【Introduction to Traditional Crafts】 ~Iga Kumihimo (Mie Prefecture)~
2022.11.25 About Japan's Traditional Crafts
【Production area of Iga Kumihimo】
Iga City, Nabari City, etc. in Mie Prefecture
【What is Iga Kumihimo?】
The main material is silk thread, and it is a “kumihimo” that uses gold and silver threads for braiding.
It is a string that is finely and beautifully assembled with traditionally used braiding stands such as Kakudai, Marudai, Takadai, and Ayatakedai.
The technique of Iga Kumihimo came from the continent along with Buddhism about 1,500 years ago.
In its long history, it has been handed down by craftsmen for generations, and has evolved to the present day.
In December 1976, it was designated as a traditional craft.
The movie released in 2016 “Your name.”, there is a scene in which the main character, Mitsuha, braids a braid, and it suddenly came into the spotlight.
【Features of Iga Kumihimo】
The biggest feature is the beauty of the shining appearance.
Various colors are used, so it is colorful, and the silk thread that is carefully assembled one by one shines well in the light.
In addition, “hand braided cords”, which are assembled by hand rather than by machine, are known to the world.
The craftsmen are proactive in developing products that match the times, and the product lineup is abundant.
In addition to traditional Japanese kimono sashes and sash band, cell phone straps, key chains, earrings, and necklaces are on sale.
The craftsmen continue to disseminate information on “Iga Kumihimo”, in order to further increase awareness not only in the local area, but also by holding hands-on classes mainly for tourists.
【History of Iga Kumihimo】
It has a long history, and the technique of Iga Kumihimo was introduced from the continent about 1,500 years ago.
At that time, it is said to have been used to decorate Buddhist teachings and robes worn by monks.
Even after the capital was moved to Heian-kyo about 1,200 years ago, it was valued as an ornament for the formal attire of the emperor and nobles who served the imperial court.
Since then, the Kuo Obi, which uses Iga Kumihimo, continues to be highly regarded for its artistic quality, and is still used today.
In the Kamakura period, Iga Kumihimo came to be used not only by aristocrats but also by samurai.
Also, in the Muromachi period, it came to be used for decoration cords of tea utensils.
Because of the spread of tea culture among the common people, Iga Kumihimo’s popularity increased rapidly.
During the Sengoku period, it was used to decorate the armor worn by samurai during battle.
In the Edo period, it also came to be used as a decorative string for Japanese swords.
In this way, it came to be used widely from samurai to common people, and the craftsmen competed with each other, and the technology advanced greatly.
As a result, a new braiding method was developed, and it came to be used as a string for many daily necessities such as inro.
In 1876, the ban on swords was issued, and the demand for decorative cords for Japanese swords disappeared.
Due to the influence of the times, Iga Kumihimo was faced with a difficult environment.
However, craftsmen have adapted to the trends of the times, such as developing products that match people’s lifestyles.
Traditional techniques will continue to be handed down to future generations and protected.
【Production process of Iga Kumihimo】
Thread splitting is preparing the amount of silk thread needed to complete the work.
Follow the steps below.
・Weigh as many strings as you plan to make
・Based on “one piece of kimono sashes”, divide the weight into the number of pieces to be created
While looking at the finished product with the design they want to make, the craftsman dyes it so that there are no unevenness.
In order to make the color exactly as shown in the color sample, the craftsmen repeat the delicate work of “mixing the dye” and “soaking the thread in the dye solution”.
By repeating this process, it is possible to achieve an accurate color.
Depending on the work, the expression of “blurring” is necessary, but it can be said that it is a work that requires the skill of a skilled craftsman.
The dye used for dyeing is 7 colors.
The color is completely different depending on the mixing ratio, so all judgments are left to the craftsmen.
Each craftsman’s skills, as well as the experience and intuition they have cultivated, will be used to create the desired color.
The dyed thread is wound around a small frame using a tool called “zakuri”.
④Work to adjust the number, length, color, etc. of the bundled thread
The thread wound on the small frame is wound on a dedicated frame.
At this time, the craftsman will match the “length” and “number (weight)” necessary for assembly.
Twist the threads prepared in step ④ using a twisting wheel (haccho).
Each ball of thread with a different braiding taste is distinguished and used when assembling.
Depending on the type of braid, the craftsmen use different braiding stands to assemble the threads.
The main types of braid and braiding stands are as follows.
・ Braids: 3 types of “round braids”, “flat braids” and “square braids”
・ Braiding stands: 4 types of “square stand”, “round stand”, “high stand” and “ayatakedai”
The number of Braids shops, which numbered more than 80 in the Meiji era, and the number of Kumiko, who actually braid Kumihimo, continue to decline.
As a result, hand braided cords are becoming very rare.
Under these circumstances, Iga Kumihimo accounts for 90% of the nationwide production of hand-braided braids.
Today, mass production has become possible through the use of “string making machines.”
The threads are carefully loosened one by one by hand and the tufts are tightly tied with threads.
The tufts made in this way are then steamed to create a beautiful shape.
Finally, use the “rolling stand” to adjust the stitches and the Iga Kumihimo is complete.
As we have introduced so far, Iga Kumihimo is carefully made by craftsmen using their skills and time.
And the sash band made from Iga Kumihimo is characterized by its high density weaving.
Not only does it look beautiful, it is easy to tighten and is very comfortable to wear.