Fundoshi (traditional Japanese underwear) (ふんどし)

"Fundoshi" is a traditional underwear for men in Japan and other areas. In English, it is described as "loincloth."

On festival occasions, fundoshi is not treated as underwear but as a festive dress.

It can be bought in department stores, kimono shops (drapers), armorer's shops, festival sites and mail-order markets.

Summary

As kanji (a Chinese character used in Japanese writing) for "fundoshi" consists of a radical "衣" ("koromo" meaning "vesture") on the left-hand side and "軍" ("gun" meaning "military") on the right-hand side, a fundoshi loincloth traces back to battle dresses. During the Sengoku period (the period of Warring States) in Japan, it was possible to discern the ranks of warriors killed in war by checking whether they were wearing fundoshi loincloths or not, since cloths at that time were generally expensive. In those days hemps were mostly used, but later in the Edo period they were replaced by cotton which made fundoshi loincloths popular among the common people beside warriors. Some upper class people wore fundoshi loincloths made of chirimen (crepe fabrics).

Until World War II, fundoshi loincloths had been the main underwear for adult men, but, since the end of the war, they fell rapidly into disuse because of the emergence of new style underwear such as briefs, trunks and so on along with the westernization of men's wear.

No theory has been established yet about the origin of fundoshi loincloths, although there are two conflicting ideas that they had come to Japan either from southern countries or through the Continent. The idea that fundoshi loincloths were brought in from the south is based on the fact that some items that resemble in shape to a rokushaku fundoshi loincloth (a long loincloth of about 2.4 meter length) were found in Southeast Asia, Polynesia and South America. On the otherhand, another idea that fundoshi loincloths were introduced from the Continent claims that there existed in the Chinese Continent a special fundoshi loincloth called "tokubi-kon" with which men's privates appeared like the nose of a cow. It is partly claimed that roku-shaku fundoshi (a long rectangular loincloth of about 2.4 meter length) is now largely worn on the festive occasions in Japan because the roku-shaku fundoshi imported from the south had been incorporated into the basic culture of Japan, and then the Continental culture began fusing into the Japanese culture, while fundoshi itself became simplified through the ages to the present form of Etchu fundoshi (a simple rectangular loincloth with strings).

Origin of the Word

The word "fundoshi" is commonly believed to have come from "fumitoshi" (meaning "to outthrust both legs"), or from "fumodashi" (meaning "a rope to tie down a horse or a dog"), or from "hodasu" (meaning "to tie down something by a rope so that it will not move freely"). Another conception suggests that the word "fundoshi" originates from "Hun-t-os" (pronounced as "funtos") that is a Koreanized word of Chinese "kon-i" (literally, "fundoshi wear"), as Japanese language had primitively no word including a pronunciation of "n." In ancient language, fundoshi was called "tafusagi." This ancient language "tafusagi" is also conceived to have originated in various archaisms such as "mata-fusagi" (meaning "crotch covering"), "tafusage" (meaning "draping cloth"), "tabu-saki" (meaning "torn cloth made of a bark") and so on. "Tepa" in the Ainu language seems to have shared the same origin with the ancient Japanese word "tafusagi." "Hekoobi" (meaning "an undress belt") in Kyushu dialect is a word derived from "henoko" (meaning "penis").

Quality of Materials

Generally, most of fundoshi are made of bleached cotton cloth. Other materials such as muslin, silk and hemp are also used. Coarse mesh cloth is used for underwear more so than fine mesh cloth, because the former gives a softer feeling while the latter gives a rather rigid feeling. White is the dominant color but red, blue and other colors are also used. In addition, patterned cloths are also used.

Kinds

There are many kinds of fundoshi loincloth, such as roku-shaku fundoshi, Etchu fundoshi, mokko fundoshi (a basket-like stringed loincloth), wari fundoshi (a rectangular loincloth partly split for tying), kuroneko fundoshi (a kind of jockstrap) and so on, each of which differs considerably in shape and in the way of tying. There are also many colored and patterned fundoshi loincloths. Etchu fundoshi T-jitai (T-shaped bandage) that is used as underwear for medical purposes is also included in the category of fundoshi loincloth.

