In Imperial Japan, schoolgirls would stand around public places like department stores and hold white strips of cloth, and then female passersby would take turns making stitches with red thread on the cloth. Once one thousand different women have made knots or stitches on the cloth, then it becomes a Senninbari shinto amulet, a strip of cloth stitched a thousand times and given as Shinto amulets by the women to Imperial Japanese soldiers going away to war. The stitches may form patterns or images of flags, patriotic slogans, etc.
This photo was taken in front of the Whashin Department Store, an old landmark of Jongno-dong which was eventually demolished in 1987. You can see a passerby in a Korean-style chima dress making a stitch or knot on a white strip of cloth that is held by a schoolgirl in Monpe work pants.
Gyeongseong Ilbo (Keijo Nippo) November 13, 1943
Sending Senninbari Shinto amulets as parting gifts to clear the way for students marching off to battle
Students of women’s colleges and girls’ high schools in Seoul took to the streets to receive Senninnbari Shinto amulets as gifts of encouragement to the students marching off to battle. In the streets of Jongno-dong at Whashin Department Store, Mitsukoshi Department Store, Chojiya Department Store, and Honmachi-suji, beautiful whirlpools of people soon surrounded the maidens in school uniforms.
◇．．．Cotton cloth and threads were provided with the efforts of the Korean Federation of National Power. There was a woman in a Japanese kimono who poured her heart into stitching the amulets. She approached the students in a modest manner and asked them, “Are your brothers going off to war?” “Yes, the Korean students are all going off to war!” one student responded, looking at the knots on the amulet and bowing with gratitude, as if the woman had really sewn it for her brother.
◇．．．There were three working women who had apparently dropped by during their lunch break. As they took turns sewing and finished their stitches, all three of them stood upright and immobile, and then bowed politely to the Senninbari Shinto amulet that they had just stitched. They bowed silently, as if to say, “We wish you the best going off to war. We hope that you will perform many heroic deeds”. The recipient of the stitches returned the bow with a gleam in her eyes. It was a very moving scene. [Photo: In front of Whashin Department Store]