Category Archives: beauty

Kana’s Arts

Procrastination: everyone I know seems to have this problem, or at least claims to, leading to the popularity of t-shirts and facebook groups proclaiming, “Procrastinators of the World Unite! …Tomorrow.”

When it comes to this blog, I tend to have this issue, only rather than procrastinate entirely, I have an idea or moment of inspiration, type up notes in WordPress, and then press save — the draft unfinished. As it happens, I have drafts from over a year ago, and had essentially written the posts in my head without having bothered to have published anything. It’s horrifyingly lazy (…thus quintessentially Heian?), but I’m attempting to change! We’ll see how that actually goes.

On the subject of things I’ve meant to do, it occurred to me this afternoon that I had always meant to find and purchase prints by a local Gainesville artist. I had seen her work when it was for sale at the museum store at the Harn Museum of Art at University of Florida, and had found it incredibly charming. Being a Japanophile, I had gone to see an exhibition on Kimonos from the Art Deco and Modernist period and happened to stop by the Museum Store. Given that I was moving in a few months, however, I had not purchased any prints but made a mental note to do so.  After several fruitless Google searches, and an unsuccessful call to the Harn museum store for more information (in all fairness, the salesgirl I spoke to was new), I finally managed to find the artist’s name and website:



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Filed under art, beauty, the past

Buddhist Heian Art : The Lotus Sutra

Gold on indigo-dyed paper - from the later part of the Heian period.

This illustration is from the later part of the Heian period, approximately a century after Sei Shonagon and Murasaki Shikibu lived, wrote, and gossiped about each other. Considering that Buddhist compassion and forgiveness has been in the news lately following Tiger Woods’ televised apology, which contained references to his childhood visits to Thai Buddhist temples, this particular worked seemed timely. The Lotus Sutra emphasizes the Mahayana belief that Buddha’s compassion is open to all, regardless of position in life. Heian aristocrats would take comfort in such a belief, despite the fact that had a noted lack of empathy for the poor that bordered on disdain.

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Filed under art, beauty, buddhism, Murasaki Shikibu, Shonagon

In Winter, the Early Mornings…

Last night and into the morning, a new blizzard hit the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, bringing with it a good half foot of snow or more. While this winter has been particularly cold, and being cooped up indoors induces a form of winter madness in all but the hardiest souls, waking up to newly fallen snow is an undeniably joyous aspect to an otherwise frozen, barren season.

“The Pillow Book” famously starts with the line “in spring, it is the dawn”, as Sei Shonagon poetically describes the loveliest time of day per season. In winter, it is the early morning:

“In winter the early mornings. It is beautiful indeed when snow has fallen during the night, but splendid too when the ground is white with frost; or even when there is no snow or frost, but it is simply very cold and the attendants hurry from room to room stirring up fires and bringing charcoal, how well this fits the season’s mood! But as noon approaches and the cold wears off, no one bothers to keep the braziers alight, and soon nothing remains but piles of white ashes” —-Sei Shonagon

Frozen salt marsh.

A flock of crows on slushy ice of brackish water.

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Filed under beauty, sedentariness, Shonagon, snow

Just a Friendly Reminder…

....don't even think about cutting that hair.

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Filed under beauty, hair, Ladies

Go to the Dentist for a Teeth Blackening

Look at those gorgeous blackened teeth! Think they're natural?

According to my dentist’s office, teeth whitening is the most popular cosmetic surgery in America. Nothing, other than clear skin, is considered more of an indication of overall good health and thus beauty than a mouth full of shiny, bright white (porcelain or bleached) teeth. So imagine then, if you will, staining your teeth as black as possible and having that considered the epitome of beauty. It certainly was in the Heian era. White teeth were considered disgusting – reminiscent of mealworms.

Sugar gliders snacking.

The next time someone tells you that an obvious fad will always be stylish or popular, rather than arguing, just nod, smile, and imagine your friend with a mouthful of blackened teeth. It’s a timeless look – just like the lumberjack shirts of today, blackened teeth never went out of style.


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New Heian Gift Ideas

Perfect for the Heian-obsessed friends and family on your birthday or Christmas gift list, I have just found a UK website similar to Etsy or with an abundance of Heian items. Among the highlights is a t-shirt of an anime cartoon fox Heian princess,  ladies’ shoes  (Keds)with a Heian – era print of courtesans on them, and a t-shirt that says “Heian Princess”:


Filed under beauty, dress, Genji, Ladies, Murasaki Shikibu

How to Remove Unwanted Hair like a Heian Lady

Get yourself some tweezers and a small pair of scissors. Recently, a make-up kit was found in a Heian tomb in Nishiwaki, Hyogo Prefecture.  Inside the kit was a pair of tweezers and some shears, in addition to a small mirror from China.

Since the tomb was outside of Kansai Prefecture, and thus far from Heian Kyo, it appears that the lady may “have had a close relationship with an influential person who ruled the local area on behalf of a lord who lived in Kyoto, the capital at that time,” according to Shiro Yamashita, the Head of Public Relations for the Hyogo Prefectural Museum of Archaeology in Harimacho. It’s interesting that Yamashita didn’t mention the possibility of the lady’s being the wife or daughter of a provincial governor, that much-dreaded post occupied by the father of Murasaki Shikibu and later husband of Sei Shonagon.

Why tweezers were needed.

However, one thing is certain. Whoever owned this historic make-up kit needed it for a very specific purpose: removing all of one’s noticeable body hair, eyebrows included. How else could one paint on thick, black, caterpillar-like replacements without looking silly?


Filed under beauty, eyebrows, Ladies, Murasaki Shikibu, Shonagon