2020 NO.29


The Ties Binding the Heart of Japan


Forging Bonds Through Heartfelt Gifts

Mizuhiki Decorations


Mizuhiki is made by twisting thinly-cut washi (Japanese traditional hand-made paper) strips to form a string and then hardening this with starch. This makes it not only pliant, but it also has a sturdiness preventing it from breaking easily and allowing it to be tied into various forms.

There are several theories about how mizuhiki originated in Japan, but it is said to have started in the early 7th century, when hemp threads dyed red and white were used to wrap offerings to the Imperial Court of Japan. As mizuhiki gradually started being used in place of threads, it became possible to tie elaborate decorative knots and uniquely evolved thereafter.

In Japan, when couples become engaged, there is a traditional rite called yuino for both families to meet and forge a new bond. The custom here is to exchange betrothal gifts, which embody special sentiments and are beautifully adorned with mizuhiki decorations.
Cranes and turtles that symbolize longevity, pine and bamboo that are vibrantly green even in the winter, and plum blossoms that flower before spring are auspicious motifs in Japan. These mizuhiki decorations which adorn the celebratory occasion are indispensable to betrothal gifts.

Basic mizuhiki knots

Left: The basic mizuhiki knot for a celebration. Awaji-musubi is difficult to unravel once tied.
Middle: Musubi-kiri is used when one wants to convey congratulations more casually.
Right: Yorikaeshi symbolizes the wish for successive good fortune, like a sequence of waves. This is used for celebrations other than marriage.

Ishikawa Prefecture is famous for the traditional mizuhiki decorations. The photo shows celebratory wrapping of a betrothal monetary gift.

Mizuhiki decorations are used as elaborate adornments during celebrations.
Taking betrothal gifts as some examples,let’s look at the congratulatory sentiments expressed with each item.


Tomoshiraga literally means “together until gray haired.” This is tied with sturdy hemp thread that won’t break and symbolizes the wish that husband and wife will live happily together into old age.

Betrothal monetary gift

Money is placed in a box inside the wrapping. The amount is written in a single stroke so the number cannot be altered afterward, a custom that remains to this day.


Kombu, kelp, is often used for celebrations because the word sounds similar to “yorokobu” which means to be delighted. It also symbolizes fertility.


Suehiro refers to a traditional fan used in ceremonial occasions. This represents the wish that both families will continue to prosper and live happily for many years to come.
Mizuhiki used in Suehiro is approximately 90 cm, and is never, ever cut, because it is considered to be the bond itself. If it is too long, the tips are curled up for adjustment.

Ring case

Festive awaji-musubi, a mizuhiki decoration which is perfect for a heartfelt gift.

Tsuda Mizuhiki Orikata, with around 100 years of history since its founding, follows the basics of traditional origata, but they have also incorporated creativity and ingenuity into their beautiful work of mizuhiki decorations. This maintains the tradition of tying together sentiments of celebration while also blending in with the modern lifestyle.
The photo is of the fifth-generation proprietor, Tsuda Rokusuke.
“Betrothal gifts are precious in establishing a bond between the families of the bride and groom,” he says. “Each gift has different meaning, and we tie the mizuhiki decorations from our heart. Our commitment to making these as beautiful as possible adds to the celebration.”

All works are by Tsuda Mizuhiki Orikata, in Ishikawa Prefecture.