Roku-shaku Fundoshi

"Rokushaku fundoshi" is a kind of underwear for Japanese men, made of bleached cloth of about 180 - 300cm in length and 34 - 16cm in width. It is characterized by exposing the buttocks. Today, it is often worn as festival wear and swimming wear rather than underwear. For details, please refer to the article "Roku-shaku Fundoshi."

Etchu Fundoshi

"Etchu fundoshi" is a kind of underwear made of a rectangular cloth of about 100cm in length and about 34cm in width with strings on both sides. In some quarters, it is called "Etchu fundoshi classic pants" or "samurai pants," both in wasei-eigo (English words coined in Japan). Etchu fundoshi T-jitai (T-shaped bandage) is being used for medical purpose and is regarded as a kind of Etchu fundoshi. It is often worn on the occasion of misogi (a purification ceremony). In addition, it is used in some hadaka-matsuri (a Japanese festival in which the men go naked except for fundoshi loincloth) instead of roku-shaku fundoshi. For details, please refer to the article "Etchu Fundoshi."

Mokko Fundoshi

"Mokko fundoshi" is a kind of fundoshi loincloth made of a cloth of about 70cm in length and 34cm in width with strings put on two opposite sides of the cloth. This fundoshi resembles mokko (a straw basket) for carrying earth at a site of civil works, after which it is said to have been named. Kabuki actors of female roles regularly wear this mokko fundoshi.

Wari Fundoshi

Its another name is "rokkoshi fundoshi." It is made of a cloth that is 150cm - 160cm in length and 30cm - 40cm in width, a part of which is cut into two from the end of the cloth upto 55cm - 60cm in the lengthwise direction. The cut parts of the cloth are used to wrap around the waist. It is midway between roku-shaku fundoshi and Etchu fundoshi. It was used habitually by some busho (Japanese military commanders) and daimyo (Japanese feudal lords) from the Sengoku period (the period of warring states) to partially through the Edo period.

Kuroneko Fundoshi

This is equivalent to "suikon" (fundoshi loincloth used as swimming pants) that was used by children for their swimming lessons at school before World War II. It is also called "kintsuri" and "sankaku-heko" in Hiroshima and Nagasaki Prefectures. It is a kind of mokko fundoshi with a T-shaped back. For adults, it is often used as a jockstrap.

It became used since the beginning of the Showa period, being called "kani-kon" (literally, "a simple fundoshi loincloth"). As its material, black hemp cloth is used. Though it is unknown from where and when the name "kuroneko" (literally, "a black cat") came to be used, it seems to have originated from the black color of the material fabric. Since swimming practice was widely encouraged as anuniversal movement throughout the nation and swimming lessons were included in the official curriculum of primary schools, this kuroneko fundoshi loincloth became popular across the country as swimming pants for children covering from infants to students of elementary schools and it could be found here and there in Japan until around 1955.

Mawashi

"Mawashi" is a particular kind of fundoshi loincloth typically used for sumo wrestling, a Japanese national sport, and for some hadaka-matsuri (a naked festival in which men go naked except for fundoshi loincloth) as well as for honozumo (a ritual sumo match held at a shrine). Mawashi is different from other fundoshi loincloths in its color, material and way of fastening. For details, please refer to the article "Mawashi."

Shimekomi

"Shimekomi" is another kind of fundoshi loincloth used as a costume for hadaka-matsuri (naked festivals) including Hakata Gion Yamagasa, a summer festival held in July every year at Hakata Ward, Fukuoka City. This shimekomi loincloth used in Hakata festival is similar to the mawashi loincloth in its material and method of fastening. However, the thickness of its material cloth is between those of the sarashi and mawashi loincloths, being similar to rather thin canvas or superimposed cotton fabrics for cotton dress. It often hangs maedare (an apron). In other places than Hakata, people often tie up a sarashi loincloth of five meters long in the same way as a mawashi loincloth. In any case, the width of the loincloth on both sides of body should be kept wide (between seven and twelve centimeters) and a knot at the rear should be tied in the same way as a mawashi loincloth. In some cases, the word "shimekomi" may indicate mawashi, roku-shaku fundoshi, kyu-shaku fundoshi and sarashi ittan.

