Kimono accessories in contemporary Japan

July 15, 2009


Sakura (cherry blossom) hana-kanzashi hair ornaments – silk flowers formed with tweezers and fingers.

If you’ve been noting my previous photos of kimono-wearing women in modern day Japan, you may have noticed hair accessories. In particular:

* the complete lack of any hair accessories in everyday wearing of kimono (e.g. my photo of visitors to Toji Market and Kiyomizudera)

* the subtle single ornament as used by models in the kimono fashion shows at Nishijin Textile Centre, and

* the very elaborate traditional hana-kanzashi or silk flower ornaments, as worn by maiko, geiko and geisha.

I don’t own any hair ornaments myself, otherwise I’d photograph and upload here, but I’m sure there are plenty of photos of kanzashi and hana-kanzashi available on the internet.

My ready-reference for such things is my copy of Kateigaho International magazine, no.15 Spring 2007. For those of you not familiar with KEI, it’s a 160page quarterly glossy magazine in English (hence the International edition). When I say, glossy, I mean extravagantly glossy – complete with full-page ads for the top names in fashion. They direct readers to high-class Tokyo boutiques and restaurants, but the magazines are an invaluable source of information about living artist-craftspeople maintaining traditions in modern-day Japan. Check your nearest Japanese bookshop, such as Kinokinuya, and

No.15 has a ‘special’ on Kyoto, including articles on traditional boxwood combs and geisha hairstyles and hairstylists. The hana-kanzashi are made from 500+ 2cm squares of fine silk gauze by the fifth-generation maker at Kintakedo in Gion, Kyoto. This particular shop is among three or four such shops in the middle of Shijo-dori street, Gion – one of which sells high-class obijime. I’ve mentioned tortoise-shell combs/pins previously, as made in a traditional crafts enclave in Tokyo.


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