I notice that designers both large and small always seem to use the words kimono, origami and geisha to market any item that is even vaguely Japanese. That always annoys me. Just because a pattern is Japanese doesn’t mean it comes from a kimono, people!
Of course now I’m guilty of it too. I grit my teeth and tag my items “origami,” and “kimono” because I know that those are the search terms that people use. As a 25-year Japan specialist and scholar though, oh how it makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up!
But now, I’ve actually created something that I proudly call the Geisha Kanzashi Hairstick. Why? Because I modeled it on the kanzashi hairsticks actually worn by modern-day geisha in Japan (and yes, there are still geisha in Japan, although not a lot. They live and work mainly in Kyoto and some traditional areas of Tokyo, entertaining at expensive private parties).
This kanzashi hairstick is a 5 inch carved bone stick tipped by an imported red tensha bead in the traditional Chrysanthemum pattern. Tensha beads are a special kind of Japanese bead in which the image is adhered to the bead through a heat process. I found these at a shop in Japan and fell in love with them. I have them in black also, in an origami crane pattern and a dragonfly pattern.
I modeled the Geisha Kanzashi on the short hairstick tipped with a round red bead almost always worn by geisha in the back of their elaborate hairstyles.I modernized it a bit by using a round matte gold bead at the end instead of a (slightly scary) inch-long metal point! But otherwise, I tried to stick close to the original in spirit.
This kanzashi is not meant to hold a chignon, the way a long “chopstick” does, but rather to ornament a lovely updo.
I make a long Geisha Hairstick for holding up the hair as well. This one is modeled on the long “waterfall” of wisteria flowers hanging from the left of the geisha’s hairstyle in the lower photo above. I replaced the wisteria with cherry blossoms but am happy with the waterfall effect nonetheless!
I can see someone wearing these hairsticks as part of a geisha Halloween costume, and then wearing them out to dinner the next day, and with jeans the day after that!
I was inspired by Japan’s modern-day geisha. But you don’t have to be a Geisha to wear them!