Thursday, 4 August 2016

Sanada-Himo bands

In July, I attended a workshop in Tacoma, USA run by my friend,Tamaki.  She has researched the lovely woven bands from Japan called Sanada-himo. These are used in present day Japan for wrapping very special presents and parcels.  They are also used to fasten the boxes that contain the equipment for the Japanese tea ceremony.

The woven bands are a warp faced plain weave with the weft being thicker than the warp threads. The traditional material is cotton. They were not just very practical. The patterns are made with beautiful muted colours.

Originally, the colours were obtained from 70 different plant species, such as brown from the skin of the Japanese chestnut, yellow from Cape jasmine, red from safflower and purple from gromwell root.
Commercially woven bands still retain the lovely muted colours of natural dyes.

The article by Tamaki  Takagi in the proceedings for the Braids 2016 Conference describes the historical background to these lovely woven bands which she has researched.   Buy a copy of the proceedings which contains many other fascinating articles.

The Conference Proceedings are an excellent record of the variety of workshops and lectures given at the Conference.

Copies are available to buy from the Braid Society once they arrive into the UK.

The Conference Proceedings

An excellent book.

Workshop on Sanada-Himo Woven Bands at Tacoma July 2016.

Here are some photographs of the Sanada-Himo workshop that I attended in Tacoma in July.

set of equipment
Tying on the warp

ready to start weaving

Historically, these ribbons were used as decorative ties for suits of armor, scrolls and even kimonos. They are now more commonly used as packaging ties for the elegant wooden boxes used to store the ceramics used in the Japanese Tea Ceremony.

Nowadays, Sanada-Himo bands are used for other purposes.  Here is a video which shows the bands wrapped around bicycle handlebars.

The YouTube video is called 
Samurai Bar Tape 


In Japan, cherished items are customarily stored in purpose-made wooden boxes including the valuable items for tea ceremony.  If the ceramic has a long history, several layers of boxes several boxes are used:  an inner storage box (uchibako), middle storage box (nakabako), and outer storage box (sotobako). The storage boxes for tea implements often have inscriptions which indicate the maker and owner.

Chabako (茶箱, literally "tea box[es]") are the special lidded boxes containing tea bowl, tea caddy, tea scoop and other equipment used in the Japanese Tea Ceremony.  The "Rikyū model" is of plain paulownia wood and may be large or small. Tea boxes are ususally made of wood, and may be lacquered and decorated, or left untreated.

They are tied with a Sanada-himo band.

YouTube Videos and blogs.

Here is a YouTube video showing how to tie a bow on a wooden box.

  How to tie a wooden box (tomobako) for Japanese ceramics

Here is aother blog which shows how to tie a Sanada-Himo ribbon around a box.  Sanadahimo (Japanese Close-woven Samurai Ribbon)

Of course there are other ways of tying decorative knots with stiff cords so I thought that I would share this video:

Mizuhiki: The Art of Tying Paper Cords - JVT 2009-03

If you want to try another type of wrapping, there is an interesting YouTube video which shows how.

Tsuka-Maki. Basic ito wrapping tutorial.

There are many different ways of tying bands around a box.  Here is another example.

I hope that you have enjoyed finding out more about Japanese Sanada-Himo bands.
Tamaki presented the history of Sanada-Himo bands and showed us how to tie a box.  I am now weaving my own at home.

Here it is.  I am using the lovely bamboo heddle from Tamaki and the shuttle from Don Betterley.

My Sanada-himo band.

If you want to find out more, do buy a copy of the Conference proceedings. The article by Tamaki is fascinating and it is probably the first time that this topic has been covered.

Check out my Pinterest board to see more examples of Sanada-Himo bands and videos.

Susan J Foulkes August 2016


  1. Hello Susan,
    This is Tamaki's friend, Kyoko.
    It was lovely meeting you at Braids2016.
    We are back in Japan safely but it is sizzling here
    and after the cool weather in Tacoma, everybody is finding it quite hard.
    It must be nice and cool in Durham.
    I am going to visit Oxford for 3 weeks soon and can't wait to escape from this muggy weather!

    Thank you so much for your support and advice for Tamaki on band weaving and Sanada-himo.
    I just admire how much Tamaki have accomplished since Braids2012 in Manchester.
    And I think you are just so generous with your time and kind attention on Tamaki's new passion
    on Sanada-him. I know how much Tamaki appreciate your help and cherish your friendship and wanted to thank you for everything.
    Looking forward to seeing you in Japan in 3 years, if not sooner.

  2. Hello Kyoko It was lovely to meet you all in Tacoma. I had a wonderful week and learned so much. Tamaki taught me new things about weaving as well. I loved Tamakis article in the Conference Proceedings. It must be the first time anyone has written about these lovely woven treasures in detail. I am sure that she will find out more information as her researches continue. I am already looking forward to Kyoto in three years time and meeting you all again.
    with best wishes


  3. Susan,
    Id just like to know if you have any info on how a sanada ribbon is weaved? Im looking for diagrams pictures ect. based on the loom you were braiding on i think that the best stand to braid on would be the ayatakadai. i want to try my hand at braiding sanada ribbon for sageo and tsuka ito in my own colors.

    Any help is appreciated.


  4. The sanada-himo ribbon is woven in warp faced plain weave. This is one of the simplest ways of weaving a band. Look at my YouTube video Five ways of weaving narrow bands All these methods use the same structure as Sanada-himo bands.

    happy weaving



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