Kyo Kumihimo is a craft technique to make braided string from threads. Its history is believed go back more than a thousand years. The elegant braided strings have been used for decorations in temples and shrines and for fashion accessories for the Imperial Family of Japan. Forty years ago, an Obi artisan saw a complex weaving machine being used to make Italian torchon lace, which is weaved using braiding techniques similar to Japanese Kumihimo. He came up with the idea to weave Obi material incorporating Kumihimo technique. He developed a special weaving machine and started making Obi. That was the origin of Sanjiku silk textiles. The SANJIKU brand developed from that.



The weaving machine turned out to be a huge circular machine, measuring five meters in diameter and standing three meters high. Six machines were built, but only two of them still exist. Both are now in operation in Kyoto. More than 480 bobbins are arranged in a circle. Artisans need to constantly monitor to make sure that the threads do not lose proper tension or create a problem. Delicate gradations of color and intricate patterns are unique characteristics of Sanjiku silk. These are created by using paper punch cards with many small holes to define the complex patterns for weaving. These days, most textiles are woven using digital instructions, but these traditional machines can only use paper punch cards to produce patterns. The results of this traditional method are stunning and unparalleled.



The birthplace of Sanjiku is Kameoka City. It is about a one-hour drive from Kyoto City. Kameoka City is in a basin surrounded by farms and beautiful green mountains. The area is famous for the deep layer of mist that fills the basin from late fall to early spring. That mist provides the perfect level of humidity for textile weaving with the Sanjiku technique, which applies strong tension to the silk threads. From a distance, you can hear the rhythmic sound of weaving machines at the far end of the scenic country road.