Futokoro — A Deep Pocket Full of Unique Expressions Fill Your Pocket With a Lot of Interesting Expressions Using Futokoro!

    ふところ (futokoro) is a pocket that's situated between the inner and outer layers of a kimono — the traditional Japanese garment that's a long, loose robe with wide sleeves. When wearing a kimono, the left side is wrapped over the right and tied with a belt called an obi. The way everything is put together creates a pocket at chest height, and that's your futokoro.

    懐 (futokoro) is a pocket that's situated between the inner and outer layers of a kimono.

    These days, wearing kimono is reserved for special occasions for most Japanese people, but for a long time, it was an everyday outfit. The first ancestor of the kimono was born during the Heian period (794-1192), and it was sported daily by both men and women until Japan became westernized during the Meiji period (1868–1912).

    Over time, people kept various things in their futokoro pocket because it was a secure place, and the items helped prevent their obi belts from riding up. As a result, many words and phrases associated with futokoro were born, and a lot of them are still in use today. This article introduces some phrases that may be useful to you, so if you've got a pocket of time, come along with us!

    Prerequisites: This article assumes you already know hiragana and katakana. If you need to brush up, have a look at our Ultimate Hiragana Guide and Ultimate Katakana Guide.

    Money Expressions with 懐

    Pockets are a typical place where people carry their money, and in fact, there are many money-related idioms with the word "pocket" in English. My favorite is "burn a hole in your pocket." This is used when you've got too much money and you need and want to spend it. If you don't, a hole will metaphorically burn through your pocket. What a unique expression! I love it.

    The traditional Japanese pocket, futokoro, was also a common location to put money in. So it comes as no surprise that there are a lot of money-related expressions using futokoro!

    For example, to say you've got a lot of money, you can use the word "futokoro" and say:

    • 懐が温かい。
    • I have a lot of cash.
      (Literally: My futokoro is warm.)

    I guess money placed into your futokoro fabric was like adding an another layer to your kimono, making that spot extra warm.

    Conversely, your futokoro lacks warmth when you are broke. So you can instead say:

    • 懐が寒い。
    • I have no cash.
      (Literally: My futokoro is cold.)

    Or, be a little poetic and say:

    • 懐が寂しい。
    • I have no cash.
      (Literally: My futokoro is feeling lonely and sad.)

    Oh, your poor futokoro! We should send some love to them. 👛❤️

    Similarly, you can also use "futokoro" when you pay out of pocket for something, like:

    • 懐が痛む。
    • I pay for it out of pocket.
      (Literally: My futokoro is hurting.)

    Paying for something with your own money is painful!

    You should be careful not to hurt your futokoro, so if you want to buy something but need to check your funds first, you say:

    • 懐と相談する。
    • I'll crunch some numbers.
      (Literally: I'll consult my futokoro.)

    This sentence is like saying your futokoro is your financial advisor and you have to ask them first, because they are the one who knows all about your money. It's cute how we personify a pocket, isn't it?

    And if you can't manage to get the money together on your own, you may need help:

    • 他人の懐をあてにする。
    • I count on others' money.
      (Literally: I rely on someone else's futokoro.)

    I hope you can find an excellent futokoro sponsor!

    You can use all the above expressions in both speaking and writing, so whenever you describe your financial situation, it's an opportunity for you to show off your new Japanese knowledge.

    Item Names With 懐

    You've learned money is one of the most common items people kept in their futokoro. So what else could be stored in there? As it turns out, all manner of things.

    From the Heian period (794-1192) on, Japanese people kept pieces of paper in their futokoro. These pieces of paper served an array of purposes, like blowing your nose, wiping away dirt, scribbling down notes, or serving snacks or food on them. Today, only the final use as a plate remains (especially for tea ceremonies). For a long time though, it was common to carry around this type of paper in your futokoro. Thereafter, the paper itself also adopted the kanji for futokoro (懐) and became known as 懐紙かいし (futokoro paper).

    Another thing people commonly carried around in their futokoro was a knife! Before the Meiji period (1868–1912) and back when samurai were around, there was still a lot of unrest in Japan. Since only samurai were allowed to carry around a long katana sword, you needed to have something else to protect yourself in case of an emergency, hence the dagger in your futokoro! The word for this short knife also uses the kanji 懐, and is called 懐剣かいけん (futokoro knife). Although now the word is a little old-fashioned, you may still see it in writing or TV show dramas set in the past.

    Sometimes people kept snacks in their futokoro too. For example, there is a traditional Japanese dessert called shiruko, which is sweetened adzuki (red bean) soup with rice cakes or rice flour dumplings. In the Edo period, an artisan invented an instant mini shiruko people could carry in their futokoro. This made it possible to make shiruko anywhere by just adding hot water to it. This wonderful invention was named 懐中汁粉かいちゅうじるこ (in-futokoro shiruko), to emphasize its portability and instant-ness.

