Kanzashi are elaborate Japanese hair ornaments often worn with traditional Japanese clothing. There are many different styles of Kanzashi, depending upon what they are made from and how they are fastened in to the hair. How did these elaborate decorations evolve over the years? Let’s take a look at Japanese history.
Jomon Period12,000 – 300 BC
This prehistoric period of Japanese culture marks the very beginning of what would later become an extremely complex civilization. During this period, many people wore a single stick in their hair, which was believed to ward off evil spirits.
Nara Period 710 – 795 AD
During this period, Japanese society was beginning to flourish, but still very much centered on growing rice in small villages. Many cultural markers, including dress and artistic styles were imported from China. During this period, Kanzashi and other hair ornaments were brought over from China and greatly influenced the styles of upper class Japanese.
Heian Period 795 – 1185 AD
This period is best known as being the very height of culture and class in the imperial court. During this period, the Samurai class flourished. As the culture grew and hairstyles shifted, Kanzashi became the general term for many different types of hair decorations including sticks, combs, and pins.
Edo Period 1603 – 1868 AD
This period of Japanese history is marked by economic growth and strict government policies regarding social order and foreign influences. Kanzashi became extremely popular during this time and artist began creating more and more elaborate designs, including some which could be used as a weapon.
Kanzashi are considered traditional hair decorations, which may be worn during festivals or stage performances. These elaborate designs may include combs, bells, silk flowers, jade, and coral. Like most Japanese styles, Kanzashi designs will vary based upon the season, age, and rank of the wearer.