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Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Mizuhiki-zaiku decorative paper cords

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Mizuhiki (binding twine or paper cord decorations) were first developed and used in Kyoto in the Heian period (794-1185). They were originally used as a kind of hair decoration for members of the imperial family and court. Later in the Muromachi period (1333-1568), mizuhiki began to be used as a kind of gift wrapping, featuring red cords on the right and white cords on the left.

They came into common use in the Meiji period (1868-1912) as kind of decoration for weddings, funerals and other important life events. Both the gift wrapping and ceremonial decorative form continue to be used today. Highly professional skills and long experience is needed to make these decorations well and quickly. Kyoto has always been and continues to be the leading center for mizuhiki.

Mizuhiki
Decorative rittai-kazari mizuhiki
There are two basic kinds of mizuhiki. The first is the two-dimensional decorative binding twine, called hira-kazari, which is placed around thick, white washi paper money envelopes for weddings, celebrating the birth of a child, and funerals. The second kind are the elaborate and often brightly colored three-dimensional rittai-kazari, based on animal or plant designs, which are generally used only for weddings.

A hira-kazari mizuhiki and envelope for a wedding.
A hira-kazari mizuhiki and envelope for a wedding
The process of making mizuhiki begins by twisting Japanese washi paper into strings. The strings are then bound fast together with rice glue, and either dyed, or wrapped with gold and silver leaf or silk threads, according to the intended use. Finally, the strings are cut to the appropriate length, and woven into their final form. Though most of these processes are performed by machines today, the weaving of the actual decoration, which involves a wide rage of complex folds, bends, twists and loose knots, is still done exclusively by hand.

A hira-kazari mizuhiki for a funeral in Japan.
A hira-kazari mizuhiki for a funeral in Japan
If you are interested in seeing the wonders of mizuhiki, visit any Japanese paper craft shop, or ask for them at major department stores. You can also find envelopes with mizuhiki attached at any convenience store (red and white for celebrations; black and white for funerals).

Written by Ian Ropke, founder and owner of Your Japan Private Tours: personalized quality private travel services all over Japan since 1992. To learn more, visit our site (www.kyoto-tokyo-private-tours.com) or call us on +1-415-230-0579.

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