Sarashi Ittan

"Sarashi ittan," which is also called "shitaobi," is one of fundoshi loincloths where a full bolt (10 meters) of bleached cloth is used. One piece of cloth serves as both fundoshi and haramaki (a bellyband). People wear it as underwear for kimono as well as a costume for the Tamaseseri festival and other naked winter festivals in Aich Prefecture and so on. Instead of its dual-use for both fundoshi and haramaki, it is often worn separately in parallel with Etchu fundoshi loincloth, shimekomi loincloth and suteteko (semi-long undershorts).

Kyu-shaku Fundoshi

"Kyu-shaku fundoshi" (a longer fundoshi loincloth of about 3.6 meter in length) is worn for the traditional art "Torisashi dancing" that is performed in Unzen City, Nagasaki Prefecture (former Kunimi Town, Nagasaki Prefecture). It is tied in a unique style where a loincloth that goes through one's groin is pulled up to be tightened at the position of one's breast. It was originally worn by fishermen in the same way as a mawashi loincloth.

Saiji

"Saiji" was a fundoshi loincloth worn by female divers of Hegura-jima Island, Ishikawa Prefecture. It was a kind of Etchu fundoshi loincloth made of a very small sized cloth, similar to the current T-back swim suit. It consisted of an apron or front sack made of a triangle quilted cloth and the rest parts in a ropelike shape. After tightening the yokomitsu (parts of fundoshi loincloth on the right and left sides of the body), a part of the apron is tucked into the yokomitsu from outside.

Sagari

"Sagari" is a special fundoshi loincloth made particularly for showing purpose as a costume (crotch gear) for players of Kabuki and jidaigeki (period dramas) on stage. It is called "matagi" in Kabuki and "kin-kakushi" in amateur Kabuki. It resembles Etchu loincloth except that its apron is separated from the cloth covering the crotch (bleached cloth). A performer that plays the role of a samurai puts on an apron made of a white rectangular cloth of habutae (thick silk fabrics) or chirimen (silk crepe fabrics), and a performer that plays the role of "a stylish playboy in Edo" wears an apron made of a red rectangular cloth of habutae or chirimen, while a performer that plays the role of a common townsman wears an apron of a white bleached triangle cloth. A player of the role of a dauntless man such as aragoto (a Kabuki player featuring exaggerated gruffness of samurai etc.) and shusu-yakko (a man who is good at fighting and a favorite with women but basically faithful and serious) wears a gorgeous and massive sagari loincloth called "Date-sagari" which looks like kesho-mawashi (a sumo wrestler's ceremonial apron). This gorgeous sagari loincloth is also worn in some festivals and local performing arts. It is worn on niku-juban (fleshings) or over fundoshi loincloth that is worn as underwear.

Depending on the players or actors, an apron of the sagari loincloth is made in double layers, at the bottom of which two lead weights (each weight of five yen coin is appropriate) are put on the right and left ends, in order to make the apron droop down neatly. Also, the shape of the apron is modified into that of a sash weight in order to round off the apron. Thus, various ideas have been devised to make the apron of sagari loincloth hang down beautifully when a player or actor spreads his legs to squat.

Also please refer to the article of "Fundoshi for Period Dramas."

Hantako

Though "Hantako" is not regarded as a kind of fundoshi loincloth, we take it up here for explanation. Hantako is a Japanese version of trunks. It is also called sarumata, suteteko and kimata. It became popular since the Meiji period. It is now often it is worn by players of jidai-geki (dramas on the eras) and amateur Kabuki, but the result of historical research denies the credibility of their background of wearing hantako. It is often used on the occasion of naked festivals (unless fundoshi loin cloths are used). Some festivals prohibit carriers of a portable shrine to wear fundoshi loincloths and instruct them to wear hantako trunks.

