The Modern Tokyo Times

International news and neglected issues

Kanzashi: stunning fashion pieces which highlight elegance

Kanzashi: stunning fashion pieces which highlight elegance

Michel Le Bon and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Kanzashi in Japan finds it roots in the Jomon period but it came into common use during the Edo Period. Artisans in Japan increasingly used greater sophistication during the Edo period and you had a duality because these elegant hair ornaments could also be used as defensive weapons when the time arose.

This aspect is not difficult to understand about Kanzashi when you think logically but when you visualize ladies dressed in their finest then it is more difficult to think about this reality.  Of course, times have changed, and today Kanzashi completely represents beautiful artistry at its finest when focused on the quality market. 

Ledia Runnels commented that “A geisha wears her kanzashi in different ways to indicate her status. Maiko usually wear more numerous and elaborate kanzashi than full-fledged geisha and progress through several hairstyles where the kanzashi must be worn in a fixed pattern.”

“Typical materials used to make kanzashi are lacquered wood, gold and silver-plated metal, tortoiseshell, silk, and recently plastic. Early bakelite kanzashi are extremely collectible. Basic styles are complex hana (flower) and seasonal arrangements.”

At one point kanzashi was in decline because of the changing nature of Western hairstyles and the onset of modernity challenged many traditional ways. Therefore, kanzashi was mainly only used during traditional weddings or in the world of geisha and other traditional features of Japanese culture. This applies to special occasions when kanzashi was essential.

However, in recent times kanzashi is becoming popular once more for fashion conscious young ladies in Japan. At the other end of the market kanzashi is blooming in many nations and is linked with high culture and prices can range vastly.

Of course nothing remains static and purest kanzashi is based on gold/silver plated metals, tortoiseshell, lacquered wood and silk – but in the world of accessible fashion and accessories then kanzashi is also being made by using plastics and other materials.

Traditional makers of kanzashi remain loyal to the firm foundations of this fashion piece in Japan and international makers also desire to maintain the high culture aspect and rich artistry of kanzashi.

However, kanzashi is also mainstream and appeals to women all over the world and just like kanzashi changed during the Jomon and Edo period. The same is happening today and kanzashi can represent traditional Japanese culture, can be found in high society because of the rich artistry and individual skills going into each piece, or it can be found in fashion stores throughout the world with a more simplistic theme.

Barbaraanne’s Hair Comb Blog

Miriam Slater Kanzashi Collection:

Miriam Slater Collection: Tortoiseshell Kanzashi




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