Happi (はっぴ・ハッピ・法被・半被), usually black with lettering in white, are ubiquitous in Tenrikyo. Happi have become a type of semi-formal garment followers wear when worshiping at church or participating in church events. It also serves as uniforms for students at Tenri Seminary and Shuyoka.
Happi also serve to identify followers’ church affiliations. The most common form of happi has the follower’s directly-supervised church name (usually grand church) on the left (outside) lapel and affiliated church name on the right (inside) lapel. If the follower’s directly-supervised church is a grand church, then the name will found on both lapels.
The Yoboku's Guide to Tenrikyo contains the following explanation:
- We may wear happi coats as a semi-formal garment to participate in various events organized in the Home of the Parent.... we may use happi coats when we attend the morning and evening services or the regular services at Church Headquarters and local churches, practice the hand movements and the musical instruments for the service, and participate in study meetings on the teachings.
Happi have traditionally been worn by Japanese carpenters, scaffolding workers, as well as employees at inns and department stores. Also called shirushi-banten (印半纏), they were used as firefighters' attire in the premodern era and are still associated with town festivals such as Bon dances.
The first time happi are said to have been worn in Tenrikyo was in 1889. Two followers of Akitsu Church (now grand church) came up with the idea of making happi for a hinokishin activity that comprised of some earth-carrying that several hundred followers were about to do for a road construction project.
The happi they made were dyed sky blue. A portion of each happi was left undyed so it would display the character “Ten” (天) stretching from the back to the sleeves in white.
Records reveal that the sight of followers wearing happi while engaging in hinokishin at construction sites began increasing in the late 1900s. In 1920, the Tenri Seminary Special Course (Bekka) adopted the use of happi during hinokishin activities. Thus happi were originally mainly worn for hinokishin activities.
Most of the happi worn during this time either had the “Ten” design on the back with the wearer’s church affiliation or just the church name alone in large characters. In 1927, a decision was passed at a meeting at Church Headquarters to standardize all happi so they would have “Tenrikyo” written in kanji on the back. Nevertheless, it took some time before such happi became widespread.
In 1934, an article concerning happi was added to The Constitution of Tenrikyo, decreeing that happi be called “hinokishin garments,” read “Tenrikyo” on the back, and bear the wearer’s church affiliation on both lapels.
It was only after World War II when happi came to be worn in other situations other than hinokishin activities. Also, happi bearing the "Tenrikyo" signage in script other than kanji became available as well.