Saturday, August 27, 2011

Friday Photo: Tayuu Kanzashi


First of all, it is actually still Friday here in balmy Hawaii, so yes this still counts for a Friday photo (barely) :p Second of all, the kanzashi we'll be talking about today is hell to photograph because it is so darned BIG. Just for reference in that top picture, the widest part of my hand (when I attempt to scrunch it up the way it was while holding the kanzashi) is 3-3.5 inches/7.6-8.9cm across. So this thing is enormous. I mean like, gigantic.


I currently only know of one shop that sells these, and I discovered it quite by accident. Back in 2007, when I was first in Japan, I found Ikuokaya, also by accident. At the time I figured they sold nice kanzashi and their maiko stuff looked pretty authentic to me, and the folks there were nice, so I bought myself a nice stash. A few days later a friend of mine from the language program I had been on before going to Kyoto had some time off, so she came out to Kyoto for the weekend. She wanted to get some kanzashi too, so we went shopping at Jyuusanya (where we bought so much that the next time I went back I could see where they had tried to disguise the gaps in their display) and then decided to stop in at Ikuokaya before going on to our main entertainment for the evening: a maiko dinner at a local ryokan. Some inns and hotels have dinner shows where a maiko or geiko will make a brief appearance and perform for the guests, then leave. For many tourists, this is the closest thing to an ozashiki they will ever experience. Anyway, the maiko dancing that night was Miyoharu, and when it was our turn to have a little chat with her she noticed our Ikuokaya bags and mentioned that she knew the place because she shopped there. Well, that's about the best endorsement you can get for a shop. The next night I stopped in for a third time and wound up in a conversation with the owner's son. Now, if you ever go to Ikuokaya you will notice that they have several pictures of various maiko and geiko displayed around the shop. These are in fact pictures of customers. I noticed one picture of a tayuu amongst the maiko and geiko pictures, and asked the owner's son if she came there too. Oh yes, he told me, she comes here too. So I decided to be bold and asked if they had a tayuu kanzashi in stock, and if I could look at it. It turned out that they did indeed have one in stock, and I did indeed get to look at it. Though I definitely couldn't buy it at that time (and later developments tell me they wouldn't have been able to sell it to me anyway if I had asked), I decided that someday I would own one of those too.

Fast forward a little over two years, to the end of 2009-beginning of 2010. I had been living in Japan for several months at that point and had managed two more trips to Kyoto, one a vacation in April of 2009 before moving there to work and the other a short weekend away during Silver Week that September. I always stopped in to Ikuokaya to chat and pick up new pieces. During that winter trip I decided the time was ripe to treat myself to a tayuu kanzashi. So I stopped by to ask about getting one...and found that none were in stock! Turns out that they're a special-order item. Which, when you consider that there are only like four tayuu left in the entire country, it kind of makes sense. So I waited a few more months, thought about it some more, then contacted the folks at Ikuokaya to ask about having one made. Now, these folks are sweet and treat their customers amazingly, and by now they were pretty used to my craziness when it comes to kanzashi, but even they were thrown for a loop by this request. But they rose to the challenge, and by the time I returned to Kyoto for the last time in late July, my kanzashi had arrived and I was able to pick it up. The piece wound up traveling up to Aomori with me before I got the chance to carefully pack it up and ship it home, where it was waiting for me when I arrived.

For the curious, I actually can't tell what it's made of. It looks like metal but is surprisingly light-weight. The butterflies are made of some sort of fabric card and have little antennae.

So, the moral of the story is: If you need something kanzashi-related ask the folks at Ikuokaya, because they can probably get it for you, even if it's a tayuu kanzashi. Also, if you're willing to spend the money you can get ALMOST anything you want in Kyoto*.

*No amount of money alone will get you into an exclusive teahouse for an ozashiki with maiko or geiko. This is because of the no first-timers rule. may notice that I only said you can't get into an exclusive teahouse. I never said you can't hire maiko or geiko ;)

Monday, August 22, 2011

Kanzashi Resource List

It occurred to me recently that I talk a lot about kanzashi here and have mentioned places to get them, but never really made a list like I did with kimono shopping resources. Well, this post is here to fix that! Rather than breaking it down by online vs. brick-and-mortar, though, I’m going to break it down by maiko vs. non-maiko styles of kanzashi

Authentic Maiko (or geisha/geiko or tayuu) Kanzashi

  • Ikuokaya: Without a doubt my favorite kanzashi shop in Kyoto. They also have a website (FYI: they have music that plays automatically on the homepage), and I know people who have ordered things from them. The owner and his son speak excellent English and the son also speaks German, so don’t be afraid to fax them (unfortunately the other staff members at the shop don’t speak English or any other languages but Japanese, so if you don’t speak Japanese or don’t feel confident in your Japanese skills calling might not be the best idea). You can buy full maiko kanzashi sets or just parts of the sets. They also sell other authentic maiko and geiko items, like maiko obi dome and han eri, as well as mini versions of maiko kanzashi, kanzashi for the average person and more tourist-related items. It is also the only shop I have found in Kyoto that sells tayuu items.
  • Kazurasei: Another kanzashi shop in Kyoto. Like Ikuokaya, you can buy full sets of maiko kanzashi or parts of maiko kanzashi. They also sell kanzashi and other kitsuke items (like obi dome and obi jime) for regular people. Their specialty is their series of pure camellia oil products, including shampoo and conditioner.
  • Kintakedo: The third kanzashi shop location on the Gion side of Shijo-dori (along with Ikuokaya and Kazurasei). They sell maiko kanzashi and also some mini version of them -- my little morning glory (asagao) is from them. You can also get kanzashi appropriate for regular people here. I don't know of a website for these folks, but if you do please feel free to share the link!
  • Hannari-ya: An online shop that sells all kinds of Japanese stuff. They have a small selection of maiko kanzashi, which they apparently purchase from Kintakedo.

