Kanzashi in Japan being utilized for many fashion styles and occasions
Hiroshi Saito, Michel Lebon and Lee Jay Walker
Modern Tokyo Times
The Edo era witnessed the real growth and power of kanzashi in Japan despite aspects of the roots being traced back all the way to the Jomon period. Japanese artisans increasingly utilized new innovations throughout the Edo period and this enabled greater sophistication which enhanced the power of kanzashi. Also, the ukiyo-e art movement blossomed throughout the same period and many famous artists highlighted the beauty of Japanese women. Therefore, the visibility of kanzashi was witnessed within many Japanese traditions.
Today in the modern world the concept of kanzashi is equated with beauty, sophistication, stunning artistry, and within traditional dress styles of Japan where hair ornaments enhance the beauty to another level. However, modern day kanzashi is easily available and extremely cheap providing you shop around. Therefore, the degree and sophistication of kanzashi varies enormously and this applies to price mechanisms, quality, dress-style, purpose, and so forth.
Kanzashi is also very flexible when it comes to different age groups and the same applies to utilization. This means that you can witness kanzashi on the streets of Harajuku (Tokyo), Namba (Osaka), Ikebukuro (Tokyo), and throughout trendy fashionable areas in Japan. Alternatively, kanzashi can be witnessed in the most refined areas of Japan where sophistication and tradition remains powerful.
It did appear that kanzashi would be marginalized in Japan once modernization began to flourish. After all, the changing nature of Western hairstyles, dress, music, and other important areas, meant that new approaches to beauty and dress were in full sway throughout the twentieth century in Japan. The earlier root of modernization belongs to the Meiji era but clearly further developments throughout the following century would alter the landscape of Japan.
This meant that kanzashi was becoming marginalized and mainly connected with Japanese high culture and traditions. Therefore, kanzashi became equated with the world of geisha, high culture, traditional weddings, Japanese tea ceremony, and other important aspects of Japanese culture. In a sense, it is true that kanzashi still remains powerful within cultural traditions in Japan but today the development of kanzashi continues to spin in many directions.
After all, kawaii (adorable/cute) culture within the dress style angle does enable kanzashi to flourish because of the natural beauty and concept of this thinking. Of course, kanzashi is not part and parcel of kawaii culture but it is an angle which is utilized by individuals who adore the fashion side of this movement.
Another major development of kanzashi is that today you can find fashion conscious individuals all over the world being fascinated by this Japanese cultural angle. Therefore, the power of the “old world” and high culture in Japan is a huge pulling power internationally. At the same time, the influence of kawaii culture, maid café, animation, and other major themes within Japan are also being transmitted to a greater international audience. Of course, kanzashi isn’t naturally linked to animation but the cultural power of Japanese anime/manga means that younger individuals all over the world are being drawn into learning more about Japanese culture. Also, in some anime you will witness kanzashi and it just highlights how this medium is spreading into new directions.
In an earlier article by Modern Tokyo Times it was stated that “Of course nothing remains static because purest kanzashi is based on gold/silver plated metals, tortoiseshell, lacquered wood and silk – but in the world of accessible fashion and accessories then kanzashi is also being made by using plastics and other materials.”
“Traditional makers of kanzashi remain loyal to the firm foundations of this fashion piece in Japan and international makers also desire to maintain the high culture aspect and rich artistry of kanzashi.”
The power of kanzashi is that it can be utilized to highlight mainstream fashion accessories, high culture, alternative fashion, festivals, and within many areas of traditional Japanese culture. Therefore, kanzashi can be seen in many aspects of modern life while also being powerful within rich Japanese traditions. The same also applies to the price mechanism and quality of individual kanzashi hair ornaments. For this reason, kanzashi continues to thrive and develop within Japan and internationally.