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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1900 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:


  • Credit Line:

    Given by Fumie Kosuge

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This Japanese hair comb was used by a woman as a decorative hair ornament in a hairstyle that was put up. It is completely undecorated but relies on the natural pattern and coloration of the tortoiseshell for its decorative effect. Combs and hairpins were often paired as a set which corresponded in material, technique and subject. This comb is the smallest of a set of two which are different in size and shape but very similar in pattern.

Over the centuries, hairstyles and hair ornaments underwent considerable transformation in Japan. From roughly the twelfth to the late sixteenth centuries, it was customary for women to wear their hair long and loose without ornamentation. Thereafter hair was put up with increasingly elaborate hair ornaments. At first hair ornaments were mostly confined to women of the elite but, from the mid eighteenth century onwards, they were increasingly available to all strata of society. During the Edo period (1615-1868), women used a wide variety of combs (kushi), bodkins or hairpins (kanzashi) and hairpins (kogai) in a wide range of materials, such as wood, ivory and tortoiseshell, which were most commonly decorated with lacquer. Not only did the hairstyle and its ornaments reflect the age, social class and marital status of the woman, but the hair ornaments also reflected the individual’s taste.

Physical description

Wedge-shaped tortoiseshell comb with a curved top.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


ca. 1900 (made)



Materials and Techniques



Height: 3.1 cm, Width: 8.98 cm, Depth: 0.31 cm

Descriptive line

Comb, tortoiseshell, Japan, ca. 1900.




Accessories; Hats & headwear


East Asia Collection

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