What is a Hakama - And How is it Still Used

Hakamas at a Japanese wedding
Hakamas at a Japanese wedding
A Hakama is a traditional Japanese garment that is worn over a kimono. It is like a pair of pants and extends all the way to the ankles or the floor.

Both men and women wear it, but in a slightly different way. Men wear the hakama tied at the waist while women tie it at or below the chest.
It may look like a skirt as it is wide and has many pleats. Another pair of cotton pants are usually worn underneath.

The traditional hakama for men is usually made out of striped Silk fabric. For women, it can be made out of solid or shaded colored fabric. Younger women can wear a hakama made of fabric embroidered with flowers.

The hakama is still being used in everyday life in Japan and in Japanese martial arts practiced all around the world.

Usage in Everyday Life

Today, the Hakama is still part of the traditional wedding outfit for Japanese men. Also during other festivities in Japan, the Japanese still wear it. Some of the occasions to which people still wear it are:
  • Weddings
  • Graduation
  • The Coming of Age Day
  • Tea Ceremonies
  • Funerals

See the Hakamas at The Coming of Age Day
Also, people with certain roles in Japanese society wear a Hakama as part of their dress code. Some examples are:
  • Shinto priests
  • Shinto shrine maidens or Miko - They usually wear red ones.
  • Sensei - Anyone fulfilling a teaching role can sometimes be seen walking around wearing a hakama. At some universities, you might see a professor wearing traditional outfits. School teachers will wear their hakama only for special occasions such as graduations.

The Hakama in Martial Arts

The traditional hakama is still used today in different martial arts. The most well known martial arts where the practitioners wear a hakama are:

Kyuodo Hakama
Kyuodo Hakama
Kendo Hakama
Kendo Hakama
Iaido Hakama
Iaido Hakama
Aikido Hakama
Aikido Hakama

  • Kyudo - Shooting arrows
    Kyudo is the art of shooting arrows with a bow. The focus is not so much on hitting a target, but more on the process of shooting.
  • Kendo - Sword fighting
    Kendo is the Japanese form of fencing. Instead of real swords the practitioners "soft" bendable sticks and wear protective armor and a Hakama.
  • Iaido - Sword drawing
    Iaido is the art of drawing a Samurai sword. Again the focus is not on hitting a target but is on the ritual and process of drawing the sword.
  • Aikido - Modern Japanese martial art developed by Morihei Ueshiba. The focus of Aikido is not to destroy the opponent, but to subdue the opponent and be in harmony with him.