Category Archives: Heian Japan

Japanese Superstitions

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Japanese Zodiac

The Heian Period of Japan is considered the Golden Age. It is also a great age of superstition, magic and mantic practices. Did you know that the number 4 is unlucky In the Japanese culture?  At the time of Pillow Book of the Flower Samurai everyone believed that the ghosts of the dead, if not properly  buried and prayed for, would haunt and even kill anyone who did not honor them.   The Chinese zodiac, adopted by the Japanese, which some of you may have… Continue reading →

The Infamous Samurai Sword

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What’s faster than a speeding bullet? Well, what’s faster than a speeding BB? Yes! The Japanese sword and this incredible artist. Take a look at this video and see how astounding this is:                Real Samurai Sword Technique – by Isao Machii – Japanese Katana Kenjutsu The Japanese sword is quite frankly—perfection. And it was in the Heian period that it became so. Japanese iron ore is different than everywhere else. The steel and the method of forging combined… Continue reading →

More Pillow Books

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Murasaki at her desk shown in a 19th century ukiyo-e.   Pillow books in Heian Japan were really diaries called nikki. Donald Keene in Seeds in the Heart devotes an entire chapter to “Heian Diarists.”  Why?  Because, they were  “personal rather than public and the best-known examples…”  were written by Heian  women of the court. The earliest Heian diary cited is Travel Diary of a Pilgrimage to China in Search of the Law (nittō guhō junreikōki). Written by the Tendai priest Ennin who lived early… Continue reading →

What is a pillow book?

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Why is Pillow Book of the Flower Samurai a pillow book? What is a pillow book? Has anyone read or seen the movie of “Memoirs of a Geisha?” Remember when Chiyo, or later Sayuri,  practiced to sleep on a pillow, basically a neck rest, so she would not disturb her hair? In ancient  Japan, people did sleep on these hard pillows. I knew basically what they looked like, and I  believe these are a fairly typical pillows:   The pillow on the left is an… Continue reading →

Colors of Our Sleeves

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While the Heian times of Japan were glamorous, they maintained strict rules of dressing.  Your rank and status determined each garment’s fabric. In the winter garments were quilted, and in the summer, stiffened silk kept the clothing away from the body. So much  importance was given to the way people dressed, it could make or break your career and/or your reputation. Color combinations, set by the season or festivals, held a particularly important aspect of dressing. Colors were also restricted by rank.  For example only… Continue reading →

The Quest for Beautiful, Sexy Hair

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A woman’s hair is considered not only beautiful but sexy and seductive.Orthodox Jewish women cut their hair when married in order not to be attractive to other men. Muslim women frequently wear the hijab to show modesty and to cover the décolleté and their hair.Christian women often wear a hat to cover their heads (in order to hide their hair during the service)?   I don’t cover my hair. In fact, I often say I spend more money on my hair because I  wear mine… Continue reading →

Being Beautiful

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typical Heian woman

The aristocratic female in Heian Japan also suffered for beauty. We don’t? High heels? Plucking our eyebrows? Desperately trying to fit into the international/New York model ideal of an adolescent body with huge eyes and bulging lips and longer-than-possible legs? The aristocratic females in ancient Japan also held an ideal beauty. They needed to be plump, rounded faces were more attractive than gaunt ones, narrowed eyes, thin noses, and above all long, long shiny, thick black hair. It was common for women to be able… Continue reading →

Golden Age (Heian) of Clothing

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The clothing in the Heian Age  (794-1185)  was nothing but magnificent. Only for the aristocrats, however.  In the higher upper echelons of Heian society, how you dressed was almost as as important as who you were. (Although if you were the Emperor or the Empress, you can get away with a few little mistakes, but not often.) So what was this clothing? It was layered, and each layer had a name. Let me give you a brief introduction. Some  women in earlier Heian times, wore… Continue reading →

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