What is Mizuhiki?

Mizuhiki is a colored or dyed paper cords made for the purpose of gift wrapping or tying packages and this art can be traced back to the sixth century AD when ambassadors to China returned home with gifts that were tied with red and white twine as a charm against evil. In Japan, Mizuhiki cords are symbolic in preventing impurities from entering the secured packages. Today, the design and type of Mizuhiki used differs as per their intended usage. It is a significant element of a gift in Japan.

Mizuhiki come in many thicknesses – five-strand, seven-strand, eleven-strand among others, with the five-strand being the most commonly used one. The length usually varies from 18 inches to 6 feet.

Photo courtesy lo tejo

There are 8 color types for Mizuhiki which are most commonly used –

  1. Crimson and white for very formal occasions;
  2. Red and white for general use and auspicious occasions;
  3. Gold and silver for general use, though this combination is mainly used for weddings and other auspicious occasions;
  4. Red and gold which is used in the same way as red and white;
  5. Multicolored for informal usage; and finally
  6. Black and white,
  7. Blue and white, and
  8. All white for funerals and condolences.

Types of knots:

  • For weddings and tragedies such as funerals, which come once and are never to be repeated, a flat knot (musubikiri) is used. The significance of this knot is that once tied it cannot be untied which symbolizes the fact that what has happened will not happen again.
  • At auspicious occasions other than weddings, katawana-musubi or morowana-musubi (based on bows) are the types of mizuhiki knots used.
  • For informal occasions the abalone knot or the detached awabi-musubi knot is used.
  • For happy occasions, the mizuhiki is wrapped around and around the package, which signifies waves breaking on the shore.
  • The reverse (gyaku method) awabi-musubi is used only for Buddhist memorial services and solemn events.

Tying the knots:

  • Always start tying with the lighter or paler cords on the left hand side. Cross them over the darker color on the right hand side.
  • Since mizuhiki is delicate, it is advisable to gently work the area where the knot will be tied prior to tying the knot, to soften the strands slightly.
  • Once tied the mizuhiki cannot be retied, so practicing before tying the final knot is advisable.

– Based on the Books – Gift wrapping: creative ideas from Japan, By Kunio Ekiguchi and The simple art of Japanese paper crafts, By Mari Ono.

Mizuhiki Knot Instructions:

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