Mizuhiki is a string to decorate gifts and envelopes and varies in shape and color depending on the intended purpose of use. Strings for use in Kazarihimo (decoration string) are also called as Mizuhiki. They are used as materials not only for Kazarihimo but also for other decorative objects such as figurines shaped like a crane and ship or topknots.
Mizuhiki is a string used to decorate wrapped gifts and made of long twisted strips of Washi (Japanese paper) which have been hardened with glue.
It is said that the origin of Mizuhiki is a red and white hemp string which was tied around a gift from the Sui Dynasty to the Japanese government, which was brought back to Japan by the mission led by ONO no Imoko. Then, tying gifts to the Emperor with a red and white hemp string became a custom.
Long twisted red and white or gold and silver strips of paper hardened with glue came into use instead of the hemp strings in the latter half of the Muromachi period.
It is also said that in the Edo period, mass-production of Mizuhiki was first started in the Iida area, where Washi had been produced in mass, after the feudal lord in the area ordered his retainers to learn production technology of Mizuhiki.
Production of Motoyui (paper string used to tie up the hair) using durable waterproof Iida-daicho-shi paper also started in the Edo period.
Due to Danpatsu-rei (order to cut the topknot) issued by the Meiji government, consumption of Motoyui has decreased. However, the technology to produce Motoyui was utilized to produce glossy durable Mizuhiki. Thanks to a variety of methods for tying Mizuhiki developed in the Showa period, production of Mizuhiki (Kinpu, Yuino related articles, and Mizuhiki-zaiku) in Iida City has increased and now accounts for 70% of the total production in Japan.
Although in the past, Mizuhiki has been a product provided by professional artisans as Kazarihimo for an envelope and as a figurine to be attached to a gift, people are starting to make Mizuhiki as a hobby.
Motoyui, one of the important materials for Mizuhiki, is now used to tie up the hair of Sumo wrestlers.
Mizuhiki production in various parts of Japan
The production of Iida Mizuhiki manufactured in Iida City, Nagano Prefecture accounts for 70% of the total production of Mizuhiki-related products in Japan now.
The technology to produce Kaga-Mizuhiki has been inherited by Tsuda-Mizuhiki-Origata produced in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture.
It is said that the origin of Mizuhiki-zaiku is three-dimensional models shaped like a crane, tortoise, and armor created by modifying two-dimensional tied Mizuhiki by Sokichi TSUDA around 1916, who is the beginner of Tsuda-Mizuhiki-Origata in Kanazawa City. This Tsuda style Mizuhiki-zaiku has been established under the name of 'Kaga-mizuhiki' as traditional craft products in Kaga/Kanazawa and become popular nationwide.
Musubikiri (Square knot)
Musubikiri is used to signify that it can be performed only once and never repeated.
Celebration for recovery from illness
A bowknot cannot be used because it may signify that the illness may repeat.
Celebration for wedding
A bowknot cannot be used because it may signify that the couple will divorce for another wedding. A bowknot which may signify repetition should be avoided. Kazari-musubi (decorative knot) shaped like a crane, for example, may also be used.
Because it is for a funeral, Musubikiri is used to signify that repetition should be avoided.
Musubikiri is used to signify that the illness will never repeat. The reason is the same as that of the celebration for recovery from illness.
Awaji-musubi (Awaji knot)
It is also called as Awabi-musubi. It is a knot devised in the Meiji period. It may be used for both auspicious and ominous occasions by selecting suitably colored Mizuhiki.
It is a variation of 'Musubikiri' and may be used in a manner similar to that of 'Muzubikiri.'
In addition, because pulling the ends of a string tied in this knot makes it tighter (it may signify a long intimate friendship), this knot may be used for both auspicious and ominous occasions (pious gifts).
Because a string tied in a bowknot can be easily untied and tied again, it is used for occasions of which repetition is preferable.
A bowknot is used to pray for another birth of baby and the prosperity of the family.
Gifts for admission to a school
A bowknot is used to pray for another subsequent admission to a further higher educational institute. In the case of the admission to an elementary school, the admission to a junior high school is prayed.
Year end gifts
A bowknot is used to pray that another year end gift can be presented again at the end of the following year.
A bowknot is used to pray that another prize can be received.
In Yuino (engagement ceremony), Yuino-kazari (engagement decoration) made of Mizuhiki is used (it may be omitted). Although it may vary widely in shape, auspicious designs, such as a treasure ship, pine tree, crane, tortoise, lobster, etc. are often selected.