Iga braided cords Iga kumihimo
The finest artisan skills
Beautiful cords of silk and gold and silver
What is Iga braided cords ?
Iga Kumihimo are braided cords made in Mie Prefecture. Silk threads are mainly used often in combination with gold and silver threads.
Iga Kumihimo hand-braided cords are well-known for their rich silk threads, dyed in a vibrant range of colors, and their outstanding craftsmanship. They have a distinctive texture arising from the tactile nature of the braided interwoven silk threads and a gorgeous visual fascination created by the sheen of silk.
Iga Kumihimo have a centuries old history and the skills and continually evolving designs have been handed down through many generations of craftsmen. Nowadays, obi sash ties and other kimono accessories are seen as representing traditional Japanese culture, but in keeping with modern life, new Iga Kumihimo products such as mobile phone straps are also found in many shops. Hands-on classes in the region’s workshops are very popular with visitors for making such familiar and everyday items as key rings or bracelets.
The techniques of cord braiding were first introduced from the Asian mainland along with Buddhism, and kumihimo or braided cords were mainly used for decorating scriptures and the kesa robes worn by Buddhist priests. After the capital was transferred to the Heian Palace, kumihimo were essential as accessories for sokutai, the formal court dress of the aristocracy; even with the passage of time, still today the kuo no obi (cord used to fasten a sword) are much appreciated for their highly artistic designs and quality.
In the Kamakura period (1192-1333), kumihimo were also used to adorn samurai weapons and armor. In the Muromachi period (1336-1573), they became popular as decorative cords for tea ceremony utensils, and were known and admired across Japan. In the Warring States period (1467-1568), they were a functional and decorative part of armor, and in the Edo period (1603-1868) were an essential part of sword scabbards. The highly competitive craftsmen making armor and personal ornaments under the patronage of the Edo Shogunate spurred each other on, thus improving techniques and skills. The number of braiding techniques also increased, and kumihimo came to be used as cords on pill boxes, haori (half-coats), or tobacco cases. The coming of the Meiji period (1868-1912) was truly the end of a golden era, as the law banning the wearing of swords by samurai had a catastrophic effect on production.