The Origins of Kumihimo: Talk by Mita Kakuyuki


Watch a recording of the event in the player above.

Trace the historical development of decorative silk braiding in Japan, while exploring exquisite examples of early kumihimo textiles with an online talk by Mita Kakuyuki, curator at the Nara National Museum. 

The techniques that are the direct precursors of modern kumihimo find their principal origins outside Japan, in the cultural exchange enabled by the trade routes known as the Silk Roads. The centrally located imperial capital of Nara, in particular, emerged as a centre for cultural and artistic exchange, and silk braiding techniques brought there from Korea and China from the 5th and 6th centuries CE became the foundation for a continuing and flourishing tradition in Japan. 

During the event, Mita Kakuyuki discusses these historical roots of kumihimo while introducing a number of early kumihimo examples, modelled on continental Asian cords, which can be found in the collections of the temple Hо̄ryū-ji and the Shо̄sо̄in Imperial Repository, both located in Nara. These articles provide an insight into the development of kumihimo techniques and uses in Japan and show how kumihimo has influenced aesthetics in subsequent periods of Japanese history. 

About the speaker 

Mita Kakuyuki is a researcher of Japanese and Asian art, in particular Buddhist art and textile crafts. In his previous position at the Tokyo National Museum, he worked on the restoration of imported ancient textile works from the temple Hо̄ryū-ji and the Shо̄sо̄in Imperial Repository. He has published articles and other publications regarding the discoveries he has made about ancient Japanese Buddhist art through these restoration projects and research. He is a chief researcher at the Nara National Museum. His main publications include The Original Form and Subject of the Tenjukoku Shūchō Mandala (Bijutsushi 57(2), 2008), A Classification and Fundamental Study of Imported Shūbutsugire Embroidery in Hо̄ryū-ji (MUSEUM (637), 2012), The Significance of Solemnity in the Kondo Hall of the Temple Hо̄ryū-ji (Bukkyо̄geijutsu (324), 2012).