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Tsumami Kanzashi  つまみ簪

The beauty of folded fabric flowers

You may have seen those beautiful tsumami kanzashi flowers that geisha and maiko (apprentice geisha) wear in their hair. Kanzashi is a term that means "ornamental or ornate hairpin" in Japanese. These gorgeous creations are rotated seasonally by geisha and even monthly by maiko and are very expensive. Creating them takes time and patience and only adds to their allure and beauty.

There are many different kinds of kanzashi and their purpose, other than decorative, is to denote the status of a geisha or maiko. 

Tsumami kanzashi refers specifically to folded fabric flower types however, you can also have kanzashi made from silk, wood, lacquer, gold, silver, braided cords, tortoiseshell, pins, tubes of fabric, dangling metal plates, wooden slides, fans, or a combination of these materials. Many are made to reflect the seasons or carry an auspicious meaning. 

maiko are apprentice geisha and they must look more showy and girlish, and wear more intricate kanzashi in their hair. once a maiko graduates to geisha she can tone down her kanzashi to look more mature.

Kanzashi types including metal dangling pins, baubles and combs.

Tsumami kanzashi flowers are a traditional Japanese craft, but...

Now that you know what tsumami kanzashi are, I bet you're interested in how to make them!  The methods are fairly straight-forward however, tsumami kanzashi have been designated a, "Traditional Craft" within Japan and as such there are only a few artisans making them in the traditional way using traditional materials and methods. This is because there is a law in Japan (Densan Act 1974) regarding Japanese traditional crafts and whether something can be labelled as such.

The Densan Act puts many criteria on creating traditional Japanese arts and crafts and those rules are very restrictive. There is nothing to stop anyone from creating kanzashi for themselves but, the Law states that these people cannot claim they are making authentic Japanese arts or crafts because they are not following the laws governing their creation.

Densan Act 1974

The main requirements for a craft item to be designated as "Traditional* Craft Product" under the above law are as follows.

  • The article must be used mainly in everyday life.
  • The article's main part of manufacturing process must be done by hand.
  • The article must be manufactured using traditional techniques.
  • The article's main materials must be the traditionally used ones.
  • The article must form a production centre in a certain region of Japan.

* 'Traditional' here means having a history of at least 100 years.   

* 'Regional production' here means that there are at least 10 enterprises of 30 persons engaged in the region. 

Worldwide there are a great many amateur tsumami kanzashi flower crafters, myself included, making some beautiful works for personal use and for sale. Technically speaking, these people should not be declaring that their work is a "traditional craft of Japan" but there is no law preventing them from experimenting with the craft for themselves.

Additionally, these people are often adapting the styles and designs to suit their own cultures and standards of beauty so while they may be using the beautiful tsumami kanzashi styles and some techniques to create them, they are a fusion of the two cultures and not traditional works of Japanese art.

I teach how to make 3 styles of Japanese-inspired kanzashi flowers in my workshops. Checkout the workshops page for more information.

have you made tsumami kanzashi before?

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