    During the Meiji period and westernization of Japan, many western items became popular, especially among aristocrats. Pocket watches were one of them, and were made into the Japanese word 懐中時計かいちゅうどけい (in-futokoro watch). However, this was more of a direct translation of "pocket watch," since 懐 was seen as the equivalent of the English word "pocket." In reality though, most people kept their pocket watch in their obi belt, not in their futokoro.

    Since the essence of 懐中 was seen as "in your pocket," its meaning gradually expanded into just "portable." Because of that, you sometimes see it in item names that are utterly unrelated to futokoro, such as 懐中電灯かいちゅうでんとう (flashlight).

    It's interesting to learn how words develop, isn't it? The meaning of the word futokoro also expanded figuratively, so let's check out some of these figurative expressions next!

    Embracing Expressions with 懐

    a mother in kimono holding a baby in her arms

    Because futokoro was a pocket where you kept something important to you, it also came to represent a safe and warm place. So, although obviously a futokoro is not big enough for it, people would use the expression, "to carry one's baby in the futokoro," as in:

    • 赤ん坊を懐に抱く。
    • I carry my baby in my arms.
      (Literally: I carry the baby in my futokoro.)

    This expression does imply that you're holding the baby close to where your futokoro would be, but this sentence carries a richer meaning than that. The use of futokoro here indicates that the baby is under your protection and is being embraced in your arms.

    This nuance of protection extends even further. For example, if you grew up with a lot of care and protection from your parents, you can use 懐 and say:

    • 親の懐で何不自由なく育った。
    • I grew up under the care of my parents without any worries.
      (Literally: I grew up in the futokoro of my parents without any inconvenience.)

    In this case, it doesn't mean your parents always held you in their arms, of course. Instead, it expresses that your parents fostered you in the warm pocket of their embrace, not only financially but also emotionally.

    In the same way, if you grew up surrounded by nature, you can also use 懐 and say:

    • 大自然の懐に抱かれて育った。
    • I grew up in the embrace of nature.
      (Literally: I grew up in nature's futokoro.)

    Here, this example describes that you grew up safely while adventuring in nature. And that it was thanks to Mother Nature's embrace. Nature is a sort of special bubble, separate from the outside world. It was here, in the futokoro of Mother Nature, that you were raised.

    As you might have guessed, these expressions are more literary. Although some people might use them in speech, it's a lot more common in descriptive writing.

    Okay, now we're in the last section of our explanation of futokoro. Here, we'll explore some metaphorical uses!

    When wearing a kimono, the futokoro space is always located just over your こころ (heart) — the place where Japanese people believe your feelings and spontaneous thoughts come from.

    Thus, it was only natural they created expressions with futokoro that represent feelings and thoughts. For example, if someone is very generous and understanding, you can use 懐 and say:

    • 懐が深い。
    • They are very generous and understanding.
      (Literally: Their futokoro is deep.)

    Having a deep futokoro means you have a big heart, which makes you tolerant. It's similar to the English expression "open-minded." 1

    Let's take a look at another example. Imagine you have some secret on your mind and your partner knows something is up and guesses the secret. You can describe this situation using 懐, like:

    • 懐を見透かされた。
    • They read my mind.
      (Literally: They saw through my futokoro.)

    In this example, futokoro is your 心 (heart), where you keep your secrets, thoughts or feelings, and 見透かす means "to see through." The use of these two words together indicates that your futokoro is transparent and everything in there is visible. Maybe it was written all over your face, or in any case, you failed to conceal what was hidden beneath your futokoro.

    When wearing a kimono, the futokoro space is always located just over your 心 (heart).

    The next example is our final one. Let's say you join a new workplace and quickly figure out the relationships between people. You notice there is this behind-the-scenes leader who's practically in control of everything. Because you are skilled at finessing social and political situations, you successfully become close to this influential person and gain favor with them. To describe this situation, you can use 懐 and say:

    • 影の実力者の懐に入り込んだ。
    • I gained favor with the behind-the-scenes power player.
      (Literally: I sneaked into the futokoro of the behind-the-scenes leader.)

    Here, futokoro is the 心 (heart) of the leader and 入り込む means "to slip in." You are slipping into their heart. So this sentence suggests that you got the leader to open up to you with the most critical part of them — the core of their thoughts and feelings. It can even imply that you are in a position to manipulate the leader as you wish. Maybe someday, you'll be the real leader who can exercise power from the futokoro of the current leader. 2

    Keep it in Your Futokoro!

    Hey, that's all the futokoro expressions we've got for you here! There are quite a lot of phrases using 懐, aren't there? Don't worry if you can't remember them all at once, though! Just keep this article in your futokoro and come back for a peak whenever you forget and need a reminder.

    1. Sometimes you may hear other expressions, such as 懐が広い (one's futokoro is spacious) and 懐が大きい (one's futokoro is big), instead. However, these expressions are considered misuses of 懐が深い. 

    2. The phrase 懐に入り込む (or 懐に入る) has two other meanings. One is to gain control of someone's money. The other one is about martial arts and means positioning yourself a suitable distance away from your opponent to apply martial arts techniques.