What Is Japanese Braids? Unveiling the Intricacies of Kumihimo

Japanese braids, also known as Kumihimo, are a traditional form of braiding that originated in Japan.

This intricate art form has been passed down through generations and has become an integral part of Japanese culture.

Whether you are a curious enthusiast or an aspiring braider, this article will provide you with a deep understanding of the captivating world of Kumihimo.

The term “Japanese braids” doesn’t have a universally agreed-upon definition.

However, It’s Often Used To Refer To Two Main Braiding Traditions From Japan:


  1. The intricate braiding technique that produces cords and straps.
  2. It uses a specialized loom or disk to interlace multiple strands of thread.
  3. Historically used for samurai armor and sword handles, now for accessories and crafts.

Traditional Japanese Hairstyles:

  1. Various hairstyles incorporate braiding techniques.
  2. Often feature intricate patterns and styles.
  3. May use accessories like ribbons or kanzashi (hair ornaments) 

History and Origins

The origins of Japanese braiding can be traced back to ancient Japan, where it was primarily used for practical purposes such as securing clothing and armor.

Over time, the technique evolved into an art form and was used to create decorative cords for various occasions and ceremonies.

Kumihimo gained popularity during the Heian period (794-1185) when it was adopted as a court craft.

The braids were often made using silk threads and adorned with gold and silver metallic threads. These elaborate cords were used to accessorize garments worn by nobles and members of the imperial court.

Techniques and Styles

2.1 Maru-dai Kumihimo

Maru-dai Kumihimo is one of the most common techniques used in Japanese braiding. It involves using a round braiding stand called a maru-dai, which consists of a wooden or plastic frame with holes around its perimeter.

The threads are arranged on weighted bobbins and woven together using a variety of patterns and movements.

2.2 Kakudai Kumihimo

Kakudai Kumihimo, also known as square plate braiding, is another popular technique in Japanese braiding.

Unlike maru-dai Kumihimo, which uses a round stand, kakudai Kumihimo utilizes a square plate with slots or prongs. The threads are threaded through the slots and braided by moving them in specific sequences.

2.3 Takadai Kumihimo

Takadai Kumihimo is a more advanced technique that requires a specialized stand called a takadai.

This technique allows for the creation of intricate patterns and designs by incorporating multiple layers of threads.

Takadai Kumihimo braids are often used for more complex projects such as obijime (sashes for traditional kimonos) and decorative cords for tea ceremonies.

Tools and Materials

To create Japanese braids, several tools and materials are essential. Let’s explore each of them:

3.1 Braiding Stands

Braiding stands play a crucial role in Japanese braiding techniques. The maru-dai, kakudai, and takadai are the most commonly used stands.

Each stand has unique features and is suited for different braids.

3.2 Bobbins

Bobbins are small cylindrical objects that hold the threads during the braiding process. They come in different materials like wood, plastic, or metal.

The weight of the bobbins affects the tension and tightness of the braid.

3.3 Threads

Traditionally, silk threads were used for Japanese braiding due to their strength, flexibility, and lustrous appearance.

However, modern practitioners also utilize other materials, such as nylon, rayon, or metallic threads, to achieve different effects and textures.

3.4 Kumihimo Disks

Kumihimo disks are portable tools that can be used for simple braiding projects. They are made of foam or sturdy plastic and have slots where the threads are inserted.

While they are not as versatile as the dedicated stands mentioned earlier, they offer a more accessible entry point for beginners.

Patterns and Designs

Japanese braiding offers an endless array of patterns and designs that can be created by combining different thread colors, textures, and techniques.

Here are some popular patterns commonly used in Kumihimo:

4.1 Hira-nami (Flat Waves)

Hira-nami is a basic pattern that creates flat waves running across the length of the braid. It is achieved by repeating a specific sequence of movements while braiding.

4.2 Yatsu-gumi (Eight-strand Braid)

Yatsu-gumi is an eight-strand braid that forms a square-like pattern. It is created by positioning the threads in a specific order and following a predetermined sequence of movements.

4.3 Kongoh-gumi (Round Braid)

Kongoh-gumi is a round braid pattern that creates a spiral-like effect. It is achieved by alternating the movement of the threads in a specific pattern.

