Kumihimo at the Royal Armouries Museum: Talk and Demonstration
Discover the historical connections between kumihimo braided cords and Japanese armour during a special talk and demonstration by Dōmyō Kiichirō at the Royal Armouries Museum in Leeds coinciding with Japan House London’s new exhibition Kumihimo: Japanese Silk Braiding by Domyo.
Kumihimo (lit. ‘joined or constructed threads’) are finely braided cords with a long history in Japan. Nowadays most often associated with obijime, the decorative cord that secures the obi sash of a woman’s kimono, kumihimo once played an important decorative and functional role in the construction of Japanese armour.
Surrounded by the Royal Armouries’ impressive collection of Japanese arms and armour, 10th-generation head of the Domyo workshop, Dōmyō Kiichirō, explains how intricate kumihimo cords were used to lace together the platelets of Japanese armour and as decorative ties and bindings for sword scabbards. Accompanying the presentation, Domyo expert braider Yamaguchi Keiko gives a demonstration of the kumihimo braiding process, showing how hand-dyed silk threads are bound together to create complex and intricate patterns using a marudai braiding stand.
Domyo is a workshop located in the old shopping and entertainment district of Ueno in central Tokyo, which has been making braided silk cords by hand since 1652. As a cord merchant in the Edo period (1603-1868 CE), Domyo primarily produced cords for sword scabbards and handles, and from the Meiji period (1868-1912 CE) it focused on obijime for kimono obi sashes, and haorihimo for tying the open-chested haori jacket. To this day, all their products are hand-dyed and braided by their in-house craftsmen and women.
Another important aspect of Domyo’s work is research into historical kumihimo. For over one hundred years since the Meiji period, members of the Domyo workshop have conducted surveys of historical kumihimo across Japan and have completed the study, restoration and replication of nearly all kumihimo known in the country. Building on the technological expertise gained from over 1,500 years of development in Japanese kumihimo, Domyo is continually creating innovative compositional structures with new potential. Dōmyō Kiichirō was appointed the tenth president of Domyo in 2012.