05 January 2011

Fundoshi - comfort, care, and cleaning

If you weren't raised Japanese, with fundoshi being a fairly unremarkable part of everyday life just like tabi socks, kimonos, or obi -- or, occasionally, the de rigueur dress code as in the case of Hadaka Matsuri ("naked festivals"), no doubt fundoshi are more than just a novel cultural approach to "girding one's loins" -- they are a bit of a puzzle; questions like "how do you wear a fundoshi" often travel hand-in-glove with "why would you wear a fundoshi?" Can it be comfortable? How do you go to the bathroom? How do you wash them? And what happens if someone catches you in your fundoshi -- how do you explain?

The answers are fairly simple and straighforward:

As for "why would you wear fundoshi," I can say from experience that the support and comfort are easily acclimated to -- and well worth the period of trial-and-error that every neophyte fundoshi enthusiast goes through learning the ins and outs of a well-wrapped fundoshi. Fundoshi are simply the most ingenious solution ever devised for concealing and protecting the male apparatus, blending the advantages and appearances of briefs, thongs, jocks, and loincloths all together into one supremely sensual and utilitarian garment. Fundoshi's association with the martial arts, Shinto, and military and warrior classes heightens their masculine appeal, investing the wearer not only with sexy mystique but also with a cultural history that prides itself on inventive approaches and elegant solutions -- even down to their traditional underwear.

With a little practice you'll find the perfect snugness -- the tightness that will not only flatter your body, but keep you contained and hold its shape over the course of a day. Too tight and it won't feel comfortable -- if you feel like the fundoshi is mashing your balls into your body, that's too tight (unless you're into that, I suppose). If things are falling out or if it doesn't feel secure, that's too loose (although a fundoshi tied on with slightly relaxed tension is superb for lounging or as sleepwear, where supportiveness isn't a concern.

One major difference between fundoshi and underwear is that fundoshi aren't elastic -- there's no stretch whatsoever. I've experimented a little with stretchy fabrics for fundoshi, with mixed results. Lightweight cotton jersey is soft and comfortable, but as it stretches it has a tendency to stretch out. So there's some periodic snugging and adjustment needed to keep it comfortable. A stretchier, more elastic fabric with more "memory" could be interesting to wear, although since it will always want to contract it might actually tighten on the wearer after the initial tying.

Traditional rokushaku fundoshi, to be sure, are non-stretchy, made of lightweight cotton, linen, or (in some cases) crepe silk. The design of fundoshi uses this quality of the cloth advantageously, forming a secure, non-slipping wound "belt" that passes around the waist or lower belly, and the "pouch," which contains and supports the genitals.

Being a thousand-plus year-old design, no doubt the question of eliminating waste has come up before for fundoshi wearers. It's really not that tough -- don't think about it too hard! In the case of urinating, the pouch can simply be slid to one side, the penis extracted, and everything tucked back into place when you're done and cleaned up.

#2 is perhaps more challenging, in part because of the previously discussed non-elastic fabric. Since the fundoshi is basically a woven knot of wide cotton ribbon passed around and between the legs, tightened, and wrapped around itself firmly -- getting out of your fundoshi is necessary for defecating. So don't wait till the last minute!

Also (and although this seems obvious), since fundoshi is worn close to the skin, in fact actually passing over and against the outside of the wearer's rectum, one should clean up thoroughly before re-tying the fundoshi. In fact, if I have the luxury, I like to use a bidet or take a quick shower afterward. If this is not possible, just be scrupulous and attentive and you'll avoid skid marks.

Another byproduct of the no-stretch aspect of fundoshi is that, like anything worn close to the skin, the fabric can potentially chafe. This is especially a concern when it's hot or humid, or if you're walking, moving around a lot, playing sports, or excercising.

One simple solution is to take the "apron" portion of the fundoshi (which is normally wound around the "thong" portion of the fundoshi and tucked under one side of the "belt") and, instead of winding it, simply bring it backwards between your legs and tuck it into the waistband flat, adjusting it till it's snug (see picture below).

This does two things: first, it puts a layer of cloth between your skin and the knot at the small of your back; and second, as you pull the excess apron flat against your buttocks, between your skin and the thong portion, it will separate the thong slightly from resting directly against your anus. This can be more comfortable if you are being moderately active, however the traditional winding method is still recommended if you are swimming, doing something strenuous, or practicing martial arts.

Washing fundoshi is not materially different than caring for or laundering any other undergarment. Since fundoshi are worn next to the skin, a fresh fundoshi should be worn every day.

Laundering your fundoshi offers an added bonus: if you handwash or machine wash fundoshi, then tumble-dry them, they will soften and grow more comfortable. Don't worry about fraying along the edges -- any extra strings or fibers can simply be pulled off -- moderate fraying just makes your fundoshi more comfortable. Additionally, vigorous washing and drying will thin the fabric over time -- which is actually desirable as it will increase the softness and breathability of your fundoshi.

Also, a warm fundoshi fresh out of the drier feels wonderful, and is a great way to prepare for bed, especially if the weather is cold.

