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The Ideal Winter Jacket

Hanten Jackets
Hanten Jackets

If you’re thinking of splashing out on a down or fleece jacket this winter, you might want to think again. For a century and a half the humble hanten has been a staple of many a Japanese wardrobe. And some recent research by one of the country’s top hanten makers illustrates just why that is.

For several years here at Japan Store we have carried hanten made by Kuwano Shinken Sangyo, who market their handmade jackets under the brand name Watanosato (“The Home of Cotton”). They come in a variety of traditional patterns and comply to the strict specifications that allow them to be classified as Kurume Kasuri and distinguish them from cheaper hanten, mostly made in China. One specification is that the padding must contain at least 50% cotton. Watanosato hanten contain 70% cotton, with 30% polyester to ensure the padding keeps its volume and insulation qualities for many years of use. So just how warm are they?

Hanten Jackets

The company carried out tests to compare the insulation qualities of three types of jackets. They used one of their own hanten and compared it to a fleece jacket and a down jacket, both from popular brand Uniqlo. With an ambient room temperature of about 15 degrees Celcius, skin temperature was measured both before and while wearing the different jackets for a period of 30 minutes using a thermographic camera. The image below shows clearly that the hanten keeps you consistently warmer (for geeks, the table of data is at the bottom of the post).

Hanten Jackets

So this winter try on a traditional hanten and enjoy the warmth that has insulated Japanese people for over 150 years. See our selection of mens and ladies hanten.

Test Data

Hanten Jackets

Temp(℃) Hanten Fleece Down
Room Temp. Skin Temp. Room Temp. Skin Temp. Room Temp. Skin Temp.
0min 14.9 30.67 14.9 30.33 14.5 29.77
1min 15.1 33.11 14.6 31.96 14.6 32.08
2min 15.0 33.81 14.5 32.53 14.8 32.6
3min 15.0 33.73 14.7 32.92 14.7 32.92
4min 14.7 33.98 14.9 33.27 14.5 33.13
5min 14.4 34.25 14.8 32.96 14.5 33.36
6min 14.7 34.5 14.5 33.32 14.7 33.49
7min 15.1 34.77 14.4 33.47 14.9 33.32
8min 15.2 34.95 14.6 32.39 14.7 33.41
9min 15.0 35.08 14.9 32.06 14.5 33.89
10min 14.8 34.92 14.8 32.39 14.6 34.09
11min 14.7 35.15 14.5 33.21 14.9 34.16
12min 14.9 35.28 14.4 33.51 14.9 34.03
13min 14.9 35.32 14.6 33.59 14.7 34.08
14min 14.8 35.35 14.8 33.65 14.5 34.1
15min 14.5 35.42 14.7 33.29 14.7 34.26
16min 14.6 35.49 14.5 32.89 14.9 34.42
17min 14.9 35.41 14.5 32.82 14.7 34.48
18min 14.9 35.35 14.7 33.11 14.5 34.44
19min 14.7 35.41 14.8 33.38 14.5 34.43
20min 14.5 35.5 14.7 33.63 14.7 34.63
21min 14.6 35.6 14.4 33 14.9 34.61
22min 14.8 35.7 14.5 33.41 14.9 34.58
23min 14.7 35.72 14.7 33.25 14.8 34.57
24min 14.5 35.76 14.8 32.9 14.7 34.56
25min 14.5 35.57 14.8 33.57 14.5 34.56
26min 14.7 35.75 14.7 33.67 14.7 34.45
27min 14.8 35.8 14.6 33.7 14.8 34.38
28min 14.7 35.81 14.4 33.28 14.8 34.43
29min 14.5 35.9 14.4 33.59 14.8 34.48
30min 14.5 35.97 14.9 33.73 14.9 34.55

How to Wear Tabi

Tabi are the traditional split-toe footwear of Japan, and are worn by both men and women. They’re worn by themselves when indoors, and with a wide variety of footwear – such as geta, zori or setta sandals, or jikatabi boots – when outdoors. Plain tabi, in white, black or navy, are the most common but they also come in many different colorful patterns.

You can find a huge selection of all of these footwear items in our Japan Store.

Putting on tabi can seem a bit tricky until you get used to it. So we put together this quick visual guide to the easiest way to wear tabi. As you might spot from the photos, tabi fit more like socks than shoes so it’s important to get the right size. Basically the size you choose should be just a few millimeters longer than the length of your foot. See this page for more info on how to choose your tabi size.

