A Look at Jinbei

Speaking of Bonodori, fireworks, and summer barbecues in Japan, another aspect of summer are jinbei (甚平):


Jinbei shouldn’t be confused with kimono. They are very light, cotton robes, usually indigo in color, but as you can see below, the seam is very loose:

Jinbei 2

This is very helpful for helping your skin to breathe, and allow a fresh breeze to go through. I had my first jinbei many years ago as a gift when my mother-in-law visited the US for the first time, but the one shown above is a more recent gift. Because I am 180cm tall and 226 pounds (102.5 kg), I am pretty big. In the US, I wear XL-sized shirts, but XL in Japan is much smaller,1 so this robe is actually XXL (extra, extra large). This is probably “tourist” size. :)

But if you do go to Japan in the summer, or see a festival there, you are pretty likely to see men wearing jinbei. It’s almost required in the sweltering heat and humidity there, but you might also be able to find one in your size too. Jinbei can be scratchy, a little bit, if the robes are new, but get softer after a few washes. I wear mine around the house sometimes if it is summer, and I am stuck oncall and can’t leave the house anyway.

P.S. Quick trivia: Whale sharks are called jinbeizame (ジンベエザメ) in Japan because the pattern of their skin looks like Jinbei.

P.P.S. Because I am a huge nerd, I updated Wikipedia similarly. In case anyone noticed. ;p

1 I learned this the hard way when buying shirts and jackets at stores in Japan. I saw the size XL tag, and assumed they would fit, but they are usually one size too small. Still, the styles are a lot better than what you can find in Seattle (where everyone dresses like they are going camping), so I buy clothes anyway and just try to fit as best I can. I am also happy that I’ve been losing weight lately through a combination of exercise and a more balanced diet (more vegetables, less junk food).

About Doug

A fellow who dwells upon the Pale Blue Dot who spends his days obsessing over things like Buddhism, KPop music, foreign languages, BSD UNIX and science fiction.

3 thoughts on “A Look at Jinbei

  1. Jinbei is/are (?) a close relative of samue 作務衣–the only differences I can see are the short legs, open seams and maybe the material. I think the reason it feels scratchy is that the best ones are made of linen. You keep cool because the linen doesn’t cling to the skin. Cheaper ones are made of cotton; those may have a scratchy texture but it won’t last as long as linen. That special texture is possible because the linen/flax fibers are rather brittle. When you wash them, the fibers get crushed little by little so the scratchiness (and I suppose the coolness) disappears. Because of the scratchiness, I usually wear a tee-shirt underneath, but that cancels a lot of the coolth (opposite of warmth) factor. But they can look pretty kewl, and are much easier to put on than a yukata or kimono.

  2. Hi John,

    This comment really made me laugh. I will be sure to add “coolth” to the official JLR lexicon (if I ever get around to making one😉 ). I think the one I have photographed is linen, because the previous one I had wasn’t nearly as scratchy, and definitely felt like cotton. This one feels different. Yeah, I wanted to wear a T-shirt the first time I tried it on (July 4th actually), but it was too hot and I felt it would defeat the point. I see we’re not far from one another on this point though. 😉

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