Kamiyui (Hairdresser) (髪結い)

Kamiyui is a general term referring those who were engaged in hairdressing from the Edo period to the Meiji period, who are now called hairdressers.

Male Kamiyui who dealt with male hair and had his own salons called 'Kamiyuidoko' was also called Tokoya. But Onnakamiyui (female Kamiyui) who dealt with female hair visited yukaku (red-light district) (yujo [prostitutes] were their best customers) and customers' houses.

A male Kamiyui is mentioned in 'Tokoya' and female Kamiyui in 'Onnakamiyui' below.


A male Kamiyui originated in 'Issenzori,' who fixed hairdo and shaved sakayaki (shaved part of the forehead) at a price of 1 sen (hundredth of a yen) or so in the end of Muromachi period when sakayaki became popular.

Different from samurai, who had servants doing chores, the common people had Kamiyui shave their sakayaki because they were not able to do that by themselves (the poor left their sakayaki unshaven or had their wife shave it). They worked in the whole town or village, and they were also called Tokoya because they did business at a makeshift salon called toko.

It was Edo (present Tokyo), where there were lots of single men, that had especially lots of Tokoya. Men in Edo apparently went to Tokoya quite often, and Tokoya was used also as a bansho (guard house) or a place for a social interaction. In Edo, Osaka and Kyoto, Tokoya played a role of lookout and so on under the control of the city, after registering with bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) and opening the business. Those who were integrated with bansho or kaisho (meeting place) were called Uchidoko, those who did their business near a bridge or on the street were called Dedoko, and those who visited customers with their tools were called Mawarikamiyui.

Different from the present hairdresser, Tokoya of the day was a technical job which required quite many years of training because they shaved customers' beard, trimmed their eyebrows, and cleaned their ears. The price of Tokoya was around 280 mon (an old currency unit in Japan) each time in the Tenmei era, which included shaving sakayaki and face, cleaning ears, and fixing hairdo.

On the other hand, 'Mawarikamiyui' who visited customers with articles of apprenticeship was hired by big stores, and charged the owner around 100 mon each time and his employees about the half price. Some contracts included meals from the customer as well as the fixed price, which was called 'agotsuki' (work with meals). Given some tips on celebratory occasions, a good Kamiyui was relatively well-off.


Since keppatsu (hairdressing) became common practice, it was accomplishment for an adult woman to fix her hairdo by herself, but around the Meiwa era, when the hairstyle became complicated, nonprofessional women could not handle the hairdo anymore, and the hairstyle with back hair widely projected, which was difficult to fix single-handedly, became popular. For this reason, specialists who knew fully well various hairstyles and had skill to fix hairdo to suit a customer's appearance or preference were required, therefore, male 'Mawarikamiyui' visited yukaku and fixed yujo's hairdo.

However, the work to understand more and more complicated hairstyles and to meet customers' detailed demands was hard for men, so female Kamiyui appeared around the Anei era, which made 'Mawarikamiyui' in yukaku rapidly disappear.

Female Kamiyui visited their customers with sujimekushi (comb for line) and sukigushi (fine-toothed comb) wrapped in furoshiki (wrapping cloth), and fixed their hairdo into the latest hairstyles based on their requests. In the end of Edo period, style books were come out every year, and Kamiyui referred to them and added their own style while fixing hairdo.

Female Kamiyui themselves were mostly solid and modest women, who wore outworn plain clothes with a maedare (apron) instead of the obi sash. However, bakufu regarded the deed to have someone fix hairdo as luxury and often imposed the ban (still, little women listened).

According to the document around the Anei era, the price of Kamiyui was about 200 mon each time, and it seems to have changed a little depending on fluctuations in price or the times. And they got gifts seasonally from joro (courtesan) in yukaku and wives of big shops. 'A husband of Kamiyui' was a synonym of a man who was well-off thanks to his well-paid wife.

[Original Japanese]