Hair accessories made with hontsuge (Japanese boxwood), for some everyday flair
The “KIJI COLLECTION,” announced by Yonoya Kushiho in 2019, is a series of hair accessories by a hontsuge (Japanese boxwood) comb specialty store. The style book, which was created at the same time, garnered attention for presenting the products not only with Japanese clothing, but also as a beautiful complement to contemporary Western clothing such as suits and party dresses.
Yuzu Saito, who runs the store with her husband Yutaka Saito – the head of Yonoya Kushiho – says, “We wanted to design hair accessories that would make the beauty of hontsuge more accessible, and that people could use for the rest of their lives.” The production of hair ornaments using scrap wood from the tsuge comb manufacturing process began around the end of the Showa era (1926-1989). With fewer women dressing in Japanese clothing, however, demand decreased, and by the end of the Heisei era (1989-2019), the number of craftspeople with the carving skills to make them decreased dramatically due to aging. Afraid that the use of hontsuge hair ornaments would fade out if nothing was done, the Saito couple acquired the materials to make them, found the right craftspeople, and revived the craft.
“For this collection, we tweaked the products – making them smaller overall, the metal part larger – so that they would better suit the modern era,” says Yuzu. They made sure to give all of the products a bit of a curve so that they would fit naturally against the shape of the head. The appeal of hontsuge is that it is both sturdy and elastic. However, this is the very thing that makes them hard to work with. The delicate openwork is made possible by the skills of master craftspeople. After the carving process is complete, the products are polished to a glossy shine that brings out the fine grain of the wood even more beautifully.
Of the many items in the collection, the one that Yuzu herself uses on a regular basis is the single-pin, spatula-shaped kanzashi (ornate hair pin). The arabesque pattern of the openwork provides a beautiful accent to chignons and half up-dos, providing a sense of balance to the looks.
“Some of them – for instance, the simple, plain gourd-shaped barrette, the U-shaped hairpin – are also popular because they can be used for any occasion. The monstera barrette is popular for its more exotic look. The arabesque-patterned stick barrette is gorgeous, so we recommend it for weddings and parties.”
A common reaction amongst the women who try the collection is surprise: “I didn’t think I was the kind of person who could wear something like this, but these I can use on a regular basis!” Hontsuge becomes more amber-colored with use, and there are many who say that watching this process happen is part of the joy of using these items.
“It’s something you use every day, so what we want more than anything is for people to be able to use them comfortably, and over the long-term. We want to keep the things we should keep – using the strengths of hontsuge – while also changing the things we should change in accordance with the times.”
Photo by BRAVOWORKS, INC.