Delicate kanzashi hairpins with seasonal floral motifs, worn by maiko (apprentice geishas) 

What are hana kanzashi?
 Hana kanzashi (traditional Japanese flower-decorated ornamental hairpins) have seasonal flower motifs. Such hairpins, particularly those of high quality, have adorned the hair of Japanese women since the Nara period. They are associated with modern-day Kyoto—in particular with the maiko, or apprentice geisha, who live in Kyoto's geisha districts. New hana kanzashi are made when a maiko makes her debut. The maiko wear different hairpins each month. There are also hairpins specific for special events such as the Gion Festival. There are set designs for each geisha district and for the hairpins worn at dance performances held in the spring and the fall. Hairpins can also be chosen to match individual performances or costumes.
What are hanakanzashi?
Hana kanzashi can be worn in pairs, one on each side of the head, or a single hairpin can be worn alone. Modern-day hana kanzashi fall into two broad categories: katsuyama hairpins (sizeable long ornaments placed at the top of the head) and kanzashi hairpins (or daikan hairpins; in which strings of triangular petal ornaments known as bura hang down from the main flowers). When a young women becomes a maiko, she wears both katsuyama and kanzashi hairpins in a hairstyle known as wareshinobu. This is a particularly charming hairstyle involving a large number of small flowers. After two or three years, as the maiko's apprenticeship period draws to a close, her hairstyle also changes to the ofuku style, which involves only kanzashi hairpins and combs, with no katsuyama hairpins. There is also a move towards a more “settled” look in terms of the flowers in the hairstyle. The hairpins can also be made for ordinary people, but there are some differences in size, etc.
Making hana kanzashi
There are two methods of making the flowers used in these hairpins: zouka (“artificial flowers”) and tsumami (“pinching”). Here, we will look at the tsumami method (also known as tsumami saiku or tsumami craft). We will follow the tsumami process that produces the flowers making up a hairpin. A high quality plain-weave silk called habutae is used to make tsumami flowers. This is thin silk, slightly lighter than that used for kimono. In recent years, it has apparently become difficult to obtain habutae as well as the best type of starch and other traditional tools and materials. As a result, it is a struggle for makers today to give the hairpins the same finish as in the past.
Japanese plum blossom tsumami
We will now look at how a Japanese plum blossom hanakanzashi is made. First, the tsumami cloth is cut to the correct size for the flower in question. Small Japanese plum blossoms require pieces around 2.3 cm square. There is serration of around 1.5 mm , and the smallest flowers—small chrysanthemums— require pieces of cloth around 1.5 cm square. The biggest flowers—peonies or cherry blossoms—require pieces of around 6 cm square. Hime nori paste (made from rice or wheat cooked until soft) is spread thickly on a Japanese cypress board. The squares of cloth are folded in half twice with tweezers. Next, the points on each side are opened and lined up with the other point to form a triangle. 
The center of the folded cloth is repositioned with the tweezers, and the cloth is arranged in the shape of a petal.
The petals are then placed on the himenori paste.  
Making the flowers
One by one, the petals are placed onto a round paperboard base attached to a wire rod. 
The finished flowers are put into a stand known as a tsuto and left to dry for around 24 hours.
Adding details
Details are added to make the flowers look more real. For example, stamens are added, created from spirals of thin wire wrapped in gold thread. Authenticity is given to small red buds by putting a touch of white on their edges. 
Grouping the flowers
The flower stems are grouped together by winding with low-twist silk thread (hira ito). A subtle nuance is added by the fact that the thread is not single-colored but combines two colors. For Japanese plum blossom, the two colors are set as red and hiwa (a bright yellowy green). 
For cherry blossom, hiwa and toki (a light pink) are used, or hiwa on its own. For buds, two components are bound with hiraito to the wire core, and six of these are made.
Making hana kanzashi: assembly 
The various components are brought together. The flowers are fixed to the pin. The flowers are bound with hiraito one at a time in a round formation. Finishing touches are made with tweezers, with any angles corrected to ensure a round shape for the flowers. Strings of dangling blossoms (bura) are sometimes added. 
Types of hanakanzashi
Maiko wear hana kanzashi with different flowers each month. Including the hairpins associated with the Gion Festival, a maiko needs to have a total of 13 types of hairpins. In addition, the various geisha districts hold dance performances in the spring. These are the Miyako Odori (associated with the Gion Kōbu district), the Gion Odori (Gion Higashi), the Kyō Odori (Miyagawacho), the Kamogawa Odori (Pontocho), and the Kitano Odori (Kamishichiken). Hairpins with designs unique to each geisha district are made for these meetings, as well as hairpins that suit that year’s performance theme, costumes, or dancers.  Hairpin designs and manufacturing methods are not written down for posterity. Long-standing designs that have been passed down are recreated from the craftsmen’s memory and long experience.
January: fans and pine on winter chrysanthemums 
Different designs are used each year. It seems that two or three motifs are often combined. Typical motifs for January include winter chrysanthemums, pine, bamboo, Japanese plum blossoms, battledores, and dwarf bamboo leaves.  
February: small Japanese plum blossoms (with dangling bura decorations) 
March: narcissus (single bloom, five blooms)
Narcissus were originally associated with February, but they are often also used in March, because rapeseed is the only other flower for that month. 
April: cherry blossoms (three blooms or five blooms)
May: iris (three blooms or five blooms)
Peonies and wisteria are also used in May.
June: willow
Hydrangeas are also used in June.
July: dance fans or round paper fans
Festival (Gion Festival)
In July, specific hairpin designs are worn during the Gion Festival only.
August: miscanthus grass
Morning glory is also used in August.
September: bellflower (three blooms or five blooms)
October: chrysanthemum (three blooms or five blooms
November: small autumn maple leaves
Ginkgo leaves etc, are also used in August.
December: “maneki” on New Year rice cakes
Each December, kaomise—official debut kabuki performances—are held at the Minami-za theater in Kyoto. At the venue, traditional noticeboards known as maneki  post the names of performers in the seasonal debut. 
During the period in which the kaomise Kabuki debut performances are being held, there is an event known as kagai sōken, in which the geisha and maiko of the five geisha districts come to watch the performance. The maiko wear hairpins decorated with their own small “maneki” and, when they go to pay their respects to the actors backstage, the actors write their names on the maiko’s blank maneki.
By: Art Research Center, Ritsumeikan University in collaboration with Kyoto Women's University
Credits: Story

Information provided by Kintakedo

Supported by Kyoto Museum of Traditional Crafts, Fureaikan

Text written by Yamamoto Masako(Research Fellow of Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS))

Photo by Takayama Kengo, A-PROJECTS

Exhibition created by Shimizu Ayano, Kyoto Women's University, Lifestyle Design Laboratory

Edited by Melissa M. Rinne, Kyoto National Museum

Directed by Maezaki Shinya, Kyoto Women's University

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.