2020 NO.29

The Ties Binding the Heart of Japan


Ties in Japan:
Symbolizing Various Hopes

Photos: PIXTA, Getty Images

Ties through a prayer

The massive Gotobiki-iwa boulder tied with shimenawa, a Shinto straw rope, marks a sacred location on a precipitous cliff called Amanoiwatate. This is where the local gods are said to have first descended to earth.
Kamikura Shrine (Kumano Hayatama Taisha Shrine) / Wakayama Prefecture

A mighty shimenawa, made by tying an enormous volume of straw that has been devotedly grown from rice plants.
Izumo Ooyashiro (Izumo Grand Shrine) / Shimane Prefecture

Two rocks joined with shimenawa resemble a married couple at each other’s side. This Meoto Iwa, literally meaning “wedded rocks,”symbolizes a happy marriage and family.
Futami Okitama Shrine / Mie Prefecture

Tying together relationships

Weddings tie new relationships between groom and bride and their respective families.
The white strings seen on the bride’s bustline are tied with a tight awaji-musubi which cannot unravel easily.

Tying together landscapes

Bamboo nodes are lined up and tied with black ropes with careful consideration paid to the balance and harmony with the surrounding landscape.
Take-no-Michi (Bamboo Road) / Kyoto Prefecture

Tying adornments

Having evolved as decoration from around the 8th century, kumihimo literally meaning “braided strings,” were later used as sturdy cords to support heavy armor weighing several dozen kilograms.

Forging bonds through heartfelt gifts

Strings called mizuhiki, created by twisting washi (Japanese traditional hand- made paper), are tied in the shape of auspicious plum blossoms to wrap betrothal monetary gifts.
Tsuda Mizuhiki Orikata / Ishikawa Prefecture