Kazashi (挿頭)

"Kazashi" refers flowers and leaves worn in the hair or headdress in shrine rituals by the Japanese during the ancient times.

The flowers and leaves varied depending upon the ritual, and they were not considered accessories, but were absolutely tools for rituals, although some personal taste was reflected.

Besides real flowers, artificial flowers made with silk thread, and gold, and silver were used, and silver is still used for present day court functions.

Festivals and Kazashi

In the Aoi Festival parade (Hollyhock flower Festival), a festival of Kamo-jinja Shrine in Sakyo Ward, Kyoto Prefecture, even the oxen pulling the gissha (ox-drawn carriage) wear leaves of Hollyhock on its head. This derives from the crest of Kamo-jinja Shrine with the shape of Hollyhock (the crest of the Matsudaira family, Mitsuba-aoi [three leaves of Hollyhock] derives from this shrine), and it is held in order to strengthen the relationship between the god and men.

According to a legend, Kazashi originated from Uzume-no-mikoto, the god of entertainment and shrine maidens, and it is said to have started when she used ivy for tasuki (cord used to tuck up the sleeves of a kimono) and a hachimaki (headband) and performed a dance in front of Ama no iwato (Cave of heaven).

Real flowers, especially flowers and leaves growing on the festival site were originally used for Kazashi, which is regarded to be a remnant from a kind of Kyokan jujutsu (empathy magic) strengthening the life force by having interchange with the spirit of trees. It is apparently used in order to show gratitude toward gods and to synchronize and mix with the seasons and nature as well.

Famous ones are the Hollyhock of Aoi festival mentioned above, kokoroba (artificial flowers) of a plum blossom and Ground Pine worn on the headdress by Omi (officials serving for Shinto rites), Hollyhock and Moonflower (also Chinese bellflower) worn by sumo wrestlers at Sumai no sechie (the Imperial ceremony of Sumo wrestling), and scarlet maple and Chrysanthemum (utsuroi-giku (reverse chrysanthemum)) in "Momiji no Ga (The Autumn Excursion)" in the Tale of Genji, though this is a fiction.

[Original Japanese]