A variety of Kanzashis at the Edo Period.

We took up a topic about “History of Kanzashi” before 【HERE

Kanzashi has a long history and it continues to be loved in modern times as well, regardless of various changes it has gone through.
One could say that the golden age for 
kanzashi was the mid to late Edo period. As Japanese coiffure (chignon hairdo) developed, various kanzashi were created to decorate woman’s hair.  

We can roughly divide the types of kanzashi in the Edo period into mimikaki (ear pick) kanzashi, matsuba (pine needle shaped) kanzashi, tama (round) kanzashi, hirauchi (flat circular-shaped) kanzashi, hana (flower) kanzashi, kawari (different)kanzashi and such.

These are still used in modern days as traditional kanzashi. The distinctive features are that these have an ear pick on the upper part, are divided in two from the middle part to form two legs.  

<Tama Kanzashi>

Tama kanzashi is a simple kanzashi with just an ear pick and a round-shaped ornament. However, suffice to say that no other kanzashi has so widely been used by Japanese women and has been cherished to this day, than tama kanzashi.
It was popular in the Edo period, and even in the Meiji or Taisho period it never went out of style and was used to insert in the back of 
marumage (oval chignon, or married woman’s hairdo) or icho gaeshi (butterfly coiffure, or traditional Japanese hairdo). It is used for the same purpose in modern times as well.

For a round-shaped ornament, various ingredients are used; coral, agate, jade, tortoiseshell, ivory, glass at the end of the Edo period, and celluloid in the Taisho period. In the world of the geisha in Kyoto, they have a tradition of using coral in daily life and using jade only in summer. It is said that the bigger the round-shaped ornament is, the more it is suited for younger women.      

<Edo Silver Kanzashi>

It is a shorter kanzashi of approximately 12cm and made of silver, widely used in Edo (Tokyo) from the mid Edo period to the Meiji period. Initially it was longer and more than 15cm, but in the late Edo period, shorter versions became a mainstream.

Decoration of round or gourd-shaped coral or aventurine on tama kanzashi is standard, but there are types with the beauties of nature as a motif made with the same technique used for hirauchi kanzashi, or those without any decoration.

Ingredient is generally pure silver, but in the late Edo period, there are those covered by gold a la Osaka mode, or those with the lower half made of silver, and the visible part made of copper decorated with gold.   

<Hirauchi Kanzashi >

Hirauchi kanzashi has a flat circular frame and a family crest or flower patterns made by sukashibori (openwork) or kebori (hairline engraving) inside the frame. It was mostly made of silver, or metal coated with silver, and was also called as “gin hira (silver and flat)”.

Hirauchi kanzashi was often worn by women of a samurai family, although it was cherished by geisha, too, in the late Edo period. While women of a samurai family wore kanzashi with their own family crest on it, geisha engraved the family crest of a man they loved, or the initial letter of their name.

Unique patterns include fan, open folding fan, gingko, paulownia and bamboo grass. Fan pattern was especially favored by people in the Edo period, who loved an elegant taste, for this pattern has a sense of the season; it was made of various ingredients, from silver, tortoiseshell to ivory.

<Bira Bira Kanzashi>

Kanzashi which started to be made for unmarried women in the late Edo period.

Its distinctive feature is the unique design; many chains hanging from a body, and ornaments of butterflies or birds hang from chains. It is to be decorated around the left-side temple of a woman, and it is the especially gorgeous and glamorous one out of all types of kanzashi.

It was used by women from a prosperous merchant house and such. Married or engaged women were not to use it.

Beautiful and detailed bira bira kanzashi were made of tortoiseshell or the hoof of a horse, with large ornaments of flowers such as peony. Three, five or seven chain-shaped ornaments were hung from the flowers and at the end of these chains, smaller flower ornaments were decorated.  

<Bira Kan Kanzashi>

One of kanzashi made of metal used as a front hairpin by maiko and such. The upper part is shaped like a fan or round, and a family crest is encrypted. From its shape, it is also called “ougi (fan)” and “himegata (princess shape)”. There are flat, plate-shaped ornaments hung around the flat upper part, and they make a small sound when a wearer moves.

It is a standard kanzashi used by modern maiko as well; they always put it around the right-side temple. (Once maiko become geisha, they stop using it.)   




<Tsumami Kanzashi>

Tsumami kanzashi is a kanzashi made of thin cloth cut into square, pinched and folded one after other to be shaped into flowers or birds. Many of them use flowers as a motif, and so it is also called “hana (flower) kanzashi”. Fabric to be used is normally pure silk, and artisans used to dye silk themselves.


There are two ways to wear tsumami kanzashi; to put a pair on left and right side of bangs, and to put just one. A pair of tsumami kanzashi is called ryouten in Edo (Tokyo), and ryouzashi in Kyoto. It had its heyday in the mid-Edo period, around Kyoho to Kansei. These days, it is used by maiko and also by children as an ornament for shichi go san (a Japanese annual event to celebrate healthy growth and wish longevity for three and seven-year-old daughters, and three and five-year-old sons).



<Ryouten Kanzashi>

Kanzashi with a pair of ornaments on both sides. In Kyoto, it was called “ryouzashi” and in Edo (Tokyo) it was called “ryouten”. It is a kanzashi made of silver, and is divided into two parts in the middle. One side is conical, and the other side has a hole to put another side. One is to put one end of a kanzashi into another to hold it. Ornaments were generally a family crest or flowers, and young women and girls from a prosperous family mainly used it.



<Yoshi cho Kanzashi>

Yoshi cho kanzashi signifies a long and lean kanzashi without any ornament or design, which looks just like a bigger ear pick. It used to be made of metal or tortoiseshell, but these days, most of them are made of metal or plastic.


Married women used to put just one on the left-side temple. Geisha could wear only two yoshi cho kanzashi, while there was no restriction for yujo (courtesan) and they decorated many yoshi cho on their hair. The shape of the ear pick part was apparently round in Kanto, and square in Kansai.



<Kushi Kanzashi>

Kanzashi which is shaped like kushi (comb). It is mainly made of tortoiseshell, but there are those made of wood covered with glue or lacquer. For decoration, pearl, mother-of-pearl or gold lacquer was used.


The body part (top part) is wide, for it is to be decorated. Unlike a Western comb with the teeth from one end to the other of the body, the characteristics of a Japanese comb is that the teeth is only in the middle. This is because a Japanese comb was developed and used as a comb to put between bangs and head top of Japanese coiffure, and the teeth only had to fit the width of bangs.



<Kanoko Dome>

Short kanzashi used to put tegara (a piece of cloth to suppress or decorate woman’s hair). Unlike general kanzashi, the part to put on hair is vertical to an ornament. It is used for the hairstyle of younger maikoware shinobu”, and is a luxurious item with detailed decoration of butterflies, chrysanthemums, peacocks or flowers, made of jade or coral, on a silver or platinum stand.