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The Art of Tsumami Kanzashi

Sep 28, 2010

by AtelierKanawa handmade and vintage goods

kanawa_bio.jpgKuniko Kanawa comes from a long line of makers — her great-grandfather was a kimono pattern dye artisan, her grandfather was a ranma (an openwork screen above the sliding partitions between two rooms) wood carving artisan, and both of her grandmothers were kimono tailors. Kunkio strives to reintroduce the disappearing culture of Japan to a new audience.

The history of kanzashi — or ornamental hairpins — goes back nearly 3000 years. In the prehistorical era (1000 B.C. to 300 A.D.), it was believed that a supernatural power inhabited the kanzashi, protecting the wearer against evil spirits. 

Tsumami is the technique of pinching a two-dimensional piece of silk fabric to construct a three-dimensional object. Tsumami consists of two types of methods called maru-tsumami (round pinching) and kaku/ken-tsumami (sword-shaped pinching). These techniques were traditionally utilized by maidservants in the imperial courts of Japan. Eventually, the style spread all over the country, and tsumami kanzashi came to refer to an ornamental hairpin made through the pinching technique.

kanawa_1.jpgTsumami Kanzashi for April by Kuniko Kanawa

Today, tsumami kanzashi is worn by maiko, the young girls who are training to become geiko (also known as a geisha). In their custom, kanzashi are seasonal and customized based on the month. For example, they wear plum blossoms in February, cherry blossoms in April, and wisteria or iris in May. Tsumami kanzashi is also worn for celebrating the new year, coming-of-age ceremonies, weddings, and performing classical Japanese dance.

kanawa_2.jpgKanzashi of July by Kuniko Kanawa, displayed at the Japanese American National Museum


From February 2010 to January 2011, my tsumami kanzashi will be displayed in the store of the Japanese American National Museum in Los Angeles. The display will change every month based on flowers blooming in Japan. If you are in the area, please visit to see my work in person!

Tsumami kanzashi is a nationally designated traditional handcraft, passed down through generations of refined skillful artisans with a profound understanding of our language, culture, history, materials and the beauty of Japanese seasons and nature. Most importantly, I believe it is my responsibility to carry this art for future generations, and make my ancestors proud.

For more about Tsumami kanzashi, maiko and other Japanese cultural history, check out Kuniko’s website.

Etsy International | Shop Local: Japan | Articles tagged “Japan” | Etsy Japan Team



  • ikabags

    ikabags said 6 years ago


  • DalkullanJewelry

    DalkullanJewelry said 6 years ago

    Amazing craftmanship! Thank you for a glimpse into this wonderful art form.

  • JoyandWhimsy

    JoyandWhimsy said 6 years ago

    Beautiful hairpieces - absolutely lovely! JAPAN COLORPLATES & TRAVEL, ANTIQUE GIFT BOOK

  • LivingInspired

    LivingInspired said 6 years ago

    congratulations! I wish you all the success. Your work is lovely!

  • rule42

    rule42 said 6 years ago

    Wow! Your work is gorgeous! I hope to stop by and see your work in person in LA while it is on display.

  • strawberryluna

    strawberryluna said 6 years ago

    Wow, how amazingly beautiful. And no surprise, since you come from a long line of artisans Kuniko. Great article, thanks for sharing :)

  • Shogoldjewelry

    Shogoldjewelry said 6 years ago

    Lovely! Congratulations

  • Parachute425

    Parachute425 said 6 years ago

    I'm sure your ancestors would be very proud. Beautiful work.

  • stockannette

    stockannette said 6 years ago

    What a lovely way to protect people from evil spirits!

  • bylynnkrestel

    bylynnkrestel said 6 years ago

    what fine craftmanship!! so impressive!

  • BingoBox

    BingoBox said 6 years ago

    Beautiful - thank you for sharing : ) Cheers !!

  • hildes

    hildes said 6 years ago


  • saburkitty

    saburkitty said 6 years ago

    Always soo pretty!

  • SimpleAspen

    SimpleAspen said 6 years ago

    Beautiful! And it is so important to keep traditions alive for the next generation. Where would we be without them?

  • maggiemaevintage

    maggiemaevintage said 6 years ago

    so beautiful!!!

  • SquishySushi

    SquishySushi said 6 years ago

    Love these beautiful pieces!

