The History of Orizashi

The History of Orizashi

The sashiko material, also known as orizashi, is a common material used for kendo gi and bogu.
It's a thick cotton cloth that is braided with a thick thread. It is very functional, cold protection and has a high water retention.

Tournament Kendo GiTournament Kendo Gi

There are various theories, but this sashiko material started in Tohoku region.
They were favouring this material to keep themselves warm during the cold season.

In Edo Period, the demand shifted from cold protection to fire scene.

Fire scenes were extremely common in Edo that the saying "Fights and Fires are the Flowers of Edo" exists.
All houses in Japan were made out of wood and paper, and fire spreads all over 1 story townhouse like homes called "Nagaya" very quickly if fire starts somewhere.

Firefighters back then wore sashiko material while extinguishing fire.
The way they extinguished fire was very unique. They priortized to prevent the fire from spreading, instead of extinguishing the fire with water.
They destroyed all the homes and downwind to remove everything that can catch on fire to prevent from spreading any further.

Firefighters soaked sashiko material with water to secure their safety while destroying homes near the fire.
It was very important for them to wore something that is shock absorbing and high water retention like sashiko material.
Sashiko material was a necessary item for firefighters.

The outer design was very simple; only stated their group name.
The inner lining fabric has each individual's own design.
They wore showing the outer layer when they are heading out to extinguish the fire.
It gave people a sense of security by showing the group name.
Once they are done extinguishing the fire, they wore it inside out to show their inner lining.
Returning home gracefully showing their flashy design was their style of pride and gained popularity.

Inner Design of OrizashiPhoto Credit: Tokyo National Museum (東京国立博物館)

This historical sashiko material is now used in kendo.
Unlike other sports, where their uniforms and equipments are actively modernized and updated, kendo also values historical aspect.
It would be great if all kendoka can continue practicing kendo feeling that history.