Translation by Michael Hattori

Regarding the web site featuring the Naiki-dai, here is a rough translation of the Japanese text that accompanies it:

In order to follow what I have translated, I will use the same picture reference numbers. You will have to click back and forth to follow it but it is worth it as it is quite interesting:

At the top of the page is an introductory paragraph describing the exhibition of various contraptions that were in existence during the Edo period (~1603-1886), which was when Japan had its doors closed to the rest of the world and its arts and crafts were developed to such a fine extent. One of the "machines" that was picked for special study was the Naiki-dai and the following is translation of the text where the pictures of the dai begin:

The Naiki-dai: its Construction and the Method of Braiding

The hand-braiding dai include the Kakudai, Marudai, Ayatakedai, Makigumidai, Jch(?)dai, Takadai, and Naikidai. The Naikidai, also written [showing different kanji characters] Naikidai, made a sound like "gata-gata" when being operated and so was also called a Gata-gata naikidai. It is thought that the Naikidai was devised near the end of the Edo period for a Himitsu-shugi, or "secret sect", as it is completely different from the existing marudai, ayatakedai, and takadai; however there is no evidence in the Edo literature to support this. The principle of the Naikidai is the same as that of [modern] steel braiding machines; however, because it is hand-operated it can be changed in the middle of the procedure [not sure of the accuracy of this sentence...]; the combined quality of hand operation and the convenience of machine braiding made it, at one time, an often-used dai nearly countrywide.

Construction and Operation:

  • (Photos 1 & 2): Around the circumference of the upper wooden disc are equally-spaced slots. Between each of these slots is a small hole, through which a turnable spindle is inserted. At the top of each spindle is a "koma-ita" or wooden leaf, and a small wooden gear at the bottom. On either side of the koma-ita a small hook is attached.
  • (Photos 3 & 4) At the bottom of the dai on one end is a handle which engages a single large wooden gear, which in turn engages each of the small wooden gears attached to the spindles.
  • (Photos 5 & 6) The threads suspended around the circumference of the top mirror are wound onto and weighted by tama. The threads positioned in each slot then gather at the center of the mirror [where braiding takes place].

    Naikidai Braiding Method:

  • 1. By pushing (or pulling) on the handle, the large gear turns, which then turns the small gears.
  • 2. When the small gears turn, they cause the koma-ita to turn 180 degrees; as this happens, the small hook on either side of the koma-ita catches the thread in every other slot (photo 7).
  • 3. As the handle is pushed the thread on the hook then crossed over the top of the koma-ita and consequently, over its neighboring slotted thread, and into the empty slot next to it.(photo 8).
  • 4. Next the handle is pulled, which causes the gears and koma-ita to turn in the opposite direction, picking up and crossing in the oppposite direction the threads not picked up on the first push of the handle.
  • 5. In this manner the braid is created (photo 9).
  • 6. The braided cord is pulled upward by a counterweight.

    That is the end of this section. From photo 9, the braid looks like a simple "maypole" type over and under braid; however, on Mr. Ohta's web site photos of his own Naikidai braids have patterns worked in and look more like a takadai braid to me.

    Here is what he has to say about the Sankakudai:

    "As the mirror is triangular, it is called a "triangle" dai, or "sankaku" dai. It is used to make three-stranded cords or "braids", or braids with an odd number of strands. As with the Kakudai, since the number of strands is few [and so mistakes and irregularities show clearly], a neat braid is very difficult and requires great skill and technique. The Sankakudai is seldom seen anymore; however it is possible to make Obijime that tie very easily with it."

    There is a good selection of close-ups here .

    Michael can be reached by e-mail.

    January 27, 2004
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