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Samurai Ponytail

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A common physical trait found in samurai or Japanese nobility is long hair bound up near the back of the head or almost at the top. Generally, this will fall into two categories.

First, when signifying nobility, it shows that a character is cultured, traditional, and otherwise showing classical Japanese virtues. In this case, the hair will be long, straight, very clean, and neat. Normally, they will be stoic or reserved. Frequently, such a character is also martially adept and it will show in their manner.

The second way this is used is to simply give a quick cue that someone is a samurai. In theory, samurai are supposed to be noble and cultured as well, but it is not uncommon for them to have their appearance much less cared for presumably due to not having the time or inclination. The hair itself will also frequently be a good deal shorter. In terms of mannerisms, if someone has this second style of hair they will be less clean and organized and are frequently more gruff, down to earth, or aggressive in their attitude.

In both cases, the hair can be seen as a status symbol. Even a thug samurai has a certain level of social class that they are supposed to uphold.

Compare Sailor's Ponytail which is the closest Western equivalent, and Hime Cut which is another haircut indicative of status. See also Tomboyish Ponytail, which can have similar connotations to the second type, and Barbarian Longhair.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The 100 Girlfriends Who Really, Really, Really, Really, Really Love You: As a kendo artist and strict practitioner of modern-day chivalry, Kishika's default hairstyle naturally involves a ponytail.
  • Kanda Yu from D.Gray-Man sports the tidy kind of samurai ponytail, complete with a katana as a weapon. Turns into a Hime Cut when down.
  • Shuro from Delicious in Dungeon is a samurai, or at least their world's equivalent, and is always seen with his hair up in one of these.
  • Erza Scarlet from Fairy Tail sports one in her Japanese Cloth outfit.
  • Kuroh Yatogami from K, who is often compared to Kanda. In the movie, he wears it down while he's searching for his master.
  • Laughing Under the Clouds has Abe no Sosei who, while the story is set during the Meiji Era, comes from a samurai lineage.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time (1999) shows that Link has his hair wound like this under his cap, although he's a Western-style swordsman who had the hairstyle even before training with the ninja-esque Impa.
  • Lone Wolf and Cub: Most of the samurai do this, though some ninja (including the Big Bad Yagyu Retsudo) do not. It becomes a plot point when a woman who seeks revenge on a high-ranking samurai begins killing the samurai's subordinates and then cutting the ponytails off of their dead bodies, an act of supreme disrespect (which could endanger their souls according to the beliefs of the time). This offense draws the high-ranking samurai out and leads him to hunt the woman down, at which point she's able to challenge him to a duel and win.
  • Signum of Lyrical Nanoha, The Stoic Belkan knight with Samurai-like mannerisms and fighting style (to the point where Levi the Slasher nicknames her Bushido), wears her hair like this at all times.
  • Alto Saotome of Macross Frontier wears one, due to having a very traditional Japanese upbringing and being the son of a very rich and well-known Kabuki actor. When down, it fits Hime Cut more.
  • Akeno Shiranui from My Bride is a Mermaid sports one as well, since she is an honor-bound samurai mermaid inspector. sports a Hime Cut when her hair is down.
  • Yato in Noragami had this in his past, although a very short one. After some arcs, his hair has grown so he keeps it that way again.
  • In One Piece, all the samurai from Wano Country, which is based on feudal Japan, wear their hair in a ponytail, making them easy to recognize. One of them, Kiku, ties her usual Hime Cut into a high ponytail in combat.
  • Outlaw Star: Suzuka is a female Samurai, she keeps her long jet-black hair in a high ponytail.
  • The main style of Kenshin of Rurouni Kenshin. Played with, as he is often considered feminine looking and the historical figure he's based on (Kawakami Gensai) successfully disguised himself as a woman and hid out in a brothel after an assassination at least once.
  • In the Sailor Stars season of the Sailor Moon anime, the character Kou Seiya (Sailor Star Fighter) had one of these in his civilian form (secret identity). He had short hair in his female Sailor form.
  • Shinzo: When Mushra, Sago, and Kutal combine into Mushrambo, he has this hairdo to complete his samurai appearance.
  • Shugo Chara!'s Nagihiko wears his long hair in this style fitting since a) he is actually Nadeshiko and b) he comes from an old, formal household known for traditional dance.
  • Yu-Gi-Oh! 5Ds: Lua wears a ponytail to distinguish him from his twin sister Luca who wears Girlish Pigtails instead. The ponytails serve to show that he's masculine. His family is rich too.

