Being Beautiful


Posted on December 14, 2012 by

typical Heian woman
Noh mask of female character

Noh mask of female

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 to stand on their own hair. A record length of 7 meters (23 feet) is cited during this time. Can you imagine washing and drying all that?

In Heian Japan women plucked or shaved their eyebrows, too, and then replaced them with pasted soot high on their foreheads. Those black marks at the top of the mask’s head are supposed to be eyebrows. Also notice her mouth. Her teeth had to be blackened in a process called Ohaguro.

Ranking Taira Clan members and other samurai, as well as pages working at large temples also dyed their teeth. Most of all, the imperial family and high-ranking aristocrats blackened their teeth and even plucked or shaved and then painted their eyebrows.

modern woman with ohaguro

When the Genpei War came,  sometimes the fighting clans could identify the “ruling” clan (the Taira) because they blackened their teeth.  Gives new meaning to the phrase, “keep your mouth shut.”

In other posts I’ll be talking  about Heian beauty and much more. If you’d like to see an aristocratic woman dressing and putting on make up as they did in Heian Japan, look at this:

Japanese Woman Dressing


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