June 27, 2016

by Haruna Masuzaki, Shiori Funatsuki & Ayaka Kanamori

Kanzashi is a traditional accessory used in Japan since long ago to tie and decorate a woman’s hair. In our modern age kanzashi is considered a special, rather fancy accessory since it is a traditional item. It is able to beautify and keep the hair together, making it a very convenient hair accessory. In Japan, it is considered to be in the same category as necklaces and rings.


Maiko who wear kanzashi.

History of Kanzashi

There are two theories of how kanzashi came to be. First is that the thin part of the kanzashi is thought to have spiritual powers. Those spiritual powers keep bad spirits away, bringing good fortune upon the individual wearing it. It was called kanizashi at first, which would translate as “god thrust.” implying that when the accessory is thrust into the hair, its powers kept bad spirits away. It is believed that the name changed into kanzashi from kanizashi over time due to its similarity in sound.

The second theory is that during the Heian period in Japan, there was a practice to put flowers and tree branches inside the hair when performing spiritual/religious ceremonies or rituals. That process was called kazashi, and that term turned into kanzashi as time went by.

History of Kanzashi

Women wore kanzashi in the old days.

Who uses Kanzashi?

There are many kinds of kanzashi. Long ago, it was used to put together hairstyle that would suit a kimono. However in recent years kanzashi can be worn with casual clothes and dresses. Before, kanzashi was made out of wood or silver, but nowadays it is made with plastic, making it affordable and easy to handle.

Types of kanzashi

The shape of kanzashi has changed depending on it uses from olden days. There are three types. First, this is tama kanzashi. This is the most popular type among all of them, and it has a simple style with only one ornament on it, so you can try it easily, if you wearkanzashifor the first time.

Tama kanzashi

This is the most popular type.

Second, this is hirauchi kanzashi. The ornament has a flat and round shape with one or two legs. In the old days, women in the samurai class often wore this type of kanzashi with their own family crest on it. In the later Edo period, it was the trend among geisha to wear one that had their lover’s family crest on it.

Hirauchi kanzashi

The ornament has a flat, and round shape with one or two legs.

Lastly, this is tumami kanzashi. Most of these have flower motifs, so it is also called hanakanzashi; ‘hana’ means flower. This is mainly used by maiko in Kyoto, and they change it every month, and its flower shows the changing of the four seasons. The bigger flower is a symbol of a senior maiko. At present, some shops near Yasaka Shrine sell such kanzashi for Maiko, so if you are interested in kanzashi, please go there and enjoy the types of kanzashi they have.

Tsumami kanzashi

Most of these have flower motifs.

Where to shop for kanzashi

There are three famous kanzashi stores. The first, is Kanameya in Tokyo. This store started in 1934. Its assortment of tortoiseshell products is No. 1 in Ginza. They are a little stylish, and make gorgeous kimono accessories. In addition, at the same time they tell future generations about how wonderful old traditional Japanese crafts are, and how they always are playful and trying to incorporate “fun,” and “newness.”

The next store is Kazurasei in Kyoto. This shop sells camellia oil, hair care series, cosmetics and other accessories. The highest price for a kanzashi there is 118,800yen and they have sold out. Amazing! The cheapest of kanzashiis 4,644yen. I thought that this price was expensive for me. This shop hasthree branches in Kyoto.

Lastly, is Ohabariko. This shop’s products are all handmade. It offers goods that meet customer requests as cheaply as possible. How about you? Did you want to something stores? Please go to these stores.


Kazurasei’s kanzashi.

Access to Kazurasei

Take the bus bound for Kiyomizu temple from Kyoto station, you should get off Gion, you will see the shop on the right, it is about 5 minutes on foot.

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