The photos below are of a regular cotton tabi, but it works exactly the same way for jikatabi as well. When wearing medium or taller jikatabi, if you find they’re too tight around the ankle and/or calf, you can use our Hase Plus to give you an inch or more room and ensure a perfect fit!

And if your tabi or jikatabi are a little too loose, you can try wearing them with tabi socks or toe socks. Tabi insoles and insulating liners are another way to adjust the feel and fit of your jikatabi.

How to wear tabi1. Fold the tabi upper toward the toes until it is about 3-4cm behind the split between the toes (red line). The seam should line up with the split (purple line).

How to wear tabi2. Holding the point on both sides where the upper and the sole meet, slide your foot into the tabi, ensuring that your big toe and other toes fit into the split toe area separately.

How to wear tabi3. Raise your heel and pull both sides of the tabi upper where it meets the sole. Your toes should now be fitting snugly with little or no wrinkling of the tabi material.

How to wear tabi4. Sit and place your heel on the floor facing away from the opposite leg. Flex your ankle so that your toes point upward.

How to wear tabi5. Grasp the tabi around your ankle with the same hand (ie. for right foot use right hand) using your thumb to hold down the rear flap of the tabi containing the cotton hooks.

How to wear tabi6. With the opposite hand place the kohaze (metal tabs) into the correct cotton hooks. Start with the bottommost kohaze and work up. Most tabi have 4 or 5 kohaze. This is the trickiest part and will get easier with practice. It is important to get all the kohaze correctly fitted to ensure that the tabi will not easily come off.

How to wear tabi7. You’re done! If you’re wearing tabi for the first time, they may feel strange or even a little uncomfortable between the toes but you will quickly get used to this. Only tabi that are specifically “stretch tabi” are made of a material that will stretch somewhat like a sock. But even regular cotton tabi can be stretched slightly by pulling them diagonally both ways before wearing them. There will probably be some slight shrinkage when they are washed.

Sock Prices Slashed!

Tabi socks

Some of our customers in colder climes have started ordering insulated jikatabi liners to keep out the winter chills. But for most of us heading into the winter season, we can get by with insulated jikatabi or by adding a pair of tabi socks or toe socks. So we’ve decided to make that a little easier by reducing prices right across our range of socks. On average, prices have been cut by about 20%, and even more if you order several pairs becase many of our socks originally come in packs of 4 or 5 pairs.

The plain black and white tabi socks continue to be the most popular in all sizes. But we are considering whether to expand our range of socks with colorful designs. So do let us know if you’re interested in pattern or themed tabi socks for ladies or for men.

Check out our range of tabi socks and toe socks.

Go Japanese This Halloween

Hanya Demon MaskWith Halloween just over a month away, this seems like a good time to plug our selection of handmade Japanese masks. We have a selection of demons and goblins who feature in the many popular folktales familiar to everyone in Japan. The designs originate in the traditional theater forms of noh and kagura dance, but they’re just as well suited to scaring the daylights out of kids and adults alike.

There is something beautifully creepy about the hanya masks in particular. Based on the legend of a woman transformed into a demon by jealousy, the horns of her jealousy are still symbolically present on the heads of unmarried Japanese women. Hence the white headpiece that is worn by the bride to hide them in the traditional Japanese wedding.

Of course, Halloween doesn’t mean you have to dress up to be scary. So our variety of tabi, jikatabi and other ninja gear can be combined to dress up as a stealthy Japanese assassin.

RIP Shindo Kaneto

Shindo Kaneto

More than 1,000 people attended today’s funeral for the late movie director and screenwriter Shindo Kaneto (photo left), who died of natural causes on May 29 at the age of 100. At the Zojoji temple in Tokyo, actor Tsugawa Masahiko (72) was among those reading messages of condolence. He recalled working with Shindo on “Ichimai no Hagaki” (Postcard), his final movie project which was released last year. It was selected as Japan’s entry for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar but did not make final nominee list.

In 1934 he realized his dream of entering the movie world, joining the film developing department of Shinkō Kinema. It would be another 17 years working as an art director and aspiring screenwriter before he would make his directorial debut. One of his early mentors was the great Mizoguchi Kenji, and one of the features their works have in common is what one critic called a “worship of womanhood.” A native of Hiroshima, Shindo’s work was greatly influenced by the city’s atomic bombing in 1945.

