A Modern Version of a Heian-era Toilet
Though one hardly likes to mention such things, there are parts ofevery day life in Heian Japan that we modern-day people would have a hard time getting used to. Though the Genji and The Pillow Book rarely mention such activities as eating or cleaning, we do know what Heian-era aristocrats used instead of modern day bathrooms.
Imagine a rectangular area cut out of your floor and filled with sand. This, friends, is a Heian-era “privy box” or toilet. My cat uses something cleaner. That’s right – for all their style, aesthetic taste, and fabulous hair, Heian ladies in waiting used a litter box. It makes one feel a little better about not having the best poetic skills, no?
Next time you rent an apartment or house, ask the landlord if you’ll be permitted to dig a one foot deep privy box in your room and fill it with sand. If he questions further, look extremely embarrassed and mutter something under your breath about needing servants to clean the privy box. He’ll question no further.
The back has a Fujiwara crest.
It frequently happens that social conversations turn to topics which everyone can comment upon, such as sport. Some of us, however, actually know nothing of professional football or basketball and thus have nothing to say. How dreadful! Should a similar occasion arise when others discuss their favorite political figures of Heian Japan, the Fujiwaras, tell them your favorite is Michinaga. Being a fan of Michinaga is like being a modern day Yankees fan. It’s a safe bet.
But won’t others thus mock such a choice, calling you a winner picker? Maybe. But like being a Yankees fan, (“What’s wrong with a few national championships? I like teams that don’t suck!”) being a fan of Michinaga no Fujiwara is easy to defend. “I really admire the way he consolidated imperial power through bridal politics,” you’ll say, easily rebuffing your opponents’ skepticism. “After all, who could force his own nephews Korechika and Takaiye into exile quite like Michinaga? He held complete control over the imperial court of Heian Kyo. ” They’ll have nothing to say in reply. Pick the obvious winner. Michinaga.