  • tigersanddragons

    tigersanddragons said 6 years ago

    Simply lovely, do glad Kaniko is continuing the tradition of this hand craft. I saw an exhibition of stencils cut in Mulberry paper, used in dying kimono fabric and the level of detail was staggering...the work was very specialized and seperate groups of artisans were trained to cut different types of sad that this is rarely practiced anymore.

  • gototes

    gototes said 6 years ago

    Amazing work, so detailed and beautifully done! Wonderful tradition to keep.

  • ElvenWreathsJewelry

    ElvenWreathsJewelry said 6 years ago

    beautiful artwork!! thanks for sharing!

  • LeafandInk

    LeafandInk said 6 years ago

    Absolutely Gorgeous!!! LeafandInk

  • MyWisteriaCottage

    MyWisteriaCottage said 6 years ago

    beautiful sureal work.

  • ezliving

    ezliving said 6 years ago

    Beautiful!Thank you for sharing!

  • KettleConfections

    KettleConfections said 6 years ago

    I love the nature inspired themes of kimono fabrics - thanks for sharing!

  • breadandroses2

    breadandroses2 said 6 years ago

    Truly feminine and beautiful.

  • themefragrance

    themefragrance said 6 years ago

    very beautiful-incredible art form!

  • rosebudshome

    rosebudshome said 6 years ago

    A lost art indeed.

  • TheUntamedHeart

    TheUntamedHeart said 6 years ago

    Wow! Beautiful!

  • thehopetree

    thehopetree said 6 years ago

    the colours are just amazing, such joy to ones eyes:)

  • whichgoose

    whichgoose said 6 years ago

    Amazing work! Congratulations :)

  • kissadesign

    kissadesign said 6 years ago

    Gorgeous work! A beautiful handmade tradition.

  • KMalinka

    KMalinka said 6 years ago

    Amazing art!

  • Stasia61

    Stasia61 said 6 years ago

    So Beautiful!!!! And so nice to see a family tradition honored and carried on, wonderful. Wishing you many sales and good luck.

  • TheIDconnection

    TheIDconnection said 6 years ago

    Beautiful! Monica TheIDConnection

  • whiletheyplay

    whiletheyplay said 6 years ago

    beautiful!!!! :)

  • annaaizic

    annaaizic said 6 years ago

    sofisticated and elegant

  • camelliacollection

    camelliacollection said 6 years ago

    I so love this art form. So amazing. I'm so glad that you featured Kuniko, what a treasure!

  • mandymoomoo

    mandymoomoo said 6 years ago

    Keep the tradition alive, I really admire you and your work!

  • loulahbelle

    loulahbelle said 6 years ago


  • lorenabr

    lorenabr said 6 years ago

    Very beautiful:) love the culture!

  • cadreams

    cadreams said 6 years ago

    Interesting article and beautiful pieces! Thanks!

  • SaagarikaCreations

    SaagarikaCreations said 6 years ago

    I recently read Memoirs of a Geisha", and it's fascinating to know how these hairpins are made!

  • moonstr

    moonstr said 6 years ago

    this is so wonderful, thank you!

  • rozzie

    rozzie said 6 years ago

    Rozzie Loves!!!!

  • byhelenga

    byhelenga said 6 years ago

    Beautiful Work! Thanks)

  • lovelygifts

    lovelygifts said 6 years ago

    So beautiful!!

  • paramountvintage

    paramountvintage said 6 years ago

    simply gorgeous. i love the vintage silk kimono.

  • AlpineGypsy

    AlpineGypsy said 6 years ago

    So fascinating! Thank you~ Heidi

  • LittleRedCottage

    LittleRedCottage said 6 years ago

    Absolutely amazing article!!

  • julessabjewelry

    julessabjewelry said 6 years ago

    WOW! So beautiful, intricate and dedicated. Thank you for sharing - reminds me of "Memoirs of a Geisha" with that beautiful image of the cherry blossoms!

  • polkadotsandblooms

    polkadotsandblooms said 6 years ago

    I have always wondered what the background to those beautiful flowers is. Thanks so much for the great article.

  • ByronMorrisArt

    ByronMorrisArt said 6 years ago

    Very Nice!

  • Bixbies

    Bixbies said 6 years ago

    so gorgeous!

  • HoldTheWire

    HoldTheWire said 6 years ago

    Beautiful! I'm so glad that Etsy offers her a larger marketplace for these wonderful items. Great story.

  • LilAntFace

    LilAntFace said 6 years ago

    Love It!!

  • DixSterling

    DixSterling said 6 years ago

    Absolutely beautiful work.