Non-Maiko (or geisha/geiko or tayuu) Kanzashi

  • Jyuusanya: The fourth kanzashi shop on Shijo-dori, this particular one is on the non-Gion side of the Kamogawa. Their specialty is carved boxwood combs, and they provide the offering of new combs presented at the renewal of the Grand Shrine at Ise ever 20 years. Those of you who collect BJDs or other dolls might be interested to note that I have found miniature carved combs of all kinds at this shop. In addition to the boxwood combs, they sell a variety of lacquered combs, bekko pins, and tsumami kanzashi appropriate for all occasions. They don’t sell maiko goods, but if you’re just going for a maiko-like look for cosplay or something some of their items might be a good option, especially if you want something you might be able to use in other situations later.
  • Maya Kanzashi: An online shop with a large variety of pretty, generic kanzashi appropriate for more formal occasions. Most purchases from this shop come with two side pieces, but some come with just one piece or one larger side piece plus two or more much smaller pins. This is another good options for people looking to do maiko cosplay without actually buying maiko goods, or who want a fancy kanzashi to wear with their yukata for a more over-the-top style.
  • Department stores and kimono shops: Even small kimono shops or limited wafuku sections in department stores often have a small selection of kanzashi appropriate for some kinds of kimono, especially more formal varieties. You may even be able to get super-casual styles to wear with yukata during the summer. And speaking of yukata…
  • Claire’s, Icing, and similar stores:  Though in my opinion the things here aren’t substitutes for authentic kanzashi, many of the hair flowers can be a nice touch with yukata.

Other Resources

  • eBay: You can find just about anything on eBay. That said, if something is advertised as a maiko or geisha piece, take it with a grain of salt and try to confirm that it is an authentic maiko or geisha piece before spending big bucks on it. I have found eBay to be a good source for antiques, bekko kanzashi, and wedding sets (though those might be particularly expensive). Doll hobbyists can also find some mini kanzashi for dolls on eBay with some careful looking.
  • Etsy: A great place to go for unique, non-traditional kanzashi made with traditional methods. Ever thought a headband with kanzashi would rock? You can find them on Etsy. Some sellers will even do commissions. That said, use caution when dealing with sellers who claim that their pieces are authentic maiko or geiko pieces. I know of at least one seller there whose pieces strike me as way overpriced when I compare them to what I can get from places like Ikuokaya and Kazurasei. I would prefer not to name names publically though.
  • Flickr’s kanzashi communities: Thought not everyone here is making pieces to sell, some people are and some even link to their Etsy or other sales pages in their profiles and/or picture captions.
  • Ningyoukan: A site for doll hobbyists who want to buy kanzashi for their dolls. Pieces range from the tiny to the relatively large, so whether you’re buying for a Barbie or a Volks SD17 you can probably find what you need here. Humans, however, will be out of luck.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Friday Photo: Purple Furisode

This is one of the first kimono I ever bought, and is one of the few new ones in my collection. On my first trip to Japan I managed to find the Mimuro shop in Kyoto. It's down little back streets off of Shijo-Dori and can be tough to find, but if you can get there during a sale it's worth it. We're talking multiple floors of everything from yukata (at least in the summer) to tomesode and furisode, for all ages. The time I went they were having a huge sale, and I managed to get this furisode, a fukuro obi, a juban, an obi age, and two obi jime for $700 -- about half the cost of the furisode alone when it was being sold at full price. Not only that, but I got a tour of the other floors and their other goods, completely with getting to see an unfinished all-shibori furisode worth around $20,000 at the time, while waiting for my things to be packed and my payment to be processed. The whole trip was a lot of fun, and was one of my first experiences with the fun experience of surprising people by being a white chick who knew things about kimono (seriously, walk into a kimono shop or the wafuku floor of a department store and start asking for kimono-related items by name. It's awesome).

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Friday Photo: (Baby You're A) Firework...kanzashi

From top to bottom: Maiko fireworks kanzashi, maiko fireworks kanzashi with optional tassel added, and mini fireworks kanzashi. As you can see, the maiko version includes three of the mini kanzashi.

I bought the mini version first, actually, on my first trip to Japan in 2007. I bought the larger maiko version on my second trip in 2009. The folks at Ikuokaya (where I bought both) told me that the loop on the underside of the maiko version could be used to add a tassel to the piece for more junior maiko, and offered me several different color options for the tassel. I wound up choosing pink (even though they offered blue and my favorite color, purple) after it got the Obaasan Seal of Approval from an older woman who came into the store while I happened to be there and wandered over to see what the crazy foreign chick was doing with the maiko kanzashi and tassels. Trust me, when something in Japan gets the Obaasan Seal of Approval, it's usually a good idea to go with it. Plus the pink makes a nice contrast with the blues and purples, and brings out the pink in the iridescent jewels.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Friday Photo: Summer Komon

Just a pretty summer piece I picked up a couple of years back. No interesting story to it, sadly, but it certainly is nice and airy and puts you in a cool frame of mind. Great for dealing with summer heat, right?