Weaving Kumihimo into Your Name
Kumihimo, a form of artistic knotted braiding with a history embedded in religious practice and more recently as a finishing touch for kimono, is featured prominently in the record-breaking 2016 anime film Your Name (Kimi no na wa). Hitoha, the grandmother of heroine Miyamizu Mitsuha’s family, tells her grandchildren that kumihimo braiding is a kind of universal connector. In doing so, Hitoha connects kumihimo art and craft practices to the Shintō concept of musubi (tying or knotting). Hitoha declares to Mitsuha and her younger sister Yotsuha that: “Musubi is the way of calling the local guardian god. This word has profound meaning. Tying thread is musubi. Connecting people is musubi. The flow of time is musubi.” Musubi is the central philosophical thread running through the heart of Your Name, with kumihimo-style braiding tying its characters together with longstanding Japanese cultural traditions and a complicated, braided flow of time.
Mitsuha is visually connected to the hero of Your Name, Tachibana Taki, through a literal kumihimo cord, made by her family. Mitsuha and Taki pass the kumihimo cord between them, and it comes to symbolize their connection to one another. This connection is achieved as director Shinkai Makoto draws a parallel between Mitsuha’s kumihimo and wider Asian folkloric beliefs in a “red thread of destiny” that connects lovers from birth. The kumihimo that Mitsuha and Taki share becomes magical as the film unfolds, changing into a red thread of destiny, though its final knot and loose-end threads call back to the cord’s original kumihimo form. This quasi-magical, folkloric use of kumihimo imagery is the basis for some of Your Name’s most exciting, abstracted animation, as a comet threatening Mitsuha’s hometown of Itomori (which can itself be translated as ‘protecting threads’), transforms into Taki’s end of the red thread of destiny in a whirling transformation sequence.
These literal depictions of kumihimo in Your Name, however, are merely the surface additions to a deeper, interwoven set of musubi themes. Your Name's body-swap plot, which at first appears simply comedic, overlays and even conceals a quite complex layering of themes and allusions in the film. These include everything from 8th Century Manyōshu poetry and Heian-era tales, to Murakami Haruki short stories and the film’s popular namesakes in 1950s Japanese radio, film and television drama. Shinkai’s patchwork approach to narrative unites these threads to tell a story of two young people who find one another despite being separated by both time and space. As Shinkai’s approach of weaving together traditional and contemporary tales might suggest, Taki and Mitsuha’s adventures take place in a world that is painstakingly realist, but which is also set against representations of traditional Japanese literature, art and craft. It is this weaving process that helps to create depth in Your Name, giving Shinkai’s film an appeal that is tied inextricably together with the beauty and fantasy enabled by Japanese animation and traditional kumihimo arts.