From ancient times to the present day, the hairstyles of the women at the Comb Festival, whether they be for noblewomen, ladies-in-waiting, or the daughters of warrior or merchant families, have all been made of natural hair. The hair ornaments and attire are all reproduced from period research. This is a result of the continuous research into old customs that Ms. Minami’s family has made since her mother’s generation, working together with specialists such as Kaneshige Inokuma, a Professor Emeritus at Kyoto University. She also holds the important responsibility of dressing women’s hair for period festivals such as the Aoi Matsuri and the Jidai Matsuri. She also often participates in festival rites across the country and at international exchange events abroad.


One area where she has rendered an important service is as the hairdresser for the head priest of Ise Shrine during rites and festivals there. In 1985, she served head priest Atsuko Ikeda for the first time.


At last year’s shrine transportation rites, Sayako Kuroda was appointed special head priest as an assistant to the head priest. As the person responsible for handling the hairdressing and attire for the two priests, Ms. Minami traveled back and forth between the inner and outer shrines of Ise. For performing this important duty, she was rewarded with good fortune. She says that just when the god of the shrine’s spirit was transferred, at that very moment, the rain suddenly stopped and she saw a ray of light so majestic that it transcended human understanding. A special ceremony on a sacred spot. When she asked the priest about this, she learned that there are some people who can feel the wind and signs of a divine presence.


Ms. Minami considered this experience to be thanks to the devoted efforts of her grandmother and her mother who assisted in the coronation rites of the Taishō Emperor, and felt grateful. She believes that such blessings, which one could not will by oneself to come true, are all due to the mysterious power of spiritual connection. This hairdresser, with a burning passion for carrying on traditional Japanese culture, is filled with the beautiful qualities of gratitude and the desire to give back.

Tomiko Minami (original name, Tomiko Obayashi)

Born in Kyoto, 1928. The third proprietor of Minami Salon near Gion-machi. Since her mother’s generation, the Minami family has been devoted to hairdressing and research into changes in Japanese hairstyles. She is the chairman of the Kyoto Club for Beauty Culture. In 1994, she received the Akebono Prize from the Governor of Kyoto Prefecture.

Cooperation: Yoshiko Kimura of Salon Kimura and Kaoru Yoshimura of Minoya

Translation: Media Research, Inc.

Spirit and Spine

created by

project direction
Gaku Okubo (ISUKE INC.)
Yoshitomo Tanaka (Vivot)
site design
title calligraphy
Kenryo Hara (Kikkokai)