Tea ceremony before Kamogawa Odori.
Kanzashi worn during Tea Ceremony

Kanzashi, hair ornaments, long hair pins are used in traditional Japanese hairstyles while wearing a kimono and as weapons in feudal times. Women of Samurai families used the 6 inch pins, easily concealed in their long hair that not only keep their long hair up, but also as a means of protection from assaults in times of war or from street thugs. The women were trained to use the long, sharp pins as a weapon. They could easily and swiftly remove them from their bundled hair, useful as an element of surprise to pierce an enemy’s throat or other vital organ. Typically used by women, a male samurai with long hair might also use the kansashi to hold his hair in place.

They first appeared during the Jomon Period as a single thin rod or stick. Kanzashi were considered to have mystical powers which could ward off evil spirits. During the Edo period, artisans began to produce more finely crafted products, including some hair ornaments which could also be used as defensive weapons. The craftsmanship reached a high point, with many different styles and designs being created. The most common uses of kanzashi in modern times are in Shinto weddings and use by geisha and maiko, apprentice geisha, and masters in the Japanese tea ceremony. They can also be found in ornmanta flower arrangement such as ikebana or used as an elegant touch to a business suit.

A geisha wears her kanzashi in different ways to indicate her status. Maiko usually wear more numerous and elaborate kanzashi than full-fledged geisha and progress through several hairstyles where the kanzashi must be worn in a fixed pattern.

Typical materials used to make kanzashi are lacquered wood, gold and silver-plated metal,  tortoiseshell, silk, and recently plastic. Early bakelite kanzashi are extremely collectible. Basic styles are complex hana (flower) and seasonal arrangements.

kanzashi 225x300 Kanzashi (Hair Ornaments)

File:Geisha-kyoto-2004-11-21.jpgFile:Maiko serving tea at Kitano Tenmangū 2011-02-25.jpg

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