Rite of Passage

In some regions in Japan, people celebrate a private festival called "fundoshi iwai" that is a rite of passage, where persons who reached a certain age would wear fundoshi loincloth for the first time as proof of attaining adulthood. A fundoshi loincloth, which covers the genitals, is treated as a symbol of sexual ability. On a Kabuki stage, a player who kilts hems of kimono to make a proud gesture is presenting himself as an adult by showing his pubic region and buttocks covered by a fundoshi loincloth. A fundoshi loincloth has always been regarded as adults' underwear, and no infant nor child has worn it as underwear. Infants and children generally wore bibs like Kintaro (a hero of a fairy tale) did. However, in some districts in Fukuoka Prefecture, boys wear the adult's underwear called "hekokaki" and girls wear the same underwear called "yumojikaki," when they become seven years old. Before World War II, boys and girls in general used to change their underwear to fundoshi loincloth when they entered adulthood, though children had already begun wearing tight-fitting draws (suteteko pants) along with the tendency toward westernizing style of dress.

In the modern age, since the Meiji government instituted a conscription ordinance and made a universal conscription compulsory; it became widely acknowledged in the society as proof of reaching manhood to undergo an examination for conscription. This examination for conscription became a pseudo "fundoshi iwai," because the government instructed the people to wear a white Etchu fundoshi loincloth at all examinations for conscription. Upon entering the military, every body was supplied with a white Etchu fundoshi and was forced to use it. Thus, it was mandatory for every Japanese adult man had to wear "fundoshi loincloth" as a rite of passage.

Devotees

Though fundoshi loincloth is generally considered the underwear of olden days, some people are still devoted to using it even today. Unlike underpants, fundoshi loincloth includes no rubber, and like furoshiki (a wrapping cloth), it is made of just one sheet of simple cloth and that completes its function. This perception that the fundoshi loincloth is "gracious" is the same perception shared by the traditional Japanese of an "aesthetic sensation." It is also likened to the image of a "classical ideal Japanese man."

There are lots of devotees who consider that wearing the fundoshi loincloth is the way to portray the ideal image of a Japanese man who pursues essence without being influenced by the flow of times, doing away with all ostentation.

In the past, many became passive devotees to the fundoshi loincloth by following the recommendations given by close relatives including their fathers and grand fathers who regularly used fundoshi loincloth. But, the newly emerging devotees are positive, unlike their predecessors, in enjoying fundoshi loincloth for the first time even among the those who do not wear it. While traditional devotees to fundoshi loincloth are now aging and their population is decreasing, new devotees are emerging from the generation that knows only briefs and trunks. The uniqueness of fundoshi loincloth that does not exist in any country other than Japan is attracting fresh sensitivity of the people around the world. Fundoshi loincloth is attracting public attention to its function and efficacy as a new underwear. Now, the Japanese socieity is mature and so any individual advocacy is generally accepted, along with movements for individualization. The people of the new generation no longer have any conventional prejudices towards the fundoshi loincloths being used as "underwear in the past." Under such circumstances, new devotees to the fundoshi loincloths are arising from the new generation. No matter how far westernization might infiltrate Japanese way of dressing, the high temperatures and humidity in Japan would make the fundoshi loincloths more attractive and satisfactory than the briefs and trunks in their function and efficiency as underwear. In addition to such advantages of fundoshi loincloths, their unique feeling when worn is supposed to bring forth new devotees for them from the new generation.

Before World War II, the fundoshi loincloth was mostly homemade, but circumstances changed so it is no longer homemade but it is also difficult to obtain it at the shop. However, recently, various mail order businesses have developed due to internet services among which are some dealers who are specialized in manufacturing and selling fundoshi loincloth. Thus, it has now become easy for us to obtain fundoshi loincloth. The presence of network societies has also made it possible to offer any information on fundoshi loincloth through the internet and other services. In this way, there are certainly many devotees of fundoshi loincloth everywhere in Japan, so, devotees of the new generation are no longer feeling isolated but are sharing the common concept of the value, and accelerating a kind of sense of unity. Thus, the present circumstances are such that new devotees with peculiar tastes are arising.

