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Kanzashi (簪?) are hair ornaments used in traditional Japanese hairstyles.
Kanzashi first appeared when women abandoned the traditional taregami hairstyle where the hair was kept straight and long, and adopted coiffured nihongami hairstyles. Kanzashi came into wide use during the Edo period when artisans began to produce more finely crafted products. Some believe they may also have been used for defence in an emergency.
Nowadays, kanzashi are most often worn by brides and professional kimono wearers such as geisha, tayu and yujo or adepts in Japanese tea ceremony and ikebana. However, there is currently a revival among young Japanese women who wish to add an elegant touch to their business suit.
Kanzashi are fabricated from a wide range of materials such as lacquered wood, gold and silver plated metal, tortoiseshell and silk, and recently, plastic. In fact, early bakelite kanzashi are extremely collectible.
There are several basic kanzashi styles, along with more complex hana (flower) and seasonal arrangements as well.
Bira bira - also called Fluttering or Dangling style, these are composed of metal strips attached by rings to the body of the ornament so that they move independently, pleasantly tinkling (which is sometimes accentuated by additional bells) or long chains of silk flowers called shidare.
Kogai - rods of Becco ( tortoiseshell or artificial ) or other materials such as ceramics or metals. Kogai means sword in Japanese. This is appropriate because many Kogai Kanzashi are formed from a pin and a sleeve, like a sword and its sheath. They are often sold as a set with an accompaning kushi comb.
Kushi are comb kanzashi rather than pins like the majority of kanzashi. These are usually rounded combs made of tortoiseshell or lacquered wood, often with inlaid mother of pearl or gilding, placed into a mage (bun-style hairdo). The spine of the comb is often wide in order to allow maximum space for the design, and in many cases, the design will extend into the teeth. Also, there are "flower-combs" called hanagushi which are made by glueing folded pieces of silk to a wooden base comb.
Kanoko Dome - are heavily jewelled accessories crafted with some or all of the following: gold, silver, tortoiseshell, jade, coral, pearls and other semi-precious stones. While the general shape is rounded, they are also found in other shapes, with flowers and butterflies being the most popular. The kanoko dome is worn at the back of the wareshinobu hairstyle of the junior maiko and has two prongs that hold it securely in the "mage".
Ōgi - also called Princess style, they are metal, fan-shaped and kamon-imprinted kanzashi with aluminium streamers held in place by a long pin. These are usually worn by maiko in the hair just above the temple. Very junior maiko wear two.
Tsumami Kanzashi - literally, 'folded fabric hair ornament'. Tsumami kanzashi are made from tiny (usually 1") squares of silk which are folded into petals using origami techniques. Flowers are made from these folded fabric petals and may contain anywhere from five petals to 75 or more, depending on the particular flower made.
A 'hana kanzashi' is a cluster of these flowers, and may or may not include bira-bira and/or long streamers of tsumami petals, fashioned to look like hanging wisteria petals. Generally, hana kanzashi are worn in pairs, one on either side of the head, often with a complimentaty kushi and/or with several individual flowers scattered about the hair.
^ Hana Kanzashi ^ With Hana kanzashi, the long fluttering flower is characteristic of maiko. These are created by Japanese artisans from squares of silk by a technique known as tsumami. Each square is multiply folded with the aid of pincers and cut into a single petal. These are attached to backings of metal to create whole flowers, or attached to silken threads to create strings of blossom. Butterflies and birds are also common in this art form. Additional detailing of stamens is created by the use of mizuhiki, which is a strong thin twine made from washi paper, and is often coloured and used for decorative works.
Geisha wear different hana kanzashi according to the month, or public holiday. In the summer months (June to September), jade ornaments with white or silver themes are worn. During the winter months (October to May), tortoiseshell and coral kanzashi are worn.
February - Usually trailing deep pink, or sometimes red, ume blossoms, which is to be seen everywhere in Japan at this time and symbolises young love and the approach of spring. Another less common theme is the pinwheel.
October - Chrysanthemum (kiku). These are well loved in Japan, and are a symbol of the Imperial Family. Usually the chrysanthemums featured are red and white, a combination which signals the height of autumn.