Japanese kumihimo, braided decorative cords, date back to the Asuka period when they were associated with Buddhist alter decorations and scripture, and seem to have come to Japan along with Buddhism. In the Heian period when aristocratic culture flourished, kumihimo became a part of formal dress for nobility as well as decorative pieces attached to swords.
After the Kamakura period when the samurai class rose, these cords served as functional tools for military equipment such as sageo used to bind samurai armor, swords, and helmets. With the burgeoning merchant culture of the Edo period, kumihimo became more common, and their use expanded into decorative cords to hold kimono belts in place as well as for netsuke, which are hand-carved clasps used to hold small pouches to belts.
Kumihimo techniques developed further with the weaving machines that could braid colorful patterns. In contrast to the braided cords common to Kyoto, which have elegant colors developed from the background of court society, the special feature of Tokyo Braided Cords is their nonchalant yet profound hues influenced by samurai and merchant cultures. The colors that reflect Japan’s four seasons dazzle with delicate patterns. Craftsmen of this trade reveal their skill by making kumihimo that maintain shape when tied, yet are not rigid. They pay close attention to the intersection of threads as well. Today, as Japanese clothing has taken a backseat to its Western counterpart, one can see kumihimo in neckties and cufflinks as well. More novel items such as dog leashes continue to evolve into the purview of the master weavers as they look for new ways to display their skills. Japan’s cord weaving techniques are unparalleled, and the precision, beauty, and strength of Tokyo Braided Cords put them at the top of the top.