A consideration of customs regarding onbuhimo

The custom to hand over the thing to a daughter or a son’s wife still continues in Japan. For example, quite a few people must have experiences to wear clothes taken over form relatives, such as frisode (kimono with long, trailing sleeves) for coming of age celebration. However, people didn’t take over parenting goods until quite recently.

1. Onbuhimo

1-1. Make onbuhimo by hand?

In old Japan, people rarely took the trouble to make babycarries, but in a certain region (a part of Kyushu and Okinawa as long as I know), people made easy tools for onbu at home. In one area in Shimane, parents gave their daughters a long narrow slip of cloth dyed with indigo and sent the daughter off to the family daughters married into. When they dyed the cloth, they printed a family crest on cloth.
Before WW2, people applied himo or obi that they used in usual days as onbuhimo, so they might have not come up with the idea that they took trouble to make onbuhimo. 
On the other hand, they made big baskets to put a baby called ijiko or izume, but I haven’t seen ones with showy decoration. Those baskets were made only for practical use.


This is called ijiko or izume. Ash and dried seaweed are stuffed in its bottom and a baby were put in it with bare butt.

I found a prewar magazine that featured the preparation for child birth, but there was no article about the recipe of onbuhimo in it. Those days, they made cloth diapers, baby’s clothes and underwear, and indoor half coats called “hanten”, but they didn’t come up the idea to make tools for onbu.

The first parenting magazine in Japan, “Baby Age” was published in 1968. “Baby Age” (Fujin seikatsu sha) published a article that a reader made onbuhimo by hand and featured handmade babycarriers.


An image that “ I made shoiko” They expressed the image as “shoiko” although she was holding her baby in front of her chest.

I guess they regarded the onbuhimo as handmade one because it was flat but structured, although onbuhimo had been originally ordinary flat cloth and obi.

1-2. Japanese onbuhimo doesn’t go around the antique market

I myself have been looking for old Japanese onbuhimo both on the Internet and at physical shops for 10 years, but I have never found it. I asked my relatives in countryside whether they had old onbuhimo or not, and they said laughing, “ It’s no use! I threw away!”
One reason why Japanese old onbuhimo doesn’t go around the antique market is that it is easy to deteriorate over time, and the other reason is that people had a strong idea that that kind of stuff shouldn’t be given as a present. Once, my friend, who is a secondhand dealer, went to looking for old onbuhimo to the countryside for me, but the stuffs that he got as onbuhimo were just himo or obi belt. Those himo and obi belt were often put away in a closet, and they were in quite bad preservation due to deterioration caused by dirt.

2. Example of oversea

2-1. China

Chinese people have a custom to make beautiful babycarriers with embroidery. They take off the decoration and put it on a jacket or a hat after the use for a babycarriers ends in order to reuse the decoration. On the other hand, Japanese people didn’t have such a custom to decorate babycarriers themselves.
I heard the decoration on Chinese babycarriers showed the authority of mothers’ family. The babycarriers of rich family had gorgeous embroidery and decoration.


Chinese onbuhimo has beautiful decoration.

Chinese decoration also has a meaning of a charm against evil influence. Some babycarriers are attached metal parts, and have eye ball patterns so that devils never come closer. This custom might be similar to Semamori/Semori.


From google search engine “Semori” is embroidery that was put on children’s back as a charm against evil influence after Edo era. Recently, it is collecting an attention again. In Japan it was believed that devils came into our body from the back, on the other hand, in China it was believed that devils entered at the head. That’s why Chinese people made stuffs for children like hats with eye ball patters.


A Chinese hat for children Eyes are watching so that devils cannot enter at the head.

2-2. Borneo

In Borneo, people use onbu tools, of which back pad is decorated beautifully with beads. It seems to be made of strong material, and I can imagine all the family would work together to make it for a bride before the wedding. It can be taken over to other relatives after the use as onbuhimo ends, I guess.


Onbuhimo of Borneo is made of wood. Patterns are put with beads.


I think old Japanese people rarely gave the babycarriers they had used to their friends nor sold them as second hand, though today’s Japanese do them.
The reasons are:

  • Onbuhimo was ordinary himo or obi belt that could be found in every house.
  • Old Japanese people raised a lot of children, so onbuhimo didn’t remain in a good condition to take over to others.


北極しろくま堂有限会社 取締役

北極しろくま堂有限会社 取締役 園田正世(そのだまさよ)

2000年〜北極しろくま堂有限会社 取締役
2010年〜非営利活動法人だっことおんぶの研究所 理事長