The stunningly functional and aesthetic cords used in samurai armour and the kimono of the noble classes appeal to the world

Excellent knots created by the country of cords

 The cord is made by combining countless threads together. There are three ways to do this. Twisted cord is made by twisting the threads together, like with ordinary rope. Ribbon cord is made by weaving vertical and horizontal cords together, while a braid is made by crossing thread bundles at an angle. Japan is said to have highly advanced techniques for making cords and a significant history and culture compared to other countries. In particular, Japan is known for its highly functional and aesthetic "kumihimo" braiding that is far superior to other countries', and which has been adopted by global fashion brands.
 The Japanese have used kumihimo since long ago as a way to tie things together and to hold onto things. It is part of Japanese culture. The armour used by samurai warriors in battle, for example, was made of countless pieces of protective metal held together with strong yet pliable kumihimo cords.
 The ratio of metal to cords was about 3:7 -- in other words, there was much more cord in the armour than metal. The kumihimo needed to be durable but also flexible, with the ability to stretch and contract as needed. This had a direct bearing on the samurai's ability to wield the sword and spear effectively. A samurai's armour was also an expression of his personality, and sophisticated designs made of high-quality kumihimo were graceful.

Edo Kumihimo, the quintessential Edo chic

 In the Edo era, kumihimo braided cord was used on a variety of common objects, from decorative finishes on swords to sash bands and ties for half-coats, and on personal seals and tobacco pouches. Kumihimo production flourished around the country, typically reflecting the culture of the local regions. In Edo (modern-day Tokyo), the samurai and the townspeople created Edo Kumihimo, the quintessential embodiment of Edo chic.
 Ryukobo is a long-standing family business that has been supplying the Imperial Household and leading Kabuki actors with kumihimo products for 130 years. Fifth-generation owner Ryuta Fukuda describes Edo Kumihimo braiding as "an intriguing cross between sophisticated and stylish on the one hand and unrefined on the other. The sophisticated appeal is in the laid-back and unobtrusive look. You can wear it with anything. Unrefined is the opposite. Edo Kumihimo has got a rough and ready aesthetic that comes across as calm and unruffled."
 There are many types of Edo Kumihimo. Ryukobo uses a variety of traditional techniques to produce a wide range of shapes and about 350 different patterns. Edo Kumihimo is made on dedicated stands, such as the marudai braiding table. Every time the worker carefully inserts a bundle of threads, the wooden weights on the ends come together with a gentle click-clack sound that reverberates through the workshop. Each worker ties the bundles together with a slightly different amount of force. Apparently, workers can tell who tied the bundle from how it looks. Fukuda says that he personally likes the kumihimo to feel thick and full.

Artistic license using traditional techniques

 While producing a range of traditional items such as sash bands, Ryukobo also makes novelty items such as a 5,000-meter-long kumihimo piece for the global high brand show window and a kumihimo recreation that appeared in a Japanese anime movie that is popular all over the world. Ryukobo has also created an extra-strong kumihimo cord that utilizes the elongation properties of braiding and can hold weights of over 4,000 kg. Ryukobo kumihimo cords were also used on the medals at the 2019 Rugby World Cup, and as camera neck straps.
 "Many of the traditional arts and crafts that have survived to this day in Japan were originally used to produce common everyday items," says Fukuda. "They often used the latest technology of the time. And the combination of utility and aesthetic beauty has stood the test of time, which is why we still have them today. Edo Kumihimo is the perfect example: useful but also attractive in appearance. At Ryukobo, we are committed to preserving this wonderful tradition, while at the same time updating it with a sense of individuality for the modern era."
 Edo Kumihimo is normally made from silk yarn. But Fukuda has been experimenting with different materials, such as wood, stainless steel, and leather. As part of his drive to create useful everyday items, he has made a bracelet from a phosphorescent cord material that stores light during the day and glows at night. It's like a wearable security device.
 "Back in the old days, silk yarn was the latest technology and it was widely embraced," explains Fukuda. "But now we have access to so many different functional materials. I'm keen to think outside the box. I'll try braiding anything and everything... except air and water, maybe."
 In this way, Ryukobo seeks to fuse the past and the present, creating exciting new forms of value by transforming the ancient art of Edo Kumihimo.