The Japanese tradition of cord-making
Kumihimo cord was first created by a form of finger-loop braiding. Later tools such as the marudai and the takadai were employed to make more complex braids in shorter time. The most prominent historical use of the cords was by samurai as both a functional and decorative way to lace their lamellar armour and their horses' armor (barding). Kumihimo cords are now used as ties on haori jackets and obijimes, which are used for tying on an obi (kimono sash).
A modern kumihimo disk made of firm but flexible foam plastic with notches can also be used as a portable marudai. The disks have 32 notches that create the tension that is usually created by tama on a marudai. The disks are convenient but are not as versatile as the marudai. On a marudai, any thickness or amount of string can be used, but on a disk only 32 or fewer strand braids can be made from thin cord. Also, marudai can make many types of braids, such as flat, four sided, and hollow. There are also rectangular foam cards, especially suitable for making flat braids.
There are a number of ways that beaders and braiders can begin kumihimo braiding. The foam kumihimo disk is lightweight, portable, and significantly more affordable than the traditional marudai. Braiders can create complex braids up to 24 bobbins and incorporate beads. There are many sizes and shapes of foam disks available. Look for a disk that is sturdy and doesn't bend easily, otherwise the braider will experience uneven tension. Some foam disks also have the added benefit of numbered slits, making it easy to learn using "braid by number" instructions.