  • CarlaValverde

    CarlaValverde said 6 years ago

    OHHHHHH i love this shop, love love love!

  • HouseOfMoss

    HouseOfMoss said 6 years ago

    Lovely hairpins, with such a momentum of history behind them!

  • jadjusjewelry

    jadjusjewelry said 6 years ago

    Japanese are noted for their natural talent in art and craft. I have a Japanese friend who make almost eveything in art and craft. Awesome work!!!

  • sushibooties

    sushibooties said 6 years ago

    wow! I am such a huge fan and I love that your preserving Japanese culture. Beautiful work and photographs.

  • tammyann343

    tammyann343 said 6 years ago

    Lovely and absolutely beautiful hairpins.

  • myvintagecrush

    myvintagecrush said 6 years ago

    Oh. Wow. ::drool:: are there really any words?

  • feathersandflorals

    feathersandflorals said 6 years ago

    I am amazed at your artistry. Thanks for sharing your talents.

  • ohbabydotcom

    ohbabydotcom said 6 years ago

    beautiful~lovely : )

  • shizendesigns

    shizendesigns said 6 years ago


  • SimplyByBex

    SimplyByBex said 6 years ago

    Beautifully made pieces! I am amazed by your dedication and skills! Thank you for sharing your success with all of us!

  • KarlaWalter

    KarlaWalter said 6 years ago

    Wow! beautiful work

  • ValerieGalloway

    ValerieGalloway said 6 years ago

    Gorgeous! I'm so excited to see your work!

  • ginacrg

    ginacrg said 6 years ago

    How beauiful, thank you for sharing your art with us. I would love to see it in person, but, since I can't, the pictures are lovely. Thank you!

  • dbsj

    dbsj said 6 years ago

    I love everything Japanese and this artist is no different! I love her ornamental hairpins ~ they are absolutely gorgeous. Thank you for sharing your art with us.

  • wearthou

    wearthou said 6 years ago

    That is so lovely!! The wonderful hairpieces are exquisite. Thank you for sharing the history and what is involved in making these treasures!!

  • Asianexpressions

    Asianexpressions said 6 years ago

    So beautiful!

  • myhandmadecrafts

    myhandmadecrafts said 6 years ago

    great pieces! kanzashi pieces are simply amazing! thanks for sharing! :)))

  • fieldtrip

    fieldtrip said 6 years ago

    really great to learn about this beautiful art form - thanks for sharing with us!

  • sarahfinabeads

    sarahfinabeads said 6 years ago

    I'm touched by the beauty of this art, congratulations to our amazing artists! Thanks for sharing!

  • ofrenda

    ofrenda said 6 years ago

    So lovely!

  • GloryBDesign

    GloryBDesign said 6 years ago

    These are so beautiful. They are definitely going on my favorites list and will be on my list for Christmas!

  • littlemoandfriends

    littlemoandfriends said 6 years ago

    oh so delightful! It lovely to read about a different culture and their art making! Good job etsy! And such a talented artist too! xoxo

  • polishedtwo

    polishedtwo said 6 years ago


  • accentonvintage

    accentonvintage said 6 years ago

    What a beautiful traditional craft!

  • AllureByU

    AllureByU said 6 years ago

    Refreshing writeup and totally amazing craft!

  • Jusadreamin

    Jusadreamin said 6 years ago

    Jus beautiful Thanks for sharing

  • HiJinx

    HiJinx said 6 years ago

    Beautiful pieces. Mizusugi's shop is absolutely amazing!

  • LoveYouSo

    LoveYouSo said 6 years ago

    Beautiful and wonderful that you are preserving your culture.

  • clevergirl

    clevergirl said 6 years ago

    I treated myself to one of her hairpins when I first started out on Etsy and I still love it- either in my hair, or sitting in a glass as though it is a live flower, on my bureau. I adore her work and her perseverance in promoting and continuing this fantastic and enchanting art form!

  • BeautyPower

    BeautyPower said 6 years ago

    So delicate and beautiful. The colors are amazing. I especially love the silk kimono

  • hankietankie

    hankietankie said 6 years ago

    these are breathtaking! i don't think i shall be able to resist! thank you for sharing your amazing story & art.

  • sophiemomo

    sophiemomo said 6 years ago

    How beautiful your work is! Thank you for sharing.

  • Waterrose

    Waterrose said 6 years ago

    how beautiful.

