Weekly Shiritori #4

Last week’s post was about Shikoku (しこく / 四国), so this week I need to start with く (ku). I didn’t get any suggestions from anyone this week, so I decided to be a bit old-school and search through the Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan which is in my office to get some inspiration. In the end, I decided to write about…

Kumihimo (くみひも / 組紐)

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The word ‘kumihimo‘ literally means ‘gathering of threads’, and it is the word for the traditional Japanese craft of braiding, and also the braided cords themselves. Many different fibres can be used to create a kumihimo braid, although silk is the traditional choice. According to the Kodansha Encyclopedia of Japan, “The number of component strands runs from four to several hundred, with each strand consisting of from twenty to more than two-hundred fine silk threads. Kumihimo is traditionally used as trim for amulet cases, ritual banners, priestly vestments, wrappings for sword hilts, and in armor as lacing, trim, shoulder straps, and belts. Today, well-dressed women use it in the form of the obidome, a decorative as well as functional band worn on obi.”  (Kodansha Ltd, First Edition, 1983)

In the image below you can see some strings tied over the obi (the thick fabric band wrapped around the woman’s middle), and an ornament decorated with flowers. The ornament is a kind of obidome, and the narrow braided belt is an obijime. Obijime are made using the kumihimo technique.

There are many different ways of braiding in the kumihimo style. Sometimes the braids will be flat, other times they will be round. Traditionally, leaded wooden bobbins are used in the making of kumihimo. Various devices are used: marudai (circular-top stool) (below), kakudai (square-top stool with overhead device), takadai (sit-in interlace loom), or ayatakedai (warp interlink loom).

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Nowadays, a firm but flexible plastic disk with notches is used.

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According to Hand made News, “It is becoming more and more common to see Kumihimo braids in jewellery creations. They make fabulous necklaces to hang ornate pendants off, as they are durable and can be customised however the creator wants, and can therefore be matched to the pendant, without distracting too much from the pendant.” Here’s an example of a bracelet:

(Image Source)

If you’re interested in trying out a bit of kumihimo, why not check out Japan Crafts’ Kumihimo Japanese Braiding Kit which is only £12.

Kumihimo (くみひも) ends with も (mo), so next week I will be looking for a noun beginning with “mo”. If you have any suggestions, please leave them below! And, don’t forget, no words ending in ん!  (^_^)v


Haikugirl’s Japan will be down for maintenance all day on Saturday 28th January. I’ll be back by Sunday with a whole new fresh and clean look, so please make sure to stop by! よろしくおねがいします!

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