Textiles & Accessories – Tekisutairu & kami kazari
One of the most important natural expressions and symbols of cultures around the world, textiles are perhaps the most prized and collected by people who are sensitive to the value of Folk Art. From carpets and prayer rugs, blankets and wall hangings, to the many varied styles of clothing, textiles serve as doors to other cultures, other peoples, and other times. Today, handcrafted textiles are becoming a rarity: the feel and vibrancy of those created by the personal touch of the villager or the master craftsman may never be duplicated in quite the same way.
As a result, the Japanese have traditionally viewed textiles as an embodiment of not only beauty, but as family heirlooms and repositories of history. Whether for a Kimono (outer garment), Obi (sash), Haori (jacket), or Noren (Doorway Hangings), cloth in Japan is woven, dyed, and embroidered with infinite care, and Japanese textile craftsmen are deservedly ranked among the most skilled in the world. Though the Kimono is the Japanese national costume, it functions in the same way as the costumes of other cultures. It protects the body, decorates it, and expresses social status. The wearing of a Kimono, in particular, is both a state of mind and a state of dress.
Today we, as a modern society, not only adorn our homes with textiles from around the world, but in the case of the Kimono and Haori, adorn ourselves as well.
Kanzashi are hair pins and ornaments used in traditional Japanese hairstyles. Kanzashi first appeared when women abandoned the traditional Taregaimi 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 defense in an emergency. Kanzashi are fabricated from a wide range of materials such as lacquered wood, gold and silver plated metal, tortoiseshell and silk, and recently, plastic.
Kushi are hair combs made from bakelite, celluloid, tortoise shell, bone, and shell that are embellished with inlaid brass, mother-of-pearl, and coral. The design is most often applied to both sides of the comb. The comb was used for both combing the hair as well as in helping to keep the hair in place. As a result early bakelite Kanzashi and Kushi are extremely collectible.
Seasonal Kanzashi and Kushi
The seasons dictate which kind of hair ornament is worn in Japan. Usually this applies above all to the geisha and maiko, who tend to be the only Japanese women to wear kanzashi often enough for seasonal changes to be noticeable. Since maiko wear more kanzashi than senior geisha, seasonal changes are even more important for them.
January— The design of January kanzashi differs from year to year, but usually has an auspicious Japanese New Year theme. Shouchikubai is a popular choice, and combination of pine (matsu), bamboo (take) and green, red or white plum blossoms (ume) which are usually associated with celebrations.
February— Usually trailing deep pink, or sometimes red, ume plum blossoms, which are to be seen everywhere in Japan at this time and symbolize young love and the approach of spring. Another less common theme is the pinwheel.
March— Trailiing yellow and white rape blossoms (nanohana) and butterflies, as well as peach blossoms (mono), narcissi (suisen), and peonies (baton).
April— Trailing soft pink cherry blossom (sakura) mixed with butterflies and bonbori lanterns, signaling the approach of summer. Cherry blossom viewing at this time of the year is a major cultural event in Japan. Also kanzashi consisting of a single silver (or sometimes gold) butterfly (cho) made of mizuhiki cord are common.
May— Trailing purple wisteria (fuji) and flag irises (ayame), usually of the blue variety. Irises denote the height of spring. Small silver butterflies also pop up as extra decorations in May.
June—trailing green willow (yanagi) leaves with pinks, or less commonly hydrangea (ajisai) flowers. Willow is a traditional image associated with geisha. This month is a rainy season in Japan, and therefore willow (a water-loving tree) and the washy blue of hydrangea are appropriate.
July— Kanzashi featuring a display of fans.These will usually be of the round (uchiwa) variety, but occasionally folding dancing fans are also featured. The fans refer to the Gion Festival which takes place at this time, a huge event held at the Gion geisha district in Kyoto, which involves hundreds of traditional dances by geisha. Fans are a staple component of traditional Japanese dance. The fans featured in a maiko’s July kanzashi vary each year, inline with the Festival. There are common themes such as dragonflies and lines denoting swirling water. Other kanzashi worn during July are the fireworks kanzashi and dewdrops on grass (tsuyushiba).
August— Purple morning glory (asagao) or susuki grass. The susuki grass appears as a starburst of pines. Senior maiko wear silver-white and junior maiko wear pink or red.
September— Japanese bellflower (kikyo). The purple tones are traditionally associated with autumn. Often these will be mixed with the other autumn flowers: ;bush clover, patrinia, chrysanthemum, Japanese boneset, kudzu, and pinks.
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.
November— Trailing autumnal leaves. These may be a generic yellow leaf or the characteristic red maple leaf. Maple viewing is the autumnal equivalent in Japan of cherry blossom viewing. Ginkgo and liquidambar leaves are also employed.
December— The Japanese make mochi at this time of year, and often decorate trees with them to represent white flowers. It is thought to be good luck to wear kanzashi featuring mochibana, or rice-cake flowers. December kanzashi also features two maneki, which are tiny blank tags. Traditionally maiko visit the Minamiza Theatre and ask two of their favourite Kabuki actors to autograph them with their Kabuki nom. Some December kanzashi also include bamboo leaves.
New Year— At this time of year all maiko and geisha wear unhusked rice ears on the right side of their coiffure. These kanzashi also feature eyeless white doves. The maiko and geisha fill in one eye and ask somebody they like to draw the other.