Every month we feature a carry or carrier to highlight at our monthly meetings and online (“BWITCCOTM” stands for Babywearing International of the Twin Cities Carry or Carrier of the Month).

This month we are featuring the onbuhimo (おんぶひも)!

[Image is a collage of three images of white women smiling while wearing children on their backs in onbuhimos. The top right image is a green buckle onbuhimo. The bottom right image is striped reverse ring onbuhimo. The bottom left is a plaid ring onbuhimo. The text in the upper left image is September Carrier of the Month ONBUHIMO (OHN-bu-he-mo), hashtag BWITCCOTM over the word ONBUHIMO, and the multi-colored Babywearing International of the Twin Cities logo.]

Onbuhimo (OHN-bu-he-mo) carriers originated from Japan and come in a variety of styles utilizing fabric loops, buckles, and rings. “Onbuhimo” means “back carrying strap” in Japanese. “Onbu” refers to the act of carrying on the back, while “himo” means strap or rope.

[7 seconds video of a Japanese woman saying “onbuhimo” three times]

In Japanese, “onbu” means to carry on the back, but also refers to a parenting philosophy. “Onbuhimo” is the word to refer to the carrier that achieves this action. Referring to “onbuhimo” in any other way (onbu, ruckbu, ruckle, waistless buckle carrier, adding “bu” as a suffix, etc.) is disrespectful of the Japanese language and erases the cultural origins of the carrier. As the word indicates, “onbuhimo” is for back carrying. While western babywearers also often use their onbuhimo to carry a child on the front, in Japanese the carrier would be called dakkohimo if worn in front. “Dakko” means to carry the child in front so the word for the carrier is derived in similar fashion as the word onbuhimo. Komoriobi or kyariaa are also terms that may be used to refer to a front carrier.

For example, here is a video of a woman demonstrating traditional Japanese onbuhimo:

[3 minute 26 seconds video of a Japanese woman demonstrating how to wear a child on her back in an Asian carrier]

Below, we will be discussing onbuhimos as they are known in Western wearing, as a carrier type.

Styles of Onbuhimos

[Image with lines going vertically and horizontally mimicking graph paper with simple drawings of three types of onbuhimo carriers. Top image has a rectangle with two straps out the top to corners at an angle and two fabric loops at the bottom two corners. Text is Loop/Ring Onbuhimo with an arrow pointed to the rings and text Variations: Fabric Loops only 1 Ring, 2 Rings. Middle image text Reverse Onbuhimo with a rectangle with text 2 Rings pointing to the two fabric loops with rings out the top two corners and straps drawn out from the bottom two corners. Bottom image text Buckle Onbuhimo with a rounded rectangular panel and text Variations: Buckles Ladder lock with an arrow pointed to the shoulder straps that are looped down to join dark lines resembling webbing that is attached to the shoulder straps. A buckle with webbing joins the shoulder straps horizontally.]

Ring Onbuhimo, Loop Onbuhimo

Long wrap/fabric straps at the shoulder that thread through fabric loops or rings at the base of the panel. Can be worn in a front or back carry. Requires wearer to hold tension while tightening and tying off. Tightening is done by pulling the straps up. Tibetan tie-off is the most common in Western wearing.

[Four image collage of a smiling white woman wearing a child on her back in a plaid ring onbuhimo. Top left image is from the front with straps tied at waist. Left top image is back view. Bottom right image is front view with straps tied across her chest. Bottom left view is from the side and one of the rings is visible near her waist.]

Reverse Onbuhimo

Long wrap/fabric straps at the base of the panel that thread through a set of double rings at the shoulders. Generally not convenient to wear in a front carry. Tension is locked with the double rings in the same way a ring sling works, therefore tightening is quick and easy. Tightening is done by pulling the straps down.

[Six image collage of a white woman wearing a child on her back in a ring onbuhimo. The rings are near her shoulders. Different finishes are shown on the left side of the collage while the back view is on the right.]

Buckle Onbuhimo

Webbing and buckles replace wrap/fabric straps and rings. Can be worn in a front or back carry. Generally as quick and easy as a reverse onbuhimo.

[Six image collage of various people of a variety of age, body type, and skin color wearing child on their backs in buckle onbuhimos.]

How To Wear An Onbuhimo:

An onbuhimo wears higher than a soft-structured carrier is designed to be worn. But as long as the child fits correctly in the carrier, it’s not unsafe to wear lower. Finding the “sweet spot” may take some practice. If you are used to carries with a soft-structured carrier, it will feel very different. With a soft-structured carrier, the child’s weight is distributed to your hips. Carrying with an onbuhimo will put the weight on your shoulders and upper torso. If someone is familiar with woven wrap back carries, this weight distribution feels similar to ruck-type carries with a waistless finish in a woven wrap. Some find this a more comfortable option if pregnant or find waist bands uncomfortable.

How to Back Carry in a Loop/Ring Onbuhimo

[3 minute 8 second video of a Japanese woman demonstrating how to back carry in a loop onbuhimo]

How to Back Carry in a Reverse Onbuhimo

[4 minute 49 second no voice audio with background music and text overlay of a brown woman with her brown son demonstrating reverse onbuhimo back carry]

How to Back Carry in a Buckle Onbuhimo

[2 minute 13 second no voice audio video of a Black woman demonstrating a buckle onbuhimo back carry]

Disclaimer: I am not and do not claim to be an expert in Japanese carriers. Many thanks to the Onbu Love – All Things Onbuhimo Facebook Group for much of the information provided.

Additional Resources:


Onbu and Onbuhimo History 101-Hokkyoku Shirokumado Blog

Onbu Love – All Things Onbuhimo Facebook Group

  • Wait, did you just say not to use the word “onbu” in the post above?? In the context of the group’s name the word “onbu” makes sense. A love for back carrying is shared in the group and in the parenting philosophy. “Onbu” is not a forbidden word; it just has a different meaning than how it has been used the vast majority of the time.

If you have any questions about babywearing, we encourage you to contact us and/or come learn in person at one of our meetings! Check out our Instagram @Babywearing.Twin.Cities and our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/BabywearingTwinCities/).

Images have image descriptions in the alternative text accessible to those who use screen readers.

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