Oh, how I wish I had shares in the Kokoro Haramaki – why? Because I’ve mentioned it in pretty much every single publication I work for this winter. It’s one of, if not THE, favourite products I’ve tried all year. But what is a haramaki and what health benefits might you get from wearing one?
This post contains affiliate links and I get a small commission if you make a purchase. Buying from these links does not involve any extra cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.
What is a Haramaki?
A haramaki is effectively a scarf for your tummy – a Japanese belly warmer if you like.
This wasn’t always the case. The original haramaki was a piece of chest armour worn by Japanese Samauri to protect the middle of their body from attack. However, the name also loosely translates as ‘wrap up the middle of your body’ – and that’s how it’s used today.
A haramaki basically a tube of soft, stretchy material that you pull up around your middle. You wear it under, or over, normal clothes and it just keeps the area around your midriff warm – but, by raising your core temperature, this then warms up the rest of you.
I love it because I have feet that normally feel like ice – if I put on a haramaki though, they warm right up. In fact, it’s such a quick reaction I tried it while typing this post. About thirty minutes ago my feet were freezing, I put on the haramaki and they are noticeably warmer already.
Exactly why I’m not sure, although there’s possibly some biological theory that if my internal organs are toasty warm my body feels more secure about diverting blood to my extremities.
Yes, I could just put on a jumper, but I actually hate wearing them – I feel too confined. The haramaki provides the same warming effects I get from wearing a jumper, but without the same claustrophobic feelings.
But warming up your feet isn’t the only potential haramaki health benefit.
Warm Stomach, Healthy Body
The theory that a cold stomach is the cause of many health concerns is deeply rooted in Japanese culture – and some other countries too.
The theory is that the stomach is actually the heart of the body and it must be kept balanced – part of which is keeping it the right temperature.
This is one reason why Japanese food is very seasonal and foods such as oden – a broth-based stew and nabe – a chunker stew are more commonly found during the winter months.
There’s a similar belief in Chinese medicine where warming foods like root vegetables dominate winter diets – and food is rarely served raw.
Other Health Benefits of the Haramaki
It’s believed to raise immunity and energy: In Japan, people wear Haramaki to protect themselves against infection. Japanese medicine has it that if the temperature of the stomach is too cool you’re more likely to get sick.
They also say that when energy drains from the Hara – the middle of the body – it will also sap your levels of energy and motivation overall.
There’s a similar belief in Chinese medicine too. They believe that if your midriff is cold, kidney energy will drain from the system – and this not only puts you at risk of urinary health issues, it also lowers energy and vitality – including libido!.
In fact, one of my favourite ever quotes came from an acupuncturist I interviewed on this very subject. She told me ‘I spend most of January walking around wanting to tell people to cover up or pulling their tops down to cover their kidneys.’
That bit I can’t prove, but I can say if you get cold easily – but hate being bundled up (like me), or you’ve always got cold feet (like me), then why not give a Haramaki a try?
It can help pain and stiffness: Even if you don’t buy into the theory of kidney energy, wearing the haramaki is also very good at creating comforting snuggly feelings should you be having period pains or cystitis.
It’s also really good first thing in the morning if you wake up with stiffness in the lower back – by gently warming and raising circulation in the area it can help get your moving faster.
It’s good for exercisers: Lastly, it’s also good to create warmth when you’re doing workouts like Pilates, weights or yoga where you might not want to wear bulky clothing as you want to see the muscles working – popping a Haramaki around your middle can raise core temperature enough to keep the rest of you warm but let you keep your arms, shoulders, back or legs more exposed.
If you tend to heat up during your practice, pop it over your top, rather than wearing it directly against your skin. You’ll get the same results but it’s more easily removed.
Where to Buy a Haramaki
There’s a lot of different haramaki brands now available but the one I use is the Kokoro Haramaki which was the original brand to launch here in the UK when I first wrote this piece back in 2013.
If you’re looking for something a bit more fun though, I’m loving these designs that also take inspiration from Japanese culture.
There’s this one which is printed with the image of a Daruma Doll. Click to look up prices, sizes and availability
I also love this cat’s eye one . It’s the Kaya Japanese Haramaki Stomach/Body Warmer Belt Black Cat Design. Click the link to check prices and availability. It comes in other colours as well.
Kaya also do a heap of other prints – including Mount Fuji, Waving Lucky cats and Tanukis – if you’re looking for the perfect present for someone who loves Japan, I think you just found it
Oh, and my top tip – the one in the first picture is unrolled all, the way – I wear mine doubled over as I find then it doesn’t interfere as much with normal clothes.
So, there you have it – why you might want to add a haramaki to your winter, or workout, wardrobe – and where to find some very cute ones. I love mine.