Mizuhiki is a string-like material generally used to seal a bag (folded paper) used to wrap congratulatory gifts and condolences given at weddings, funerals, and other ceremonial occasions.
There are various stories as to how Mizuhiki came to be tied on gifts, but since ancient times, the Japanese have had the custom of tying hemp or cotton cords to offerings to the gods. With the introduction of paper, mizuhiki took the place of hemp twine, and by the Muromachi period (1336-1573), it is said to have become a form of etiquette for sealing important items and showing respect to the recipient. It could be said that Mizuhiki became a symbol of "sincerity" toward the recipient. Nowadays, it is widely used as a congratulatory or condolence envelope for giving money at weddings and funerals.
Here are several knotting styles which hold different meanings and can be used for different occasions. The “Musubi-kiri (left side of the picture),” which becomes unbreakable the more it is tied, is used for marriages and mourning ceremonies in the hope that it will be a one-time event, while the "Chou-misubi, (right side of the picture),” which can be tied many times, is used for birth gifts and the like, since it can be used many times. Mizuhiki has long been a part of Japanese life as a symbol of "human connections,” using a variety of knotting methods and techniques.
Mizuhiki is also used as a part of New Year's decorations, and in some regions, it is used to decorate wedding gifts in various shapes, including the auspicious pine, bamboo, plum, crane, and turtle. It's widely recognized as "Mizuhiki work” in Japan and all around the world, especially in Asian countries such as China.
Mizuhiki as a material is a 90-cm cord of twisted Japanese paper, named Washi, directly colored or wrapped with decorative thread or special film. Before processing, Mizuhiki is almost a straight string, but it can be made softer and easier to handle by tracing the Mizuhiki with a finger, a process called "Shigoku" (to handle). Today, there are various types of mizuhiki, such as gold, silver, red and white colored mizuhiki, mizuhiki wrapped with wool thread or aluminum foil, and mizuhiki made of resin.
Chie Nagaura, Nihon mizuhiki, Seibundo Shinkosha 2022