【 CONTENTS 】

The Japanese Beautyberry
The Japanese Beautyberry
Wisteria trellis
Wisteria trellis

Purple, the color of the upper class, ruling people

At one time in Japan, the color purple was very rarely seen. During the Nara period, about 1400 years ago, only high-level officials and the Imperial family could wear purple clothes. The color of purple used to be very pricy because it needed to be extracted from “Shigusa” (purple gromwell plant), which is very difficult to grow. It also requires a lot of effort to dye using the color purple. This has been widely known by people since the year 604, when the twelve level cap and rank system was enacted in Japan. When Buddhism came to Japan, the monks who had a high-level of virtue were allowed to wear purple, while ordinary people were forbidden to wear purple clothes.

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Sumiyoshi Myojin’s costume for the Noh performance, “Takasago”
Sumiyoshi Myojin’s costume for the Noh performance, “Takasago”

The political image and strategy from the color of purple

Coming into the Heian period (794-1185), the color of purple was associated with wisteria flowers. During the middle of the Heian period, the Fujiwara officials implemented a regency government. Following that, the thought of Fuji (wisteria flowers) was Fujiwara = purple = ruling class. Much like that, the thought of Tokugawa became Tokugawa = mallow(purple) = ruling class during the Edo period (1603-1868).
In Noh’s performances, purple and white are often used for the costumes of the emperor and Gods. Other characters absolutely do not wear any shade of purple in their costumes. Please check out these costumes when you visit a Noh theatre.

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AUTHOR

miki iwai

miki iwai

Writer

I love Japanese traditional culture and travelling all over Japan. I also like to see Noh performances, doing calligraphy, and reading/making Japanese poems called “Tanka.” Through writing, I’d like to introduce a unique culture that only exists in Japan.