Maiko (apprentice geisha) decorate their hair with charming hana kanzashi (floral ornaments).
Trailing soft pink cherry blossoms (‘sakura‘) mixed with butterflies and bonbori lanterns, signalling the approach of summer. Cherry blossom viewing at this time of year is a major cultural event in Japan. Kanzashi consisting of a single silver (or sometimes gold) butterfly (‘cho‘) made of mizuhiki cord are common.
These small silk works of art are made with the ancient technique of ‘Tsumami zaiku‘.
A small square of silk is cut out, then folded with tweezers to form a flower petal. All the precious petals are then combined with the rice glue to form the whole flower.
Oharibako is wise in this ancient tradition!
Passionately preserving a tradition that goes on from two generations, the Hidemasa Kitai’s family produces wonderful hana kanzashi (ornaments used in traditional Japanese women’s hairstyles, such as those of the maiko and geisha) starting by ancient kimono that are transformed into delicate silk petals. In his shop (Oharibako おはりばこ), you can find infinite and precious accessories, they are perfect for kimono style, and Western style too… Each of them are strictly handmade with love & for love!
Tsumami zaiku is an ancient traditional Japanese art.
Born in the Edo period (1603-1868), it consists in the handcrafting of objects, jewelry and various decorations through the use of the precious fabrics of the kimonos, cut into small pieces and then folded and glued by hand.
In ancient times there were silk fabrics used specifically for this practice, today the materials chosen are mainly thin and shiny silk fabrics (Habutae 羽二重), usually used for the lining of kimonos, and the Chirimen ちりめん fabric with its characteristic rippled structure ‘in waves’.
Origin of Tsumami Zaiku
In 1785, a nobleman named Yasuterukyo lived in Kyōto. Lord Yasuteru the handicraft lover, cut his wife’s old kimonos, sharpened tip of chopsticks, and created a way to fold “Maru-tsumami (round shaped tsumami)” and “Kaku(Ken)-tsumami (sharp pointed tsumami)”. He extend the glue paste on back of his hand and made ball shaped “Tsumami kanzashi” with Maru-tsumami. This was the beginning of Tsumami-zaiku.
Tsumami-zaiku kusudama: drawing on the left / ball shaped Tsumami kanzashi: drawing on the right.
With these “pointed” rods he created fabric flowers with two types of petals called Maru-tsumami and Ken-tsumami (Maru means round shape, while Ken means pointed shape)
After his first creation, Lord Yasuteru further developed the craft. To fold the fabric, he used a curved piece of bamboo, which acted like a pair of modern day tweezers. Instead of spreading glue on the back of his hand, he used a plank instead.
His next major project was a Sage kusudama (hanging type ball-shaped scent ornament), it is a decoration that has been existing in Japan since ancient times. Kusudama is a decoration that has existed since ancient times, and it was decorated with fresh flowers on a sphere made by bending bamboo.
“Sage-kusudama” made by Lord Yasuteru was decorated with 7 types of Tsumami-zaiku which was peony, cherry blossoms, plums, autumn leaves, tachibana, chrysanthemums, and satsuki azalea with scent inside, and 12 tassels using five-colors (red, blue, purple, yellow, and black).
He later presented this to Emperor Gomomozono, and it was decorated in the palace.
This new fashion led to the spread of Tsumami Kanzashi which became popular not only among noble families but also among ordinary city girls. It seems that this hair ornament was also appreciated as a “souvenir symbolizing Edo” and was therefore bought by many tourists.
The initial Tsumami kanzashi was made by simple Tsumami zaiku like peony, cherry blossoms, and plums.
This artisan tradition has fortunately been handed down to us, from masters to students, from generation to generation.
Even if today there are very few craftsmen capable of practicing it.
A talented contemporary Italian artist is MOMO Kanzashi!