Happi, or “happi coats”, are traditional, Japanese, straight- sleeved coats made of lightweight materials, such as cotton, that are imprinted with a distinctive mon (crest). These informal coats were originally created in the latter half of the Edo period, when samurai started wearing them in place of the traditional haori. They featured large designs on the back revealing which clan they were apart of, while the letters on the front displayed information such as the wearer’s name, affiliation, or personal philosophies. Later, happi coats were adopted by house servants, servicemen, and shopkeepers, as a wearable way to display the crests of the families, organizations, groups, and shops that they belonged to.
Now, happi have become common festival attire. Festival goers, as well as participants of the actual festivities wear happi, as they are a summer staple in Japan. They are perfect to wear to festivals, not only because of the bright
colors that they come in, but more importantly because the lightweight, breathable fabrics that they are made of keep you cool, even in the unbearable summer heat. When a whole group wears the same happi coat, you can’t help but feel a sense of camaraderie and oneness.
Happi ya Yamakichi (YAMAKICHI Co., Ltd.) was founded in 1927 in Nishio of Aichi-ken (prefecture). Formerly known as the Mikawa Province, the Aichi Prefecture was abundant in cotton. For this reason,the company initially started out as a cotton textile wholesaler, and eventually expanded their practice to dying their own fabrics and producing happi. The name, Happi ya, originally came from a bad pun, “wear happi and be happy.” but the name stuck, as customers loved it and found it easy to remember. Yamakichi doesn’t just specialize in happi coats though. They also make personalized washcloths, towels, nobori banners, and t-shirts.
For more information about Happi ya Yamakichi, as well as a full product list, click here:
2-30 Shirosaki-cho Nishio-shi Aichi 445-0065
As well as being the birth place of Happi ya Yamakichi, Aichi- ken is also the center of thriving industries, arts and culture, and more. Located in the Chūbu region (central region) of the Japanese archipelago, Aichi is roughly divided into a highland region and a giant plain. It is surrounded by Mie, Gifu, Nagano, and Shizuoka. As a crucial bridging point for trade between eastern and western Japan, Aichi has been the foundation of flourishing industries for centuries. Some of its major industries include ceramics in Seto and Tokoname, the woolen textile industry in Ichinomiya, and the automobile industry in Toyota. As you might have guessed, the city gets its namesake from a little known car manufacturing company called Toyota, where its headquarters are still located.
The famous City of Nagoya is also situated in Aichi, and acts as the economic, political, and cultural center of the prefecture. As well as being Japan’s third largest economic center, it is home to the Nagoya Castle, which was built in the beginning of the Edo period, and was once the seat of the Owari branch of the ruling Tokugawa family. A thirty minute train ride will take you to Inuyama City, where the renowned Inuyama Castle stands. Built in 1537, it is one of only twelve original castles that remain in Japan (castles that have survived natural disasters and wars since 1867), and was designated as a national treasure.