You may notice that if you have two or more fundoshi in the drier for the same cycle, they will braid themselves together. This is an interesting phenomenon which I haven't quite figured out how to avoid -- so a little untangling can be necessary while you're putting laundry away. It's interesting how uniform the braids of fundoshi can be -- almost as if they have been braided on purpose!

One possible solution that occurred to me is placing your fundoshi in zippered mesh bags that will keep them from tangling up with eachother.

Finally, as for what to do if someone surprises you in your fundoshi, well, that one's ultimately up to you -- you could turn beet red, you could just act normal and play it off as if nothing happened, explain that it's traditional Japanese underwear and actually quite comfortable (not to mention considered "full dress" and entirely modest all by itself), break out some sweet dance moves, or simply do what this fellow does:

(FYI, it reads right-to-left)


Francisco said...

Good document, thanks for sharing your experiences

Fundoshi 4 All! said...

...and of course all of this applies to rokushaku fundoshi only -- if it all seems too complex, ettchu fundoshi are light as a feather, as comfortable as wearing nothing, and extremely simple to wear.

Albus said...

Hi!This blog is awesome. I came across this blog just 2 days ago and I have 6 fundoshis already. :)
BTW- I wanted to know if it's necessary for the penis to point upwards when wearing a fundoshi?

Petr Johan said...

Thank You! All my questions answered and some problems anticipated. Now all I need do is buy the fabric and practice wrapping and twisting. (There's a good video available at Youtube on how to tie one. Just enter "Fundoshi tieing".

Fundoshi 4 All! said...

@ Albus: I don't think it's absolutely necessary, however I think it's a good idea. The fundoshi fabric doesn't "give" at all, so the penis should be in a comfortable position whether erect or not. I can imagine an erection being pretty uncomfortable if your penis was sitting in a downward position. If you don't anticipate becoming aroused, you could experiment with the position, but my advice is to tie the fundoshi with your penis resting, upwards, agains your lower belly.

Fundoshi 4 All! said...

Hi Petr! Glad you enjoyed it, and I hope you really like wearing fundoshi!

plathhs said...

Excellent blog! I've been wanting to try on fundoshi for years … I wonder why I never just did. Anyway, now is the time, it seems.
Thank you for writing this post!

Fundoshi 4 All! said...

I hope you love it! I've been making my own rokushaku style fundoshi for years.

I bought a few ettchu fundoshi a couple years back, and they are light as a feather and make the best possible PJs.

I think I'm going to break down and order some rokushaku fundoshi -- I'm really curious about what the proper fabric is. My homemade ones are just lightweight cotton or muslin.

I'd be curious to hear about your first-time fundoshi experiences!

plathhs said...

I made a rokushaku-fundoshi yesterday and tried it on. It feels a bit weird at first, but it's actually quite comfortable. I think I made it a bit too short, and the fabric might be slightly on the heavy side, but I'll try and make another one as soon as I can.
Since I wear Japanese clothes (samue and jinbei) pretty much at all times, it feels quite natural to start wearing fundoshi as well.

Fundoshi 4 All! said...

it _does_ take a little getting used to! But after a while you forget it's even there. We in the west are so used to elasticized cotton or boxer shorts, and fundoshi aren't stretchy at all, so having that secure fit feels unusual for a while. When I'm lounging, I often switch to ettchu fundoshi, which are probably the most comfortable, barely-there underwear ever invented by mankind.

Anonymous said...

I feel fundoshi reveals too much of the penis and testicles and also leaves the buttocks totally exposed. I would feel very embarrassed to wear it.

Anonymous said...

I have tried to tie it the right way and worn it at two volleyball parties but my companion tells me my testicles and penis sometimes escape the covering. What should I do?

Anonymous said...

Just yesterday I did my first try. Then my girlfriend had me parade in front of her and her girlfriend. I did well but since I am new at this and the fundoshi was too narrow and I had not tied it tightly enough I had at least a couple of malfunctions of which I was not even aware of but which were indicated by both girls: penis and/or testicles revealed, unhidden arousal, etc.

Fundoshi 4 All! said...

Ah, wardrobe malfunctions! Usually this means that the fundoshi needs to be tied more snugly -- not so tight that it is uncomfortable. Try tying your fundoshi a little tighter than usual, you'll find once it's all tied it won't feel too tight after a few minutes. Then each time you wear fundoshi, try it even a little more tightly... you'll find just the right tightness that is comfortable and that lets the fundoshi hold its shape -- and that will make unplanned escapes virtually impossible!

The other possibility is the cloth you are using might be too narrow. Try a wider cloth, about the width between your hipbones should do the trick!

Hope that is helpful.

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much for your suggestions about the width of the fundoshi! I shall try it. I now realize that the fundoshi I had fashioned was way too narrow. Besides, I didn't wear it tight enough between the buttocks and therefore the cleft was, according to reports, visible all the time. Well, you live and learn!

Irezumi said...

Thanks for this post, it's very interesting to read and as a fellow Fundoshi wearer i much appreciate you sharing it with us. I love wearing Fundoshi and find it very comfortable and liberating to wear,once again, Many Thanks.

Dries said...

A small idea to prevent the fundoshi tangeling in the dryer. Tie the ends of each fundoshi together(with a short piece of rope or cotton?. and than toss them in. That might help