Braided cord (組み紐)

Braided cord is the traditional Japanese craft, a cord made by interlacing fine silk threads and cotton yarns.
Braided cord is classified broadly into three categories: 'square braid,' ribbon-like 'flat braid' and 'round braid.'

It came upon the introduction of Buddhism to Japan as a decorative cord for accessories of butsugu ({Buddhist altar fittings}), Buddhist scriptures and scrolls. In the Nara period, braided kimono sashes made from fine color threads became popular as a formal dress for men and women; it was used as a part of arms in the Kamakura period, and as a decorative cord for the tea ceremony in the Azuchi-momoyama period. In this period, as Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI encouraged arts and crafts, people who made a profession out of producing braided cord emerged. Even now, the braided cord business is prospering traditionally in the Iga Province and other areas.

In the early Edo period, 内規台 for braided cord production was created and more beautiful colors and patterns were also invented. Sanada-himo braid' and 'Sanbu-himo braid' which had spread into the male-centered samurai society were extensively used for decoration, etc. of arms and swords and were considered one of items demonstrating samurai's sense of beauty and dandyism. During the Bunka era (1804 to 1817) in the late Edo period, it came to be used also as a obijime (decorative string used to hold a kimono sash in place) for women. These braided cord products had been one-of-a-kind handicrafts created by master craftsmen, but a braided cord machine for industrial use was imported from Barmen, Germany in 1882, making braided cord manufacturing an industry. Although the demand for braided cord as a decoration of swords had been diminished after the decree banning the wearing of swords in the Meiji period, it became established as a kimono accessory used mainly for obijime.

At present, there is a case of fusion between traditional industrial arts and Western culture, and U.S. sports brand Nike adopted 'Sanbu-himo braid' as strings of its sports shoes. The long-established braided cord store in Kyoto which received this offer from Nike had once declined it for the reasons of preservation of tradition and a lack of precedent, but accepted it later and the innovative shoes were released in 2001.

Now, you can learn the braided cord technique as a handicraft in culture schools having such equipment.

[Original Japanese]