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)!
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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 @BabywearingTwinCities and our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/Babywearingtwincities/).
Images have image descriptions in the alternative text accessible to those who use screen readers.