Please refer also to the articles "Roku-shaku Fundoshi Aikosha" (devotees to roku-shaku fundoshi loincloth) and "Etchu Fundoshi Aikosha" (devotees to Etchu fundoshi loincloth).

Fundoshi Loincloths as Swim Wear

Before World War II, Japanese men's swim clothes were generally fundoshi loincloths, mostly roku-shaku fundoshi loincloths. Please refer also to the article "Roku-shaku Fundoshi Mizugi tosite no Roku-shaku Fundoshi."

Fundoshi Loincloths for Period Drama:

In dramas on the various eras that were made in the age of silent pictures, many sword fighting scenes were screened, where players used to blatantly display their fundoshi loincloth. Momonosuke ICHIKAWA, a popular star at the time, showed consciously his own fundoshi loincloth, for which his female admirers were much pleased and called him "Fundoshi Momo-chan." Similar fighting scenes were played by Utaemon ICHIKAWA (when he was young), Chiezo KATAOKA, Tsumasaburo BANDO, Mitsusaburo RAMON and others. Among others, most well-known were the scene of great sword fighting in the silent movie 'Jokon' performed by Utaemon ICHIKAWA exposing his fundoshi loincloth, and the scene of a sword fight in the 'Ketto Takada no Baba' played by Tsumasaburo BANDO kilting up the back of his kimono to show his fundoshi loincloth, as well as the sword fighting scene in the recent TV cinema 'Mori no Ishimatsu' where Kanzaburo NAKAMURA (the 18th generation) played a sword fight showing his fundoshi.

Fundoshi Loincloth for Women

It is generally believed that women have nothing to do with fundoshi loincloth, but that is not correct. Descriptions of women wearing fundoshi loincloths are confirmed in the "Nihon Shoki" ("the Chronicle of Japan") of ancient times. In some areas in Japan at that time, the term "fundoshi" was used to mean collectively, whole underwear including koshimaki loincloths (waist cloths).

Before tampons and napkins became commonly used, women had used Etchu fundoshi and mokko fundoshi loincloths as sanitary towels called "ouma" for a long period in the history. But, people have not openly talked about this because of their custom to hold menstruants in detestation as a disgrace.

From the Edo period to the postwar period, women's sumo exhibitions were actively performed as an entertainment show, and in the society of popular dramas, a female player wearing men's dress performed sword fights kilting her kimono and showing her fundoshi loincloth to gain plaudits from the audience for her performance. Also there are other fundoshi loincloths for women, like a saiji loincloth for some female divers. In such times, as underwear was limited either to fundoshi loincloths or koshimaki loincloths (waist cloths), it seems that women felt no resistance towards wearing fundoshi loincloths as the occasion demands.

Reflecting the current boom of fundoshi loincloths, a wide range of fundoshi items, not only for men but also for women, are being sold in the market. Among them, a brand of "pandoru shotsu" is included. The term "pandoru" is French meaning "droop" in English. Ikue MASUDO, an actress, attracted public attention by telling on a TV program that she is habitually using a handmade Etchu fundoshi loincloth.

Sexuality

Fundoshi loincloth is a kind of underwear. Especially roku-shaku fundoshi is popular among some gays because it covers the private parts only so that it exaggerate the crotch part and also exposes the buttocks. In photogravures for gays, in adult videos, and in web sites of fundoshi loincloths for gays, pictures of some muscular or stout men wearing fundoshi loincloths can be seen. Some gay bars belong to a special category named fundoshi bar. Many of the gays are devoted to the naked festivals and are reportedly very positive in participating in any naked festival held across the country.

Some female writers of Yaoi (female-oriented fictional media that focus on homo-sexual male relationships usually created by female authors) are actively contributing to the internet media with their pictures and articles on the subject of boys wearing fundoshi loincloths. On web pages, they post pictures of male characters wearing fundoshi loincloths, which they call fundoshi-kyara (fundoshi-character).

