Category Archives: Ladies

Heian Decor is Always Welcome

I realize that I have not posted in quite some time. Unfortunately, unlike my aristocratic Heian compatriots, I must actually work (?) for a living rather than living on the income of far off provincial estates I have never ever visited and could not find on a map.  As a result, I have had less time to actively pursue an interest in all things Heian.

Nonetheless, Heian objects seem to find me. While waiting on line at a thrift store in my neighborhood recently, I happened to spot this particular mini-collage on the counter next to the register. I didn’t even find it while browsing – it was just there, waiting for me to take it, not having been placed there by an errant shopper off to find one last item.

The gentleman may not be wearing a black lacquer hat, and the lady’s hair does not appear to be long, but this little piece of decor is clearly in the Heian spirit. After all, they are both quite attractively pale and plump.  It’s good to know that unlike some trends, standards of beauty never change.



Filed under art, Ladies

Just a Friendly Reminder…

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

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Filed under beauty, hair, Ladies

Stop Exercising

An aristocratic Heian woman did not move very often. She would not have played sports, nor would she have spent time on long solitary walks. Instead, wealthy women lived extremely sedentary lives, spending much of their time sitting around, playing board games with others, practicing penmanship, or eagerly anticipating a response to a sent poem. This is yet another reason why Heian women dominated Japanese literature of the period to such a degree – there was nothing else to do but sit and write.

Sitting on the floor > than sitting on an exercise bike.

To modernize this behavior, spend your time sitting around your room. Talk to your friends on the phone or online. Start writing in a notebook or a blog. Or just feel melancholy. The choice is yours!

But whatever you do, don’t go for a jog. It’s really not very Heian.


Filed under exercise, insularity, Ladies, melancholy, sedentariness

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

No Lady Reads Chinese!

It’s no secret that Heian era literature was dominated by women writers. From 900 – 1,000 A.D., the majority of the literary works we still read and enjoy today were written by women, whether Sei Shonagon, Murasaki Shikibu, Lady Sarashina, or Izumi Shikibu. As a result of this phenomenon, the world’s first novel, Genji Monogatari, was written by one of the aforementioned Heian ladies.

How did women come to dominate early Japanese literature? At the time, women were highly discouraged from reading or writing in Chinese, the official language of the Heian court. The Japanese court at Heian Kyo had mimicked Chinese society in many areas, such as in the city’s grid layout or bureaucracy. Chinese was seen as the “higher” language, and women were not supposed to memorize Chinese poems or read in Chinese.

Murasaki Shikibu, who would later come to dominate the Japanese vernacular, displayed uncommon talent at memorizing Chinese passages as her brother struggled with the same. Her parents pitied that she was not born a boy. In later years, her servants were scandalized at her ability to read Chinese, and prominent collection of Chinese books.

“It’s because she behaves this way that she is so miserable! What kind of woman reads Chinese?!” they wondered.
How about the creator of the world’s first novel?

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Filed under Genji, Ladies, Literature, Murasaki Shikibu