Knot Funny

Special occasion cards in Japan have these cool wire bows on them. They are shaped like cranes or flowers and can get pretty elaborate. Cards like these are meant to hold money, and you can buy a simple one at any 100 yen shop or convenient store, or spend a small fortune on one to hold the small fortune that is your gift.

store-bought mizuhiki

When I first moved to Japan I noticed this type of packaging and thought it was neat, but then gradually I stopped thinking about them. They are commonplace and like fermented beans for breakfast or Auld Lang Syne at closing time, I’ve come to accept their existence without question. On the few occasions when I have needed to buy a fancy card, I asked the shop keeper to help me pick out something appropriate so I wouldn’t accidentally give a funeral card to someone on their wedding day. (Though, that thought is a little funny.)

mizuhiki rainbowmizuhiki, in progress and finished

Dan and I recently went to Nagano and were invited to a craft class to learn mizuhiki, this fancy bow art. Mizuhiki are made from cords of tightly wound washi paper that is starched and colored and twisted into shapes. They were popularized during the Edo era as samurai hair accessories and are now used as decoration to convey well wishes. Our sensei told us to choose three colored cords and because I am a cocky over achiever I chose four. We opted to make bookmarks, followed the instructions printed for us and were left alone to figure it out.

The trick is to maintain the same order of your colors throughout the design, even through the curves and weaving. Tighten one too much and it pops out of place and then you have to loosen the entire thing to right it again. Let me assure you, it is harder than it looks.

mizuhiki steps

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