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What is an Odango?

Sonal Panse
Sonal Panse

An odango is a traditional Japanese hairstyle that has seen a resurgence in popularity in modern times with the growing worldwide fan base of Japanese anime and manga comics; many of the popular anime and manga characters have been shown to be wearing this hairstyle. In Japan, an odango is principally a woman's hairstyle and it derives its name from the Japanese word for dumpling. This is a good description for the bun hairstyle which is worn with one spherical, dumpling-like bun on each side of the head. It can also be described as a pigtail hairstyle as the starting point of the buns are pigtails and, at a later stage, the buns may or may not have pigtails extending from them. There can be many different variations of how the buns are formed.

The odango hairstyle was traditionally worn in China too, except there it was known by the term ox horns and wasn't strictly a woman's hairstyle. Traditional Chinese paintings show both girls and boys sporting a bun hairstyle, with girls wearing two ox horns and boys wearing one. In the ox horns hairstyle, pigtails did not extend out from the buns, but were tucked out of sight. The hairstyle is not often seen in modern China, except on festive occasions when people dress up in traditional garb.

Woman with a flower
Woman with a flower

To do an odango hairstyle, the hair is first brushed to get rid of any tangles and then neatly parted in the center. The hair on each side is brushed again and tied up with rubber bands on either side into high pigtails. The right pigtail is taken and twisted counter clockwise around itself several times, pulling it all the while towards the center of the head. Then its end is inserted through the twist coil and pulled, creating a hair knot.

The hair ends can be tucked into the rubber band and pinned in place with bobby pins. If the hair is long enough, it can be allowed to extend from the bun center and hang out. Depending on the type of look to be achieved, the hair may be left loose, it may be curled, or it may be braided and decorated with ribbons. The same procedure is followed for the left hand side pigtail. It is important to make sure, in both cases, that the pigtails and the knots are not tied too tight as this can strain the scalp and cause headaches.

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