Japanese Vintage Hair Comb

Vintage Japanese Oiran Lacquered Kushi | Prodigious Courtesan Hair Comb



Descriptive qualities& condition:

Dimensions: 6-1/4”L x 2-1/2”h

Shown is a beautiful, large comb, (Kushi), made of cherry wood and lacquered in gold. The comb drums, (teeth), are all intact, and left unfinished in their natural wood state. The motif on the top ridge of the comb, on both sides, represents nature in the form of birds and flowers, which are carved and rendered in both red and gold lacquer and blue/green abalone, (Aogai). This piece was not made for export. Objects worn by the Oiran are difficult to find and expensive when available.

This specific comb was particularly important as a symbol of status of the “Oiran” who owned it. Such combs would be carved from aromatic wood such as cherry, plum, or sandalwood, as well as ivory, horn, or tortoise shell, and then decorated with beautiful inlays made of enamel, precious metals, or mother-of-pearl.

Vintage Condition: This is an exceptional and rare piece, beautifully detailing giving depth to the finish. “As is”, and retains the original craft/workmanship. Any discoloration, chipping/cracking, surface wear or structural damage noted.    

NOTE: Oiran or Japan’s highest-ranking courtesan, were the grandest and most spectacular women of the “floating world”. The word Oiran means, “first flower”, which poetically indicates their exalted status in society. Like geisha, they often had humble beginnings, and many were originally sold into the business as children and were left to work their way up over the years as apprentices. Oiran should not be confused with geisha, whose dress was more subtle and simple. Oiran, known for their beauty, artistry, and intelligence, dictated the fashions of the day and influenced many artists, poets and musicians. They are part of Japan’s cultural legacy and the famous Oiran parade called the “oiran-dochu” is still re-enacted in Japan today.  An Oiran’s costume consists of many layers of thick padded kimonos along with a large ornate brocade obi tied in the front as was required in her profession, (Kimonos traditionally are tied in the back). She wore towering black lacquer geta, which caused her to require assistance to walk. Her hair was arranged in an elaborate hairstyle with large hair ornaments artfully placed, displaying her rank and status.