her way of wearing vintage kimono (a special kind called MEISEN) got a lot of attention in the Japanese press recently, not only her excellent Kimono collection but in particular her life style in Kyoto.
Mutsumi Tsuusaki at home with her vintage kimono collection
Tsuusaki’s old ‘Meisen’ style kimono: This pattern was used for her ‘Marimba’ haramaki.
Marimba ‘haramaki’ for men and women
…and many more to choose from!
If you paid attention, you probably figured out that all ‘haramaki’ are seasonal, which means that they sell them twice a year – and you can’t get any of all the lovely old designs once the sale has finished.
The only huge bummer is that they only have a Japanese website! – and although they tried their best, they couldn’t find a way for PingMag readers to create an English online shopping system in time. If you really like one, please let them know in the comments and I promise that PingMag will help Hobonicihi to have an English shopping version up and ready for you for the next collection!!!
I am truly sorry for making your mouth watery but… I thought the world needed to know!
haramaki from “checkered line”
with matching blanket
I am truly greatful that this fantastic product is out and available!!! (English readers – please be slightly patient and claim your rights in the comments! I-CAN-read-Japanese readers, try to click on the top banner of this site. The sale starts from the 18th!!!) Thank you, Hobonichi! I am your biggest fan!
VERY IMPORTANT INFO!: 2008 Winter series are now on sale! Click HERE to see the latest collection!