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  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    1800 - 1850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tortoiseshell covered with black lacquer inlaid with copper and silver alloys and aogai shell.

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Fumie Kosuge

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

The Japanese hairpin or bodkin was originally a pin to roll the hair into a chignon. From the late seventeenth century onwards, however, it became an ornate hair ornament. The more elaborate hairpin consisted of two sections, such as this example, so that the pin could be inserted into the hairstyle without spoiling it. The two visible ends were usually decorated, this example depicting inlaid flowers. Combs and hairpins were often paired as a set which corresponded in material, technique and subject. This hairpin is a pair with the comb FE.31-2002.

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

Hairpin with circular cross-section and of narrower circumference in the middle, tortoiseshell covered with glossy black roiro lacquer and inlaid with copper and silver alloys and aogai (blue-green) shell. Flower decorations at either end..

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


1800 - 1850 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Tortoiseshell covered with black lacquer inlaid with copper and silver alloys and aogai shell.


Height: 1.10 cm, Width: 15.2 cm, Depth: 1.10 cm

Descriptive line

Hairpin, black lacquer inlaid with copper and silver alloys and shell, decorated with flowers, Japan, 1850 - 1900.


Lacquer; Metal; Metal; Shell; Tortoise shell


Inlay (process)

Subjects depicted



Accessories; Hats & headwear


East Asia Collection

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