Category Archives: gentlemen

An Ideal Heian Gentleman, Part II

The Heian world had strict codes of behavior everyone kept to, and this was true of romantic entanglements as well. The result of this was that there was no sitting around each day by the door waiting for the messenger’s arrival (the equivalent of waiting by the phone in Heian times) to see if a man were interested in you, or wanted to keep an affair going.

Instead, an ideal Heian gentleman would visit at night, and then take his leave in the early morning. Rather than saying something along the lines of “that was cool, babe, but I have to bounce before your parents find me,” the proper Heian gentleman would use a standard euphemism to announce his leave. Since it would be early morning, the grass would be covered with dew, and the fine gentleman would express a strong desire to see that dew. This would mean he’d have to go. One could then protest, and he’d say the “dew calls me”, or something along those lines.

Once the gentleman had arrived home, he was to immediately sit down, produce a standard three line poem, and send it with a symbolic flower or twig (symbolic of his feelings, whatever they may have been) to the lady he had just visited. If not, his interest in the affair was over. No poem = it’s over.

While seemingly an arcane ritual, this standard of conduct could be imitated today, as women would at least know where they stood. In fact, it would work for anyone. Demand a poem. Tell whomever you’re dating or living with that you’ll require a poem every time they leave to make sure they’re coming back. If they complain, start sending poems to their friends. They’ll take the hint.

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An Ideal Heian Gentlemen, Part I

It is sometimes said that “sensitive men” are fashionable in these days in Western society. However, we Westerners are far behind the times, as ridiculously sensitive men were all the rage 1,000 years ago in Heian – era Japan.
Men were not supposed to hide their emotions – no. The ideal gentleman was emotional and sensitive to the beauty and pathos of life, and thus would be likely to weep gently at the sight of a magnificent sunset, a pond in the moonlight, or the thought of someone else’s loneliness.

The author of the world’s first novel (The Tale of Genji), Murasaki Shikibu, describes Michinaga himself as having weeped tears of joy at the sight of the spendidly dressed Emperor arriving to a festival.
Michinaga is the man to imitate. Go ahead. Weep softly with immeasurable joy when you hear your favorite band is coming to town. Let a single tear fall gently down your cheek at the thought of the next episode of “Lost.” Practice saying to others, with moist eyes, “I’m not really crying. I’m simply attuned to the sadness and beauty of life.”

You’re not a wimp. You’re a perfect Heian gentleman.

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