When reproducing traditional hairstyles from the Edo and Sengoku periods, great care is taken “to express the Japanese history and recreate the era as much as possible”, Osawa explains. Hairstyles, particularly during the Edo period, denoted the wearer’s status, including job, age and even romantic status. They can also vary considerably from region to region. “There are a lot of differences between hairstyles in Tokyo and Kyoto,” Osawa explains, “the most popular example of this is that whilst the Maikos of Kyoto dress their own hair, Tokyo’s Geisha wear wigs”.
Kabuki wig making heavily relies on traditional techniques, passed down from generation to generation. “Although many of the hairstyles we try to recreate are documented in Ukiyo-e prints (genre of Japanese art), I am not a scholar, so I don’t know how much of it is true,” Osawa says. “But working for my father I basically grew up in Kabuki culture, even though I didn’t live in that era.”