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Kumihimo braid
A marudai stand featuring a partially finished kumihimo, weighted with a tama (lit.'egg') weight to keep tension whilst weaving

Kumihimo (組み紐) is a traditional Japanese artform of making braids and cords. In the past, kumihimo decorations were used as accessories for kimono as well as samurai armor.[1] Literally meaning "gathered threads", kumihimo are made by interlacing reels of yarn, commonly silk, with the use of traditional, specialised looms – either a marudai (丸台, lit.'round stand') or a takadai (高台) (also known as a kōdai).

There are a number of different styles of kumihimo weaving, which variously create a braided cord ranging from very flat to almost entirely rounded. Kumihimo cords are used as obijime, cords worn belted around the front of some obi when wearing kimono.


Kumihimo was introduced to Japan from China via the Korean peninsula around 700 AD.[2][3] When the art first arrived in Japan, it was used to decorate Buddhist scrolls and other votive items. The city of Nara emerged as a centre of cultural and artistic exchange and became the point of introductory of kumihimo to Japan.[4]

Kumihimo braids were first created by using fingerloop braiding to weave different yarns together. Later, tools such as the marudai and the takadai were developed, allowing more complex braids to be woven in a shorter amount of time.

In the present day, modern variations of kumihimo weaving discs exist, typically made of firm, dense foam with (typically) 32 notches around the edge, creating the tension necessary for weaving kumihimo. These discs are considered to be a more affordable and portable alternative to a traditional marudai, with many different sizes and shapes of disc available for purchase.

However, a modern foam kumihimo disc is considered less versatile than a traditional marudai. A traditional marudai allows the weaver to use as many yarns of as many thicknesses as desired, and to create braids which are flat, four sided, or hollow. A foam kumihimo disc constrains the weaver to no more than 32 yarns that must not be thicker than the notch allows, and does not enable the creation of flat braids. To make a flat braid a separate rectangular or square "disc" must be made or purchased.

The most prominent historical use of kumihimo was by samurai, as a functional and decorative way to lace their lamellar armour and their horses' armor (barding). Kumihimo cords are now used as ties on haori jackets and as obijime, used to hold some obi knots in place or to decorate the obi when wearing kimono.


The three prominent types of kumihimo are kado-uchi himo (角打ち紐), hira-uchi himo (平打紐), and maru-uchi himo (丸打紐).[2]

Tama bobbins

Related terms[edit]

  • Kagami – the top braiding surface on a marudai; Japanese for "mirror".
  • Kongō Gumi – a class of patterns for round cord all involving eight threads folded in half for a total of sixteen strands. In clockwise order, each bobbin is moved to the opposite side. When different combinations of thread color are used, many interesting patterns emerge, including diagonal stripes, diamonds on a background, triangles resembling hearts, and tiny six-petalled flowers.
  • Marudai or maru dai – the frame for the braiding; maru dai Japanese for "round stand".
  • Mizuhiki, decorative cords used to decorate objects such as shūgi-bukuro envelopes.
  • Obijime – the broad cloth sash used in traditional dress; a kumihimo belt, called the obijime, is tied around the obi.
  • Takadai – a takadai is a large, rectangular frame for creating flat, oblique kumihimo braids.
  • Tamabobbins. The thread is kept from unwinding by passing the thread under itself, forming a loop around the tama. True silk is a hollow fiber with a rough surface that resists slipping past the loop unless gently pulled. For synthetic fibers, a flexible plastic "clamshell" bobbin may be preferable.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Duffy, Vincent G. (2016-07-04). Digital Human Modeling: Applications in Health, Safety, Ergonomics and Risk Management: 7th International Conference, DHM 2016, Held as Part of HCI International 2016, Toronto, ON, Canada, July 17-22, 2016, Proceedings. Springer. pp. 132–133. ISBN 978-3-319-40247-5.
  2. ^ a b ""Kumihimo": Intricate and Highly Functional Braided Cords from Japan That Continue to Evolve in the Present Day". Web Japan. Retrieved 29 January 2024.
  3. ^ "Connecting the Atlantic and the Indo-Pacific | Events". JAPAN HOUSE (Los Angeles). Retrieved 2024-01-29.
  4. ^ "The Origins of Kumihimo: Talk by Mita Kakuyuki". Japan House London. Retrieved 2024-01-29.

External links[edit]