  • VelveteenHabbit

    VelveteenHabbit said 6 years ago

    Beautiful Elegant Spiritual Peaceful How wonderful to keep an ancient art alive

  • OzCraftStore

    OzCraftStore said 6 years ago

    Love it!!!

  • julesjewel

    julesjewel said 6 years ago

    What a wonderful article. My mother is Japanese and has dabbled in kanzashi (nothing as intricate as this work and many years ago), she would be delighted to see such artistry put into this ancient art from her culture.

  • FruitsOFtheBLooM

    FruitsOFtheBLooM said 6 years ago

    As someone who hand folds and sews hair accessories, I really appreciate and admire the talent behind the Tsumami Kanzashi. Great feature!

  • Serrelynda

    Serrelynda said 6 years ago

    Fascinating and delightful. Thank you.

  • PaintedHorse

    PaintedHorse said 6 years ago

    Kuniko, Your story is an inspiration and your work is simply breath taking! Thank you for this lovely read.

  • amoronia

    amoronia said 6 years ago

    I love the fact that you try to reintroduce tradition to the young generation.

  • rolanddesigns

    rolanddesigns said 6 years ago


  • eastbaycalifornia

    eastbaycalifornia said 6 years ago

    Sooo beautiful! Absolutely exquisite! I have a little geisha zombie doll I made too!

  • SweetlyFallen

    SweetlyFallen said 6 years ago

    So very cool!

  • guavaguava

    guavaguava said 6 years ago

    I love all of her work, so beautiful!! What a great write-up.

  • thinkANDdonquixote

    thinkANDdonquixote said 6 years ago


  • Ladykonnyaku

    Ladykonnyaku said 6 years ago

    私はそれが好きです!! ^_^

  • Thitaree

    Thitaree said 6 years ago

    Love it!

  • choubisou

    choubisou said 6 years ago

    Amazing. I recently watched Sakuran and this is so fitting of the feeling.

  • streetnoodles

    streetnoodles said 6 years ago

    as a child when everyone from our church was encouraged to dance at the "obon dori"...if i remember right, a dancing celebration of our dead ancestors...tho ominous, was really so much fun for us kids to dress in traditional kimonos & if we were lucky to witness more elaborately dressed & beautiful hair ornamented professional dancers. the tradition has lost a little sparkle as the dying breed of "traditional dressers" have been unable to pass their skills along to the newer generation.

  • DiamondDollsCouture

    DiamondDollsCouture said 6 years ago

    great article and beautiful works! :D

  • somsstudiosupplies

    somsstudiosupplies said 6 years ago

    What gorgeous pieces!!

  • LittleWrenPottery

    LittleWrenPottery said 6 years ago

    Gorgeous! I've always admired Japanese traditional dress its just so ornate and delicate.

  • muinamir

    muinamir said 6 years ago

    I've been admiring Kanawa's work for a while now--nice to see her featured!

  • SamsShenanigans

    SamsShenanigans said 6 years ago

    Simply Stunning.

  • Cyanide78

    Cyanide78 said 6 years ago

    The way you've combined colors and patterns, like stained glass (but softer - lol)...just wonderful! =3

  • nowonder

    nowonder said 6 years ago

    Wow! Your work is Beautiful! Thank you!

  • wensaccessories

    wensaccessories said 6 years ago


  • FebystanDesigns

    FebystanDesigns said 6 years ago

    Each kanzashi is a unique art piece, congratulations Kuniko!

  • NoaSharonDesigns

    NoaSharonDesigns said 6 years ago

    amazingly beautiful! ★

  • SiriusFun

    SiriusFun said 6 years ago

    Stunningly beautiful and I loved reading about the traditions and history of this lovely art! Thank you for this article! I wish I could visit the exhibit in person, but the pictures will have to do!

  • SCI2010

    SCI2010 said 6 years ago

    so beautiful

  • chantalmarieliving

    chantalmarieliving said 6 years ago

    Outstanding work. It is so great to continue our parents traditions. Too many are already lost.

  • oktak

    oktak said 6 years ago

    Beautiful work and great story! You are so lucky to have grown up surrounded by artisans. I still dream of studying kimono pattern dye.

  • CarolSchiffStudio

    CarolSchiffStudio said 6 years ago

    I have always been consumed by everything oriental and was lucky enough to spend several years living there. This article and accompaning images are beautiful. Thank you so very much for featuring one of my geisha paintings on this fantastic article.

