Kumihimo is Japanese cord-weaving, usually out of fine silk thread, like that featured at the Hirai Kumihimo House. They even feature a series of videos showing the ages-old process of spinning, dyeing, and weaving the silk. Very cool.
First of all, you need a loom. For the basic round braid, I found a couple of nice tutorials with slightly different approaches:
(offering a printable template)
|Joanna at Friend Sheep|
Both offer detailed instructions and simple patterns for your basic braid. provides a nice little pattern to make your own out of cardboard. Here's a nice little introduction to the basic braid, with more links for inspiration.
Once you've figured out the basics, you're ready to move on to other shapes, like the flat braid. For this, I found an awesome tutorial by The Satin Cord Store. I haven't yet tried this one, but it looks very cool.
Flat braid by The Satin Cord Store.
The important thing to keep in mind is that the number of colors you use, and the order they are braided in dictates what the braid will look like. There are many more variations out there. These are just what I was able to find with a simple web search (and after looking through some less inspiring and much more lackluster tutorials.)
And finally, here are some kumihimo from my own collection. I got them at a thrift store in Japan:
The top two and fourth (black/white and pink) are two seperate cords that have been sewn up along one side to make two flat braids that are twice as wide, and then they were joined with a knot to make a single, two-tone (or three-) cord. It looks very pretty when it's tied.
The third cord is a simple flat weave, done around three fat cords to give it shape. It's pink, blue, and white.
The bottom cord is also flat. It's blue on one side and pink on the other.