It is not limited to homosexuals, but there are some men who love to watch figures of women wearing fundoshi loincloths as well as some women who love to wear loincloths.
The legendary magazine "Kitan Club," that publishes works of famous writers such as Oniroku DAN and Shozo NUMA, had regularly published articles written by an author who was a fanatic of women's sumo wrestling called 'metomi.'

Women's sumo wrestling scenes were screened in various pink-eiga (blue films) including a hit movie 'Tokugawa Onna Keizu' (1968) by director Teruo ISHII that became a blockbuster due to its erotic and grotesque depictions. Figures with fundoshi loincloths appeared frequently also in Nikkatsu roman-porno films with Naomi TANI as a leading character.

In recent years, Rie MIYAZAWA has attracted public attentions by publishing her figure in a fundoshi loincloth in a 1989 calendar, which was followed by a stream of various photo albums, adult videos and so on, containing pictures of women in fundoshi loincloths.

After moving into the 21st century, the internet has propagated various graphic images of boys and girls in fundoshi, mawashi and shimekomi loincloths, participating in Hakata Gion Yamagasa summer festival and other festivals as well as various honozumo. When a fundoshi loincloth that keeps essential images of chic, bravery, virility and dandyism is worn by a pretty boy or girl (especially a girl) who has a contrasting image, the fundoshi loincloth may accelerate the effect of the wearers' prettiness. This point brought about the development of some manias (mainly, lovers of the prettiness line) that led to the consistent creation of coterie magazines, figures (or figurines), home pages, blogs, gazo-keijiban (graphic billboards) and others on the subject of boys and girls wearing fundoshi loincloth.

Koten Rakugo

Koten rakugo (classical comic storytelling) had plenty of comedic stories associated with fundoshi loincloths because most of the contemporary people were wearing fundoshi loincloths. Typical examples are "Nishiki no Kesa" and "Kawazu-chaban."

Senryu (humorous and ironical haiku poem)

Fundoshi loincloths often appear also in senryu poems depicting the vivid lives of common people in the Edo period.
Some typical examples are cited as follows:

Senryu poems on commoners' daily lives

"Etchu ga hazurete tonarino kuni wo dasi" ("Pubic region appears from beside the unfastened Etchu fundoshi")

"Fundoshi wo hinekuri mawasi ichi-bu dasi" ("Twiddling a fundoshi loincloth to expose a part of my privates")

Senryu poems related to fundoshi loincloths, reflecting the lives of sekitori sumo wrestlers

"Fundoshi no tsuyoi wa yagate maku ni nari" ("Tightly fastened fundoshi loincloth will make the wrestler strong enough to be promoted to maku-uchi or top division of sumo ranking")

"Fundoshi wo kokyo e kazaru sumo-tori" ("A sumo wrestler goes home loaded with honorable fundoshi loincloths")

Senryu poems suggesting that a fundoshi loincloth was used as a sanitary belt for women

"Etchu wo nyobo ga suruto koto wo kaki" ("When my wife wears an Etchu fundoshi loincloth, there is no way to have sex with her")

"Jusan-shi hime wa ouma wo norinarai" ("A girl of thirteen or fourteen years old is practicing horse riding for the first time" [which depicts a scene of a young girl undergoing menstruation for the first time in a toilet])

and others.

Literature

In his novel "Gubijinso" (The Poppy), Soseki NATSUME referred to fundoshi loincloth as a special feature of summer. He used the word "fundoshi" like a seasonal word for summer, writing for example as "Natsu wa fundoshi wo arau" (literally, "In summer, I wash my fundoshi loincloth").

