Modern kumihimo in Japan (1)

May 28, 2009

Mod kumi in Japan 1

Mobile/cell phone straps, hair clips, luggage tags… kumihimo in contemporary Japan is for the most part either machine-made obijime contracted out to Chinese factories or accessories such as these. The hair clips are available from a braiding-only shop in Sagano, NW Kyoto – less a shop and more a residence – and the range of colours available is stupendous. The rest were bought at the museum shop of the Kyoto Traditional Arts & Crafts Museum. The braids are not made on an ayataka-dai loom as you’d think at first, but in a braiding style peculiar to Kyoto and common as ‘ribbon’ for tying wooden square boxes: Sanada-himo. More on this later – though I’ve never seen or seen a picture of the loom used to make it. The braid on the far right is a typical cheap souvenir. The round braids literally glued on to the metal hair clip are silk and made on maru-dai; the green/copper braid of the luggage tag is obviously a flat taka-dai braid, as is the red/gold on the far right. The round braids on the hair clips have been knotted, musubi-style. As we know, kumihimo has a long history and responds quickly to change of purpose: from those used in 8th century and still extant in the Shosoin Collection to medieval samurai warrior lacing, to the sageo sword sashes of Edo Period, to the devastating downsizing at the end of the 19th century when swords were forbidden in public, to the rise of the obijime in the 20th century and the fall of the kimono/obi/obijime by the 21st.

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