  • FawnRose

    FawnRose said 6 years ago

    I love everything Japanese! Spending many months of my military career in Japan made me open my eye to a brand new world! Thanks for the story!

  • TheQuiltingViolinist

    TheQuiltingViolinist said 6 years ago

    Fascinating, and beautiful. Thanks for providing my first exposure to this incredible artist and the history of her craft.

  • AnastasiaMcMurren

    AnastasiaMcMurren said 6 years ago

    wow! looks awesome!

  • dmtgun3

    dmtgun3 said 6 years ago

    I make this kanzashi technique.Really amazing for me! great details work!!

  • PNWSherry

    PNWSherry said 6 years ago

    beautiful!!!! :)

  • PaperPicker

    PaperPicker said 6 years ago

    you make beautiful accessories.

  • akcArt

    akcArt said 6 years ago

    Love the bright colors! Very pretty items!

  • vivagaildestash

    vivagaildestash said 6 years ago

    very beautiful

  • AvianInspirations

    AvianInspirations said 6 years ago

    Wow. This is absolutely beautiful.

  • AllysAntiques

    AllysAntiques said 6 years ago

    Oh I absolutely love these hairpieces!! I've always wanted one - shame it is a bit expensive... Great article anyway! ;)

  • arsniccandy

    arsniccandy said 6 years ago

    Simply gorgeous!!!!!!I loooove all the colors.

  • LoveHonorUpcycle

    LoveHonorUpcycle said 6 years ago

    This is stunning. Thank you for sharing your story and the history. Absolutely beautiful!

  • girltuesdayjewelry

    girltuesdayjewelry said 6 years ago

    WOW!!!! So gorgeous! I especially love the ginko and autumn leaves. They are AMAZING!!!!!!

  • ginnyhuber

    ginnyhuber said 6 years ago

    wonderful blog article-marvelous work!

  • odiliafu

    odiliafu said 6 years ago

    Just lovely! I really love the kimono fabrics.

  • FloweryDeer

    FloweryDeer said 6 years ago


  • 1920

    1920 said 6 years ago

    I'm a big fan of Kimono fabrics. Love all!

  • TandRHandweaving

    TandRHandweaving said 6 years ago

    So lovely, so traditional! Love to see the traditional arts practiced. Please continue your beautiful work. Best wishes.

  • GreatestJoyDesigns

    GreatestJoyDesigns said 6 years ago

    Congratulations on displaying of your art, it is truly spectacular. Your first photo is beautiful but that coy smile almost out staged your work :) She is beautiful and your work is extraordinary, I wish you great success!

  • Indounik

    Indounik said 6 years ago

    Beautiful. Arigato.

  • BlossomsBrooches

    BlossomsBrooches said 6 years ago

    I absolutely adore the fabrics used to make these Tsumami Kanzashi. And the March (Suisen) exhibition display has got to be one of my favourite designs. Gorgeous!

  • FrutinobyMinghini

    FrutinobyMinghini said 6 years ago

    Stunning! Wonderful story...will pass it on.

  • CheersToJuly

    CheersToJuly said 6 years ago

    Just fabulous!

  • lovelyjewellery

    lovelyjewellery said 6 years ago

    Always admired and been intruiged - thanks for some fab info :)

  • CassiopiasCreations

    CassiopiasCreations said 6 years ago

    Beautiful work & lovely story about Tsumami Kanzashi!

  • keikosdesign

    keikosdesign said 6 years ago

    I love that photos!!! Everything is so beautiful. Thanks for this story!!

  • thetokicafe

    thetokicafe said 6 years ago

    so lovely. it makes me so happy to see artisans who are committed to keeping traditional arts alive.

  • sgriparisphotography

    sgriparisphotography said 6 years ago

    Lovely lovely lovely items!!!!

  • dragonhouseofyuen

    dragonhouseofyuen said 6 years ago

    beautiful work!

  • GalleonGal

    GalleonGal said 6 years ago

    history of astounding hair ornaments is fascinating, Oriental doll collections I have ( which were sent to me by my cousin while he was serving in the air force ) have such luxurious hair with the adornments that make them seem as though they have butterflies in their hair

  • EclaireArt

    EclaireArt said 6 years ago

    Absolutely gorgeous! These are little works of art!

  • bluebirdsandblossoms

    bluebirdsandblossoms said 6 years ago

    Wonderful work! Love it!

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  • philcouture

    Phil Couture from PhilCoutureFineArt said 4 years ago

    wonderful work!

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