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How to Tie a Japanese Topknot

Updated April 17, 2017

Samurai warriors first arose in 10th-century Japan as an elite fighting force for local chieftains. They became the ruling class in the 12th century. They were characterised by a lifetime of martial training, meditation and study. As a symbol of their status, they were granted the privilege of wearing two swords, having two names, a first name and a family name, and bearing the "chomage" topknot. The samurai shaved the top of his head, hot under a heavy helmet. When the helmet was off, the side and back hair was pulled up into a topknot.

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  1. Wash and dry your hair. Some topknot styles involve oiling the hair, but the samurai's appearance in general was characterised by neatness and cleanliness. Comb it out straight.

  2. Gather hair from the top of the head into a ponytail and hold it near the top of the head, at the scalp, with your right hand. Use a comb to keep hair smooth.

  3. Gather hair on the ponytail three or four inches from the scalp with your left hand and hold it securely.

  4. Let go of the hair at the scalp that you are holding with your right hand.

  5. Tie the section of hair in your left hand, three inches from the scalp, with string, elastic or paper cord. Fold the ponytail back over the top of the head, using the string as the folding point.

  6. Gather the base of the ponytail and the doubled-over portion with your hand, and tie it with string, elastic or paper cord. The topknot will be secured at its folding point by string, and at the scalp.

  7. Tip

    Topknots require a certain length of hair, ideally grown past the ears, to be "authentic." The topknot is worn today by sumo wrestlers, and styled by professional tokoyama. Young wrestlers whose hair isn't grown out long enough for a traditional-length topknot wrestle with their hair loose.


    Some view the wearing of a topknot as having a sacred meaning, a symbol of living the samurai lifestyle.

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Things You'll Need

  • Comb
  • 2 pieces of string, elastic or paper cord

About the Author

Based in New York City, Sara Harvey has written about the environment, city planning, health and lifestyles since 1994. A former newspaper reporter, she now writes freelance full time. Her work has appeared in "Boho," a New York-based green fashion magazine, and several humor, parenting and business publications. Harvey has a bachelor's degree in print journalism.

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