Hachimaki: The Japanese Headband that Fires Up the Spirit
You’ve probably seen it in a number of different movies about Japan: a Japanese person tying a length of cloth around their head. This wrapping is called a hachimaki, and it’s one of the unique parts of Japanese culture. Today we’d like to talk a little bit about this fascinating (fore-)headwear, including the way it’s used in Japan even now. Photo
What is a Hachimaki
A hachimaki is a long, thin strip of cloth (or cloth-like) material wrapped around the head, primarily used when the wearer needs a burst of inspiring energy. More practically, it also prevents sweat from flowing off the forehead into the eyes, like a headband.
How to Tie a Hachimaki
This is a twisted (“nejiri-”) hachimaki with a stiff, rope-like form. You’ll see it worm a lot at festivals in Japan.
This refers to a hachimaki tied in the front.
When the Hachimaki is Used
1. Taking Exams
When a student has their heart set on a certain school, they might don a hachimaki in hopes of bolstering their determination as they face their exams. This type of hachimaki will often feature the red sun of the Japanese flag or perhaps the characters for “Exam Success” or “Certain Victory.”
At sporting events or when ardent idol fans go to cheer on their favorite idol, hachimaki are used for an extra dose of fighting spirit. All the fans of one team might wear a hachimaki with the same pattern to create a sense of camaraderie and help tell who’s with what team. This function actually bears a resemblance to the “kamon” crest used during the Warring States period to differentiate friend from foe.
Related: Undokai (Field Day): Looks Like the Olympics but Just a School Event
3. The Shinsengumi
The hachimaki of the Shinsengumi combined together all the functions we’ve spoken of: raising spirits, creating a sense of team, helping to differentiate team membership, and preventing sweat from flowing into the eyes. In addition, these Shinsengumi hachimaki included forehead protectors as a defensive measure against any head-cracking attempts that might be made by a foe.
4. Naruto (Ninja)
Toyohara Kunichika, http://ja.ukiyo-e.org/
The carpenters of Japan have worn hachimaki since the days of yore to prevent sweat from entering their eyes. In the modern era, they still do this, and you can also often see them wrap towels around their heads to the same effect.
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There’s a very certain image that comes to mind, one of an office worker out drinking who’s taken off his necktie and tied it around his head. Though we can surmise that this comes from hachimaki, it doesn’t actually serve any particular purpose, save for being a kind of party stunt.
Who would’ve thought that the simple act of wrapping a length of clothing around the head could have such depth?