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Basic Information

The Senninbari (Jap. "Thousand Stitches") is a Japanese amulet, usually worn as a belt, sash or occasionally a headband that consists of a piece of cloth, embroidered with a thousand stitches and said to protect the wearer from harm in battle. Traditionally the piece would be started by the wearer's mother, sister or wife but then each additional stitch had to made by a different woman (although some traditions allowed multiple stitches in some circumstances). The most common format was red thread on white cloth (thought to be lucky and echoing the colours of the Imperial flag) but other combinations were possible. The stitches could simply be arranged in rows, but more ambitious designs could include auspicious images such as tigers, traditional blessings or patriotic slogans. Alternatively, the designs could be painted onto the cloth before or after the sewing. Locks of hair, coins and other items could also be sewn into the belt.


1. full source reference

Game and Story Use

  • Could be a useful magic item in a low-magic campaign, although with significant barriers to acquiring one (and would stick a pin in the common player tactic of avoiding giving their characters any family or dependents).
    • How they work will be dependent on the game system - some kind of luck bonus or a passive defence buff against ranged weapons would seem appropriate.
    • The limited transferability could be a balance to the fact that any woman could potentially make one (assuming 999 other women's assistance).
      • Alternatively, very few work - possibly only those started or designed by a woman with natural magical talent (certainly a lot of them were recovered from dead Japanese soldiers in WW2) - but the ones that have done have made the legend for the rest.
      • Spirit assistance could be an issue given the animistic character of Japanese folk-religion - perhaps the Kami need to get in on the making, perhaps by having one of the numerous shape-shifters of Japanese myth amongst the women making the stitches, or one of the women being a Miko.
  • Easily transferred to other cultures - a medieval European knight, for example, would often wear a favour given to him by his lady and the tradition could easily be applied to these.
    • In point of fact, several other cultures have direct equivalents, including several African examples and the Amerindian "Ghost Shirt".
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