Friday, October 27, 2006


GEISHA HAIR


As a result of an earlier post of mine about Japan's only male keppatsu-shi (geisha hairdresser), ever since the Memoirs of a Geisha movie came out I've been getting many hits a day from all over the world searching for "geisha hair," "geisha hairstyles," "geisha combs," "geisha makeup," "geisha hair tools" and all geisha beauty permutations, though nothing about how to become a geisha, the nature of geisha, geisha clothing etc.

The searches seem to relate only to hair and makeup, and seem to be increasing lately for some reason, though the movie came out a year ago and the book some years before that. I don't hear much about either in the media anymore, but apparently a growing number of women out there want to look like a geisha in some way or other, though the only such women I've seen are actual geisha.

Though geisha do put on their own makeup, they don't do their own hair; clearly, that would be impossible with such an awesomely complex tonsorial architecture, involving all its highly specialized tools, materials and accessories. Maiko (apprentice geisha) have hairdressers to do their hair once a week, and sleep on hard, high-rise pillows so as not to mess up their hair between visits to the stylist. After they become geisha they generally wear katsura (wigs).

As to geisha hair accessories, on my strolls through Tokyo's back alleys in the early 70s one of my favorite stops was a tiny shop run by a then very elderly man and his wife, who sold geisha combs and kanzashi (hairpins) of every description, the walls of their small space comprising drawers filled with tsubaki (camellia) oil in which rested all the combs the couple made painstakingly by hand, seated right there on the floor: big, small, long-handled and long-tailed combs, and in a glass case the hand-carved and decorated combs and hairpins. When you bought a comb it was oiled for life. Those items were way too expensive for poor traveler me, but I loved to look at them and talk to the makers, ask them questions. Here is a good site for decorative combs in the traditional manner.

But as yet I see in the media no signs of geisha hair, makeup or accessories in Paris, New York, London, Rio. Wonder what's going on, and who among the modern Western young would want to have to learn to sleep on a geisha pillow every night, so as not to mess their hair? That takes lifelong dedication of an ancient sort...

3 comments:

Tabor said...

Here in the states we have a little national costume party coming up...could that be the reason?

Trace said...

I really enjoyed the movie; though I would need someone such as yourself to enlighten me on the validity of the entire film. I always enjoy reading the information you provide such as in this entry. Thank you...

Joy Des Jardins said...

Ow, ow, ow...that geisha pillow looks more painful than those horrid brush rollers we teenagers of the 60's use to tolerate for those "beautiful" bouffant hairdos....oy, what were we thinking?