In his novel "Gokuchu Seikatsu" (literally, "Life in prison"), Toshihiko SAKAI wrote his sentiments about the government-furnished fundoshi loincloth supplied to him when he went to Sugamo Kangoku (later renamed as Sugamo Prison and to Sugamo Kochisho).
"Tenugui (towel) and fundoshi (loincloth) are both dyed the color of persimmon, but, interestingly, they are dyed in different shades in the longitudinal direction, constituting some beauty." (No.3 Sugamo Kangoku)

"Iro-atsukai" of Kyoka IZUMI is an "I" novel (a novel based on author's own life), recalling his habit of reading books excursively in his childhood. There, he explained a trick on how to go out to a book-lending shop from a strictly controlled boarding house of a private school, and that was "to hide my fundoshi loincloth inside of kimono's tamoto (a sleeve)." "The reason for doing so was to explain later to a landlord (or landlady) that I went out to wash my fundoshi loincloth at a brook near the school," he wrote.
He continued, "If I am harshly scolded, I would give an evasive answer 'I didn't tell you anything because I hesitated to tell anything about such a nasty matter as washing a fundoshi loincloth.'"

In the novel "Genkaku-sanbo" (Genkaku's House) written by Ryunosuke AKUTAGAWA, a leading character, Genkaku, who is in bed suffering lung tuberculosis, dreams of his own death by hanging himself by his fundoshi loincloth. "Genkaku pulled lightly his fundoshi loincloth and wound it around his head pulling it forcefully by both hands," he wrote. "At that point, it was Takeo who showed up wearing heavy clothes.
Yah, grandpa is doing that.'
He jeered at GENKAKU and ran away like a rabbit toward the living room." (No.5)

In modern society, people were familiar with the sense of beauty that "a man should be neat and tidy when he dies."
In his novel "Tsuioku" (Remembrance), Ryunosuke AKUTAGAWA wrote as follows:
"This 'oshisho-san' (master) lived a long life." "When he went out to buy miso (fermented soybean paste), he tumbled over the snow on a road."
"But, when he returned home, he is said to have made the comment, 'Fortunately, I was wearing a new fundoshi loincloth when I fell down.'" (No. 19 Ujishizan)

In his novel "Kanikosen" (The Crab Factory Ship), Takiji KOBAYASHI wrote of fundoshi loincloth as a prop to describe a nasty scene of sailors confined in an enclosed space. "A number of sailors had wet dreams. Some of them gave way to masterbation when nobody was around him. In the corners of a shelf, dirty sarumata shorts and fundoshi loincloths with semen spots were left crumpled up and were exuding wet and sour smell.
Students sometimes tramped on them like feces lying on the ground." (No.4)

In his novel "Dokubo" (Solitary Cell), Takiji KOBAYASHI noted some differences in the fundoshi loincloth between the inside and outside of a prison based on his experience of imprisonment for a political crime. "I wore a blue kimono, blue momohiki (long underpants), blue fundoshi loincloth, blue belt, and straw sandals---and I wore 'amigasa' (a braided hat) for the first time in my life. But, I thought that fundoshi loincloth should not necessarily be blue," he wrote.

In his writing of "Kaisoroku" (Memoirs), Kotaro TAKAMURA depicted fading relics of early-modern folkways in the tide of the modern times. "I remember my grandfather wore a chonmage (a topknot) on his head and walked around wearing nothing but the fundoshi loincloth in the summer season.
At that time, since the government issued a ban on people appearing naked, a cop was loud to instruct my grandfather saying 'Goinkyo-san (an honorific title for retired men), now, nobody is allowed to walk around naked.'
Then, my grandfather obeyed the cop's request, and began to wear kimono which was, however, made of transparent kaya fabricks (a mosquito net for bed) and did not hesitate to walk in it in front of the police station."

Ango SAKAGUCHI wrote a novel "Ao-oni no fundoshi wo arau onna" (The Woman Who Washes the Blue Demon's Loincloth) in which he described "fundoshi wo arau onna = watashi" (literally, "I am a woman who washes men's fundoshi loincloth") as a symbolic case of job-sharing between men and women.

A figure of Yukio MISHIMA in fundoshi loincloth is widely known. Since several years before his harakiri suicide at Camp Ichigaya, Yukio MISHIMA had made and left pictures of his own image of committing suicide in fundoshi loincloth as well as a movie titled "Yukoku" (Patriotism).