4.4 Kaku-yatsu-gumi (Square Eight-strand Braid)

Kaku-yatsu-gumi combines elements of the Yatsu-gumi and Kongoh-gumi patterns to create a square-shaped braid.

Applications of Japanese Braids

Japanese braids find various applications in different aspects of Japanese culture and beyond. Let’s explore some common uses:

5.1 Traditional Clothing Accessories

Japanese braids are often used as decorative cords for traditional clothing, such as kimonos and obis (sashes). They add an elegant touch to these garments and are often crafted with intricate patterns and designs.

5.2 Jewelry

Japanese braids can be transformed into stunning jewelry such as bracelets, necklaces, and earrings. These pieces often incorporate beads or other embellishments to enhance their aesthetic appeal.

5.3 Home Decor

Braided cords can create beautiful home decor items like curtain tiebacks, tassels, or keychains. They add a touch of traditional Japanese aesthetics to any space.

5.4 Crafts and DIY Projects

Japanese braiding techniques can be applied to various crafts and DIY projects, such as bag handles, belts, bookmarks, or dog leashes. The versatility of Kumihimo makes it a popular choice among craft enthusiasts.


Japanese braiding, or Kumihimo, is an ancient art form that continues to captivate people with its intricate patterns and designs.

From its rich history to its diverse techniques and applications, this traditional craft embodies the essence of Japanese culture.

Whether you are interested in exploring this art form or appreciating its beauty, Japanese braids offer endless possibilities for creativity and self-expression. So why not embark on your own Kumihimo journey today?


Is Japanese braiding difficult to learn?

While Japanese braiding techniques may seem complex at first, with practice and patience, anyone can learn the art of Kumihimo. Starting with simpler patterns and gradually progressing to more intricate designs will help you build your skills and confidence.

What materials are needed to start Japanese braiding?

To start with Japanese braiding, you will need a braiding stand (such as a maru-dai or kakudai), bobbins, threads (such as silk or synthetic), and various accessories like scissors and weights.

Can I use different types of threads for Japanese braiding?

Yes, you can experiment with different types of threads to achieve different effects and textures in your braids. While silk threads are traditional, modern practitioners often use nylon, rayon, or metallic threads to add uniqueness to their creations.

Are there any traditional patterns in Japanese braiding?

Yes, there are several traditional patterns used in Japanese braiding, such as hira-nami (flat waves), yatsu-gumi (eight-strand braid), Kongo-gumi (round braid), and kaku-yatsu-gumi (square eight-strand braid). These patterns can be combined or modified to create countless variations.

What can I make with Japanese braids?

Japanese braids have a wide range of applications. They are used as decorative cords for traditional clothing like kimonos and obis. Additionally, they can be transformed into jewelry pieces and home decor items or incorporated into various crafts and DIY projects.

Where can I learn Japanese braiding techniques?

There are several resources available to learn Japanese braiding. You can find instructional books, online tutorials, and even join workshops or classes taught by experienced braiders. These resources will guide you through the techniques, patterns, and tools used in Kumihimo.

Can I create my own unique designs in Japanese braiding?

Absolutely! Once you have a good understanding of the basic techniques and patterns, you can unleash your creativity and experiment with different color combinations, bead placement, and thread textures to create your own unique designs.

Is Japanese braiding only practiced in Japan?

While Japanese braiding originated in Japan, it has gained popularity worldwide. Many people around the globe practice Kumihimo as a hobby or incorporate it into their crafts. There are also international organizations and associations dedicated to preserving and promoting this traditional art form.

What are some tips for beginners in Japanese braiding?

For beginners, it is recommended to start with simple patterns and gradually progress to more complex designs. Take your time to understand the basic techniques, practice regularly, and don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Joining online communities or local groups can also provide valuable guidance and support on your braiding journey.

Can I sell my Japanese braided creations?

Yes! If you enjoy creating Japanese braids, you can certainly sell your creations. There is a market for handmade jewelry, accessories, home decor items, and other products incorporating Kumihimo. Platforms like Etsy or local craft fairs can be great avenues to showcase and sell your work.

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