In 1950, Shindo and actor Taiji Tonoyama set up Kindai Eiga Kyokai, an independent production company. In 1953, the controversial “Genpatsu no Ko” (Children of Hiroshima) – which starred his regular leading lady Otowa Nobuko as a young teacher who returns to several years after the bomb in search of her former students – was a critical success when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. 1960’s “The Naked Island” was an international hit starring Otowa and Tonoyama, and its commercial success saved their company from bankruptcy. It was awarded the Grand Prize at the 1961 Moscow Film Festival.

Over a 7-decade career, Shindo directed 48 films and wrote 238 scripts. His other best known films as a director include “Onibaba,” “Kuroneko,” and “Kousatsu” (The Strangling). All starred Otowa who, though he was married, was Shindo’s lover from the early 1950s. The two finally married in 1978, a year after Shindo’s wife died. The multiple award-winning “A Last Note” was Otowa’s final film, and she died in 1994 of liver cancer.

Happy News for Anti-Nuke Campaigner Yamamoto

Yamamoto Taro

Happy news from actor Yamamoto Taro. For the last year or so, Yamamoto (37) has received much more attention for his anti-nuclear campaigning than anything else. His very public stance is very rare among Japanese celebrities and while it has earned him widespread public support, it is much less appreciated within the industry and would no doubt have ended the career of a lesser-known actor. He was forced to quit his management agency and saw his income drop by 90%. But now Yamamoto has one more very important supporter – his new bride, as evidenced by the photo of their marriage registration document that he posted to his Twitter account yesterday. He and his ippanjinbride reportedly tied the knot after a whirlwind one-month romance. The couple became acquainted about two years ago but only started dating after they met up again in April. The woman is described as younger than Yamamoto and a “home helper” who regularly does volunteer work at hospitals.

Yamamoto got his showbiz break while still in high school when he and his friends appeared on the hugely popular “Dansu Koshien” segment of Kitano “Beat” Takeshi’s legendary variety show “Tensai! Takeshi no Genki ga deru Terebi.” He became a regular on the show and on the variety circuit. He won a best supporting actor award for role in the 2003 movie “Moon Child.” Since the Great East Japan disaster of March 2011 he has been actively campaigning for an end to nuclear power in Japan and for greater truth and government action regarding the still ongoing Fukushima nuclear crisis.

AKB48 Rule the Roost

AKB48, Akimoto Yasushi

A couple of stories today that prove just how dominant a commercial force AKB48 are. Their latest single, “Manatsu no Sounds Good!” has not only entered the Oricon charts at No.1 as expected but has set a new record for release-day sales. The single sold a whopping 1.171 million copies on its first day alone, beating the group’s own record of 1.046 million sold by “Kaze wa Fuiteiru.” It is also their seventh straight million-selling single. One gimmick that helped boost sales of the new single is that every copy entitles the owner to one vote in the upcoming “election” to choose members for the next project. That event will be held at Nippon Budokan on June 6.

And the Japanese Society for Rights of Authors, Composers and Publishers (JASRAC) today published its annual ranking of the most successful royalty-generating hits of last year. The figures are based on revenues generated not only by music sales but also from karaoke and other commercial uses. And not surprisingly the girl group with the ever-changing lineup claimed all the top spots and had five of the top 10 places. The biggest money spinner of last year was the appropriately titled “Heavy Rotation,” followed by “Ponytail to Shushu,” “Beginner” and “Everyday no Kachusha.” Pop rock band Ikimono-gakari grabbed a bit of the limelight with “Arigatou” in 5th place, followed by AKB48 again in 6th with “Aitakatta.” The guru behind the group, Akimoto Yasushi (56, photo center), is also the producer and lyricist for all five of those major hits, meaning he is making some very serious Yen indeed.

Meanwhile, the top 10 most commercially successful Japanese songs overseas were all from popular anime, led by “Doraemon BGM.”

Stars Bid Farewell to their Don

Nagara Jun

Just about every major Japanese celebrity turned out yesterday for a memorial service for Nagara Jun, who died in an accident on a Hawaii golf course on May 2 at the age of 74. Known as the “Don” of the entertainment world, he was the chairman of the Nagara Productions talent management agency. He is credited with building some of the best-known showbiz careers of the last half-century, particularly in the world of enka music. Some 5,000 people made their way to Aoyama Sougisho funeral home in central Tokyo.