Taruho INAGAKI, a novelist who had kept contact with Yukio MISHIMA, is famous for his eccentricities on fundoshi loincloth. As in the case of Yukio MISHIMA, Taruho INAGAKI had a taste for sodomy. Accordingly, he sometimes wore fundoshi loincloth to interviews and also made advances towards young men.

Comics and Animations

In the works set in the background of modern times, a fundoshi loincloth is often used as an item to emphasize the male character as archaic but strong will. It has also a clear implication of being a gag. As exceptional examples, there are some female characters in fundoshi loincloths, like Shigure KOSAKA and Kikuri, but most of them are specially designed for particular characters such as an expert in marshal arts, a female ninja, a devotee of wearing men's clothes and so on.

The "Hakatakko Junjo," a seishun-gekiga (story comics of youths), written by Hosei HASEGAWA, having its setting in Hakata, depicts the Hakata Gion Yamagasa summer festival as an important event. There are also comics where the title contains the word "fundoshi" such as "Roku-shaku Fundoshi" by Yusuke AOYAGI, "Takumi no Fundoshi" by Daiki YAMAZAKI, "Fundoshi Keiji Ken-chan to Chako-chan" by Masaya TOKUHIRO, and "Akafundoshi Suzunosuke" (a parody of "Akado Suzunosuke") by Go NAGAI.

Unlike undershorts, fundoshi loincloths are of a wide variety and have different ways of tying that are difficult to depict in a picturesque way. That is the main reason why many of roku-shaku, Etchu and other individual fundoshi loincloths are very often drawn in a way that they cannot be distinguised in comics and animations, and this is also due to the lack of knowledge of the writers.

Wordings and Urban Legends on Fundoshi Loincloths

The following are Japanese proverbs containing the word "fundoshi":

"To tighten one's fundoshi loincloth before doing something new" (corresponding to the western proverb "to roll up one's sleeves" or "to pull up one's socks")

"Both giri (obligations) and fundoshi loincloths are essential for men's life" (corresponding to the western proverb "asses scratch one another")

"To fight a sumo wrestler wearing another's fundoshi loincloth" (corresponding to the western proverb "to plough with another's calf")

"Too short for an obi belt for a kimono, and too long for a tasuki cord to tuck up the sleeves of a kimono, but just good for a fundoshi loincloth" (corresponding to the western proverb "too much for one, and not enough for two")

There is a word "Heko-oya" that means acting parents asked for Fundoshi-iwai (a coming-of-age celebration for a boy wearing a fundoshi loincloth).

The abdominal part of crab is commonly called fundoshi. In the Hokuriku region, the term fundoshi means gills of crab (inedible), which are removed first after opening a shell of crab to be boiled.

According to a folklore, a man served with a dish of crab had mistakenly unfastened his fundoshi loincloth instead of removing the crab's fundoshi.

One of four-character idioms that includes the word "fundoshi" is "kinkon-ichiban" (literally, "to tighten one's fundoshi loincloth to try again").

One urban legends is "hikyaku no fundoshi" (literally, a fundoshi loincloth of an express messenger).

Even in gagaku (ancient Japanese court dance and music), there are some tunes that contain the word "fundoshi." They seem to have been played at sumo exhibitions.

Rinko-kodatsu (Taishiki-cho) (a tune of gagaku music corresponding to the Taishiki-cho tune of togaku music).

Kenki-kotatsu (Banshiki-cho) (a tune of gagaku music corresponding to the Banshiki-cho tune of togaku music).

There is a legend on the belief that a pregnant woman may have an easy delivery if she wears as her belly-band the roku-shaku fundoshi loincloth of her husband (or of someone who participated in a naked festival, depending on regions).

Ieyasu TOKUGAWA, an economical person, was reportedly always wearing a fundoshi loincloth dyed in pale yellow, and also encouraged his retainers to do so. But, he used a white fundoshi loincloth as underwear to cover his privates, even though he was a big-boned samurai warrior from Mikawa Province.