The traditional Japanese clothing style is easily recognizable with kimonos, yukatas, jinbei but also getas or haori . However, other more discreet touches can also convey a Japanese style. For example, tabi socks , fans, knot bags and kansashi . It is the latter that we are going to talk about today in order to help you discover one of the facets of one of the most famous traditional Japanese ornaments.
We had already mentioned kanzashi in our article on Japanese jewelry and accessories , but unfortunately it was not possible to go in depth into the world of these little ornaments as there was so much to say. This is why we decided to make a single article fully dedicated to the subject. Let's not waste any more time and start by tracing the fabulous history of kansashi through the centuries.
Origin of kansashi
Kansashi are traditional Japanese ornaments worn in the hair by women, often maikos and geishas (although today they are worn less and less) . They can be in the form of a comb, brooches but also pins.
The very first kansashi date from the Jomon era (-10,000 - -300 BC), just like the Shinto religion, which makes them even older than the first Egyptian necklaces . They were at first very simple, in the form of a staff, but they were said to have protective powers and to drive away evil spirits when worn.
Over the years the comb appeared and then came the more detailed brooches and pins. The cultural influence of China during the Nara era (710 - 795) played an important role in developing the wearing of kansashi among women in Japan. However, it was only during the Heian era (794 - 1185) that kansashi really became popular on Japanese territory. For good reason, the fashion was for long hairstyles among women and the various combs and brooches therefore allowed them to keep their hairstyle all day long.
The different types of kansashi
The tsumami kansashi is an ornament made of fabric that is folded to make a flower, to a lesser extent a butterfly or a bird. Flowers range from five to seventy-five petals and can often be made from several different pieces of fabric in order to cross patterns. The tsumami kansashi is often worn in pairs with another but also with different types of kansashi .
Kushi is undoubtedly one of the most popular kanzashi . It is a comb that is very beautiful and detailed on its upper surface (where you hold the comb). Traditional artisans often make them with expensive materials such as mother-of-pearl or gold leaf.
The bira-bira is a complementary ornament which is quite discreet and which often complements a more imposing kansashi such as a tsunami or a kushi . It is an iron rod (or two) which is inserted into the hair and which has on its end a ring or an ornament which is quite visually beautiful.
The kanoko dome is a kind of very imposing brooch which is used to hold the bun of geishas and maikos (apprentice geisha). If you have had the chance to come across one in Tokyo or Kyoto, it is likely that you have seen one. This is the most luxurious kansashi because beyond its artisanal complexity, the kanoko dome is systematically, or almost, made with luxury materials such as mother-of-pearl, coral or all types of semi-precious stones such as jade .
Kansashi throughout the seasons
Much like the works that are displayed in the tokonoma , the kansashi worn change according to the seasons of the year. They are displayed in different colors but also different shapes which most of the time take the form of animals or flowers. We clearly recognize here the appreciation that the Japanese have with nature. Here are the broad outlines of the different kansashi that are worn over the years (source: Click Japan ):
- January: an ear of wheat is worn in the hair as well as a dove to a lesser extent
- February: the colors pink and red are out and symbolize love
- March: in March , kansashi take the form of yellow and white flowers as well as butterflies
- April: butterflies are still fashionable in April but often silver or gold in color, small lanterns can also be present to symbolize the arrival of summer
- May: the colors blue and purple are used to represent irises and wisteria
- June: green is frequently worn in homage to weeping willows as well as pink for hydrangeas
- July: dragonflies appear in the hair in July but also drops of rosé, fireworks and fans for summer
- August: a feather duster is frequently put in the hair and the colors pink and red stand out for the maikos, white and silver for the geishas
- September: purple appears as a color and clover, chrysanthemum, kudzu and bellflower are the flowers that are taken as models for kansashi
- October : kansashi take the form of red and white chrysanthemums in October
- November: the color red is out as well as yellow
- December: bamboo leaves are out but also kanzashi made from rice cakes for some