A student of my kimono class asked me why Nagoya-obi is called “Nagoya”.
I had not yet questioned such a thing. Is it because Nagoya is famous for obi-weaving machines, or Nagoya is a famous area of obi production? I didn’t know the correct answer, so I studied it. Then, I was surprised to know the history and origin of Nagoya obi. One career woman created Nagoya obi about 100 years ago with rational thinking mind and functional fashion sense.
In the Taisho period (1912–1926), predominant obi style was Maru (round) obi or Chuya (day-and-night) obi. Maru-obi, having decorations and designs on both sides, is heavy and big enough to produce two Nagoya-obis. At that time, although feminist movement arose, most women lived in traditional kimono style.
Ms. Haruko Koshihara, who created Nagoya-obi, was extremely busy setting up Nagoya girls' school (current Koshihara Educational Foundation). Since she had no remaining time to tie obi, she raveled Maru obi or Chuya obi, which requires long time to tie, and created new-formed light obi, which requires short time to tie.
Haruko realized that women need to shorten time for dress-up to be active in society as similar as men. Thinking that even Nagoya-obi requires longer time to tie, she further created Tsuke (ready-made) obi for saving time for dress-up.
I had thought that Tsuke-obi was created more recently, because now most women had little chance to know how to tie obi, while surprisingly; it was created about 90 years ago for the purpose of shortening dress-up time for women’s social advancement.
At that time, Harko’s rational spirit was not accepted immediately. However, in 1920, the department store, Nagoya Mitsukoshi, focused attention on her obi, imitated it, and put it on the market. This obi was named as Nagoya-obi after Nagoya girls' school, which she founded. And this Nagoya-obi became popular rapidly all over Japan.
Now it is difficult to imagine that Nagoya-obi was created for shortening dress-up time by one career woman, because kimono style is far from the ordinary style. But thanks to Nagoya-obi, now we can easily coordinate various kimono fashions. We could never imagine casual Tumugi pongee kimono with Maru-obi.
This is one of Nagoya-obi I have, which is tailored in Nagoya-obi style. One of my students learned how to fold it, saying that it looks like a head of squid. Really Nagoya-obi should resemble a head of squid.