Born in the downtown Tokyo district of Asakusa in 1938 the son of a traditional naniwabushi storyteller, Nagara’s real name was Kanbayashi Yoshitada. He entered the world of showbiz in 1958 and became manager of some of the major stars of the day, setting up his own agency in 1964. He went on to groom a great many celebrities who would become household names, such as enka singers Mizumori Kaori and Hikawa Kiyoshi, and actors Umemiya Tatsuo, Nakamura Tamao and Gucchi Yuzo. He also produced many hits by A teary-eyed Hikawa (34) said yesterday, “The chairman’s spirit will live on in my heart forever. I will strive to repay my debt to him and become a fully developed singer.”

Takeshi Out of Step, Even With Mickey Mouse

Outrage Beyond

Japan Zone normally has a lot of time for outspoken comedian-actor-director Kitano “Beat” Takeshi (65), and we certainly wish him well as producers tout his upcoming movie at the Cannes International Film Festival. But his latest controversy, which will likely not get much attention from the mainstream Japanese media, is a disappointment. Kitano was a guest on the TBS current affairs show “Joho 7 Days, Newscaster,” commenting on the groundbreaking statement by U.S. President Barack Obama in support of same-sex marriage. After watching footage of gay rights activists celebrating the news, Kitano said, “If you support same-sex marriage, then eventually you would support a marriage to an animal.” He also speculated jokingly that the children of gay couples would be bullied.

Coming from a celebrity known for challenging Japan’s more straitlaced social mores, the comments upset campaigners but the controversy was mainly confined to social rather than mainstream media. A statement by Tokyo Disneyland this week that it would allow gay couples to hold ceremonies on its grounds gave the issue renewed momentum and drew fresh attention to Kitano as a representative of Japan’s old guard.

Gay weddings OK at Tokyo Disneyland

Among those pushing the issue via Twitter is Ishikawa Taiga, Tokyo assembly member and Japan’s first openly gay politician, who was among those shown celebrating in the TBS program. According to several overseas news outlets, he thought the remark was unbecoming for someone of Kitano’s global stature. “He is a world famous film director. It is disappointing that such an influential figure made that kind of negative comment. As a movie director, he must be a person with a great sense of imagination. I wish he had been able to put himself in the position of gay and lesbian people in society.”

Meanwhile, any online search for news about Kitano this week brings up only reports that producers are in Cannes seeking buyers for “Outrage Beyond,” his as yet unfinished sequel to 2010’s “Outrage.” The movie started filming in April and is due to wind up at the end of June. It’s scheduled to be in theaters on October 6.

Family Tradition Alive in Asakusa

Azumax, Yasu Megumi

It was a busy day yesterday at the Sensoji temple, a popular draw for tourists in the old downtown area of Tokyo. Celebrity couple Azuma Takahiro (42) Max and Yasu Megumi (30) held a traditional wedding ceremony at the temple, while several kabuki stars held ceremonies to commemorate their succeeding to new stage names.

Azuma, popularly known by the nickname Azumax, was born and raised in Asakusa and it was also where his late father, comedian Azuma Hachiro (1936-88), established his career. For the wedding ceremony at the Sensoji Denbouin, veteran comedian Hagimoto Kinichi (71) stood in for his old teacher and friend. Azuma and Yasu registered their marriage on December 20 last year. They plan to hold a large reception n July.

Kagawa Teruyuki

Meanwhile, actor Kagawa Teruyuki (46) visited Sensoji to pray for success with his upcoming succession to the kabuki stage name Ichikawa Chusha IX. Along with his son and several other members of his family he will take on the new stage name at the June Grand Kabuki at the Shimbashi Enbujo theater. He was joined yesterday by his son (8), who will make his kabuki debut as Ichikawa Danko, his brother Ichikawa Kamejiro (36) who will succeed to the name Ichikawa Sarunosuke IV, and his father (72) now using that name, who will become Ichikawa Enou II.

A successful and popular TV and movie actor, Kagawa is making the unusual move of entering the traditional theatrical world in middle age, while many of his contemporaries have made the move in reverse. He said he is feeling immense pressure and realizes that kabuki is many times more difficult than the acting he has done so far, but he vowed to fulfill his responsibility to carry on the family tradition.