KUSHI is the Japanese word for "comb" and here we will discuss the decorative kind that has been used since the EDO period.

KUSHI have been used for a long time, a comb was found in at the HIGASHIMYO site in the Saga prefecture in Japan which is dated to about 7000 years ago, but decorative combs started to play an important part in the coiffure from the start of the EDO period.

We concentrate here on the KUSHI because this hair decoration is the centre piece of a variety of ornaments.

KUSHI could be used on it's own or be accompanied by KŌGAI, KANZASHI, or other decorations. For more impressive coiffures for TAYŪ and OIRAN many KANZASHI and ICHIDOME were added during the late EDO period. ICHIDOME went out of fashion, but they are interesting pieces of art. There are also different kinds of cloths, pins and clamps. The reason these ornaments became so important is that the hairstyle, that previously was long straight hair, changed to upswept styles which allowed for ornaments to be placed in them. The prosperity of the middle and upper classes allowed the artisans to create more and more spectacular pieces.

What is what.

KUSHI - Comb
Legend tells us that combs in the beginning were used as a fortunetelling or ritual tool.

KŌGAI - Bobkin
A stick shaped item that is either of one piece or 2 pieces that lock together.



Stop for back bun and pin for front bun
There is no translation for this item.
This is mainly seen in hairstyles for TAYŪ and GEIKO in the late EDO period and more contemporary the SAKKŌ hairstyle for MAIKO.

KANZASHI - Hairpins
Originally tree branches or flowers were stuck in the hair as a religious or ritual decoration. These evolved into pins with decorative endings and, depending on the style, with dangling decorations.

We can consider the a KUSHI, a KŌGAI and a small KANZASHI are the staple for traditional hair decorations in a traditional Japanese coiffure.

Where do we place the different hair pieces in basic hairstyles for MARUMAGE (left) and TAYŪ (right) styles. Viewing is done from the back.
These are just examples, as many variations are possible in style of combs, pins etc., these variations can be for different occasions, ages, and periods.
(Images borrowed from the Kushi Kanzashi Museum book)

4. ICHIDOME - This is a type of short KŌGAI for the rear top bun.
5. MAEKOZO - This is a type of short KANZASHI pin for front bun
6. KANZASHI - This is a YOSHICHO KANZASHI butterfly/earpick style hair pin. These can be found on the side wings and the back bun of the coiffure.There is a variety of designs for these pins, very often depicting the KAMON (in this case the crest) of the house they worked for.
7. KANZASHI - This is a BIRABIRA KANZASHI. This type of KANZASHI has dangling decorations and can be found at the front and the back of the coiffure.

Two samples of day-to-day hairstyles in the EDO and MEIJI periods. Check how the comb lends forward. This would allow you to see the decoration on the rim as well as the front. In other hairstyles you may find the KUSHI standing more 6upright with the design facing the front.
(Images borrowed from the Kushi Kanzashi Museum website: http://kushikanzashi.jp/)

MARUMAGE style Edo Middle-Late, contains KUSHI and 2 KANZASHI KUSHIMAKI style Late Edo period, contains KUSHI, KŌGAI

For a list of calendar years from EDO to REIWA, please click here!

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