2023 NO.35


Souvenirs of JapanSouvenirs of Japan


A final touch of splendid flair

Photos courtesy of Kazura Sei

Kanzashi are made in a wide variety of materials and designs. Some examples include (1, 3) flower sprigs crafted in metal and adorned with pearls; (2) silk ornaments decorated with flowers; (4) a stylized hydrangea as easy to wear as a bobby pin; (5) an elegant and refined ornament featuring birds crafted in lacquer and gold; and (6) a single cherry blossom made of silk. For a special touch on this one (7), the pearls hanging from the kanzashi sway as you walk, giving a tiny thrill with each step.

Kanzashi are hair ornaments traditionally worn by Japanese women. Even today, when dressed in kimono for nihon-buyo or bon-odori festival dances, dancers add a kanzashi as a final touch to traditional upsweep and topknot hairstyles meant to expose the kimono collar.

Ornamental hairpins are said to have been around since the 8th century. Later it became fashionable for women to wear their hair down, and kanzashi were obsolete for some centuries. It was not until the Edo period (1603–1868) that these hair ornaments became widely popular with the general public. With most women wearing their hair up, the kanzashi came to be an essential fashion accessory. New designs followed one after another, featuring elaborately crafted flowers and birds made of metal, stone, wood, fabric, and paper, among other materials.

Today, with less expensive kanzashi made of plastic and glass also available, these traditional accessories are no longer limited to special days, but can be worn as a decorative touch in everyday hairstyles, as well.