(Discover unique Japanese products in the eBay-affiliated iKjeld Japan Shop)
(Receive headlines like these in the Daily Newsletter. Sign up above!)
(More in Japan Links)
The folding fan was invented in Japan during the 8th century. Called Hiougi, they were made of thin stripes of hinoki (Japanese cypress) and used by aristocrats of the Heian Period (794-1185) as part of their formal attire. Eventually the Japanese fan was exported to China, where silk fans were used. They were transformed and re-imported as Chinese fans in the 15th century. Over the ages fans played an increasingly important role in Japanese culture.
This is the color of robes worn by Buddhist monks in countries like India and Sri Lanka. This vivid yellow is the color of turmeric, an essential spice for curry foods. Not only does turmeric keep bacteria away due to strong antibacterial powers, it also believed to fight off evil spirits, so it is also used as sacred color in the religious context.
Madder red (“akane-iro” in Japanese) is a color immortalized in the Manyoshu, one of Japan’s most revered collections of poetry (mostly written between AD 600 and 759), used mostly to describe the sun and sunset. There are many shades of red, but this one is used as an adjective for the color of sunset.
Wisteria is a color associated with nobility. In Japanese the color “fuji-iro” is named after the “fuji” flower (wisteria), which also happens to have the same written character as in the name of Fujiwara, a clan that effectively controlled Japan during the Heian Period (AD 794 to 1185).
“Japan is a country filled with a mystical blue color.” Irish-born author Lafcadio Hearn was said to have admired Japan for its mystical blue color. He fell in love with the country in 1890, when the world was discovering a newly opened Japan. Indigo blue had come into common use by everyone in Japan, from townsfolk to samurai warriors, during the Edo Period (16th to 18th century) when commoners were discouraged from standing out.
Spring in Japan is a season filled with the color of the “sakura” cherry blossom. “Sa” represents the deity of the rice paddy, and “kura” means a place of rest. When the deity of the rice paddy comes down to the village in the month of March, the life force built up in the mountains during the winter becomes the rice sprouts in the spring that ripen in May. In the days immediately before rice seedlings begin to grow, while the deity rests, flowers blossom with a light crimson hue. This is why they were given the name “sakura.” Thus, the beauty of the sakura cherry blossom conveys a uniquely Japanese sense of about the cycles of nature.
Japanese photographer Miya Kishimura pulls you into a dark world of fantasy from which it is difficult to escape. A school girl in uniform with desperate eyes. The same girl with grotesque make-up. In another shot she lies on the street, seemingly dead. This is Kishimura’s world.