"Kanzashi," or Japanese hair accessories, have a rich history that dates back to ancient Japan. Starting from humble beginnings, they flourished during the long centuries of artistic silk kimonos, glorious court clothing, and beautiful geisha in their elaborate layers. Today, the many kinds of kanzashi are paired with kimonos and other traditional clothing and thus are often seen at Japanese festivals and celebrations.
The oldest kanzashi is the simple hair stick. Far from a symbol of beauty, ancient hair sticks were believed to ward off evil spirits and curses and mostly served to hold the hair in place without much flair. However, during the Heian period, women began growing their hair as long as possible, sometimes never cutting it for their entire lives, and hair sticks were invaluable for holding their long locks. As the centuries passed, styles changed from long smooth locks to elaborate waxed and pinned updos, and kanzashi jumped to the forward edge of fashion. Even now, they remain as wearable art that spans all shapes and sizes:
1. Bira-bira Bira-bira are hairpins with dangling metal strips that hang from the hair and twinkle as the wearer moves. The base of the pin is often decorated with elaborate filigree or silk flowers.
2. Kanoko Dome Kanoko dome are weighty accessories inlaid with precious metals, pearls, gemstones, and heavy organics like tortoiseshell. Resembling a brooch, they sit at the back of the head and are secured to an updo hairstyle with a prong or comb. They often feature flowers or butterflies in their designs.
3. Kogai A simple hair stick in painted tortoiseshell. Its two-part design is made to resemble a sword and sheath, and it is often paired with a decorative comb.
4. Kushi Decorative combs, kushi are popular both for their beauty and functionality. They can be used simply to comb the hair, but their teeth also serve to mount them as decoration in a hairstyle. Kushi are usually made of lacquered wood, sometimes tortoiseshell, and their bases bear painted designs often inlaid with metallic and iridescent chips.
5. Tama kanzashi Meaning "ball," a tama kanzashi is a hair stick with a colorful ball at the end. Red and green are the most common colors, often displayed by coral and jade, and are worn during winter and summer respectively.
6. Tsumami Kanzashi Tsumami is a style of pinching fabric to form beautiful flowers and petals, and tsumami kanzashi are hairpieces incorporating this style of textile origami. One variety, the hana kanzashi, is famous for its appearance as part of many geisha hairstyles. Hana kanzashi often come in pairs and are worn on the side of the head. A cluster of flowers forms the base of the hairpiece, and silk petals stream down the hair in long trains below it.
7. Traditional Geisha Hairpieces There are a few accessories made famous by the geisha of Japan. Ogi is a fan-shaped design pinned on the hair above the temple, and like the bira-bira, it has long metal streamers from its edges. Apprentice geisha, called maiko, wore ogi on each side of the head as part of the hairstyle for their formal debut. Another maiko hairpiece is the tachibana, which has two silver pins topped with red and green beads for a promise of good luck in the maiko's early career. The counterpart to tachibana is the hirauchi, worn by older maiko. Like tachibana, hirauchi have two pins but are topped with metal filigree discs instead of beads.
Japanese Style carries a variety of kanzashi -- search our hair accessories and add Eastern flair to your personal style!