    Comic Books 
  • Both styles appear in Usagi Yojimbo. Usagi himself plays with the trope by using Ears as Hair; obviously his topknot is the second, messy version.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Akira Kurosawa displays this trope frequently in his films, especially with characters played by Toshiro Mifune:
    • In Seven Samurai, all seven feature the short-and-straight version, except the drunken badass portrayed by Mifune, who has a short-and-messy version. Early in the film, the samurai Kambei allows his to be cut off and his head shaved, so he can disguise himself as a monk in order to rescue a child from a kidnapper. This shows that he'd rather do the right thing than follow samurai "honor".
      • The people watching Kambei's haircut are a bit shocked that he's willing to cut his hair.
      • The short-and-messy version worn by Mifune's character is the first clue given to the audience that he is not like the others. He's actually peasant pretending to be a samurai.
    • In the mildly comedic Yojimbo and its more blatantly comedic follow-up Sanjuro, Mifune is a poor wandering Rōnin with a short, scruffy ponytail that sticks straight out of the back of his head.
    • In Throne of Blood, a movie based on Macbeth, Mifune sports a longer and fairly neat one near the top of his head, as a sign of his high rank.
  • Made a plot point to go along with the deconstruction of the samurai legend in the 1962 film Harakiri. A warlord and his samurai force a young man to kill himself in the name of honour. His father-in-law takes his revenge by challenging them to duels and taking their ponytails rather than killing them, forcing them to either commit harakiri themselves or reveal themselves as cowardly bullies.
  • Katsumoto's son, Nobutada, sports one in The Last Samurai. When the Meiji government passes laws restricting the rights of the Samurai, he is subjected to a very undignified public haircut by the emperor's guards.
  • Star Trek III: The Search for Spock: Unlike other Klingons, who have Wild Hair, Commander Kruge wears his hair this way.

    Live-Action TV 

    Video Games 

    Visual Novels 
  • Servant Assassin (Sasaki Kojiro) in Fate/stay night fits in well to the first type with his good manners, calm demeanor, and polite speech.
  • In Muv-Luv, Meiya sports this hair style. While she is merely incredibly wealthy in Muv-Luv Extra rather than genuine nobility, in Muv-Luv Unlimited and Muv-Luv Alternative she is directly related to the shogunate. Her twin sister Yuuhi, the shogun, also sports this hairstyle. The duty and responsibilities come quite naturally to her and she almost seems to fit better in this rather brutal world.

    Western Animation 
  • Zuko had one in the first season of Avatar: The Last Airbender. Iroh has something more similar to a topknot. Both of them cut them off after it becomes clear the Fire Nation regards them as traitors. Later on, Zuko adopts a top-knot instead, and this has more or less been his hairstyle in official capacity.
  • The eponymous Samurai Jack, naturally. He more closely fits into the first part of the trope. Jack's ponytail is very neat but also very compressed, as frequently it comes loose in battle and he sports long thick hair that sometimes just comes to his shoulders, sometimes halfway down his back. As of Season Five, however, he no longer ties up his hair, letting it loose into a messy mane. It, along with his beard, shows that he has fallen into a deep, shame-filled depression and it's only after he comes out of it does his hair return to a tight ponytail.
  • Star Wars: The Clone Wars reveals in its last story arc that the late Jedi Master Sifo-Dyas sported a genuine chonmage. And yes, he was space Asian.