Mizuhiki refers to a form of decorative art used in Japan at auspicious events and to offer one’s condolences. They are beautiful ornamental cords that come in colors such as red/white and white/black and are used to tie gift wrapping and envelopes.
■Envelopes tied with Mizuhiki
Various kinds of Mizuhiki exist, and they come in a range of knots and colors that cater to the needs of the respective settings in which they are used. When the gift is money, it is customary to present it in a folded paper envelope and tied with Mizuhiki. Envelopes presented at auspicious events are called “Shugi-bukuro,” while the ones used for funerals are called “Bu-shugi-bukuro.” The envelopes that are used for these purposes range from simple ones with an image of Mizuhiki printed on them to those that have been imprinted with elegant designs of cranes, tied with a Mizuhiki. These envelopes can be purchased at convenience stores as well as stationery stores.
■Types of Mizuhiki
Here are some different types of Mizuhiki used to tie packages and envelopes.
- “Musubi-kiri” (Musubi- knot):
This is a kind of knot that is very difficult to loosen once it has been tightly tied.
Musubi-kiri signifies a wish for something to occur only once and not be repeated. It is often used for occasions which the individual does not want for them to happen again, including weddings and other celebratory events, as well as to offer one’s condolences.
- “Awaji-musubi” (Awaji knot):
As with musubi-kiri, the Awaji-musubi is a knot that is difficult to loosen.
If you pull the knot from both ends, the Awaji-musubi will be tightly tied. As such, it signifies a wish to stay together with someone forever, and as a kind of musubi-kiri, it also expresses a wish for something to not happen again. Like other musubi-kiri, the Awaji-musubi can be used at both celebratory occasions and funerals.
- “Cho-musubi” (Bowknot):
The cho-musubi is a knot that can be undone and re-tied over and over again.
With the exception of weddings, this knot is used during celebratory occasions such as the birth of a newborn, a job promotion, college admission, etc. The cho-musubi is not used at funerals.
As can be seen, Mizuhiki embodies a range of significant cultural meanings. Please remember that its most important element is not how beautiful it is as an ornament, but the giver’s best wishes that are conveyed through the use of Mizuhiki.
By Emi Sotome
Translated by Rafael Olivares
Learn about Mizuhiki Workshop at Japanese Culture Salon SAKURA