Or are you looking for Search the Archives?

Please complete the form to email this item.



  • Place of origin:

    Japan (made)

  • Date:

    ca. 1825 - 1875 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Mitsumasa (maker)

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tortoiseshell with black, gold, green and red lacquer.

  • Credit Line:

    Given by Fumie Kosuge

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    Japan, Room 45, The Toshiba Gallery, case 8

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. Both ends of the hairpin were usually decorated since these were the only parts visible when worn. 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.29-2002.

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 reflected the age, social class and marital status of the woman, but the hair ornaments also reflected the individual's taste.

Physical description

Hairpin, tortoiseshell decorated with pine tree and ivy in black, gold, green and red lacquer.

Place of Origin

Japan (made)


ca. 1825 - 1875 (made)


Mitsumasa (maker)

Materials and Techniques

Tortoiseshell with black, gold, green and red lacquer.

Marks and inscriptions

Mitsumasa (?)
Artist's two Chinese-character signature in gold hiramaki-e lacquer, with one character on each of the two adjoining parts of the hairpin, together with a red kao in red lacquer.


Length: 15.18 cm, Height: 1.25 cm, Depth: 0.8 cm

Descriptive line

Hairpin, tortoiseshell with black, gold, green and red lacquer, decorated with pine trees and ivy, signed Mitsumasa(?), Japan, ca. 1825-1875.


Lacquer; Tortoiseshell

Subjects depicted

Pine tree; Ivy


Hats & headwear; Accessories


East Asia Collection

Large image request

Please confirm you are using these images within the following terms and conditions, by acknowledging each of the following key points:

Please let us know how you intend to use the images you will be downloading.