Women in Heian Japan
Ancient History 2014, by Kathy Nguyen
Historical Context - The Noblewomen of Heian Japan
The era lasted between 794 and 1185 and was named for the location of the imperial capital, which was moved from Nara to Heian-kyō ( modern-day Kyōto) in 794, led by Emperor Kanmu. It was a time when Japan moved away from China, which had been its guide in politics and culture.
Noblewomen of Heian Japan were prized as they could advance their family to a better position. These women had more freedom than many other women throughout history; they were the masters of art and literature.
The Fujiwara family, the most powerful family at the time, used their made their daughters to marry royalty, with many of them becoming empresses. This ensured that the next emperor was a descendant of the Fujiwara family.
Literature in Heian Japan
Beauty and Fashion
Wearing layers upon layers of silk was the fashion of women of the era. With wearing up to 40 layers, it must have taken these noblewomen and their servants hours every morning to get ready.
Status and Life in Heian Japan
Although women were not allowed to be involved in state affairs, they were nonetheless well educated. They were literate, could play instruments and dance. They could own property in their own rights, and many were given estates by their parents.
Historians take on Heian Japan
Names of certain individuals are hard to find, especially for women. Many are just given nicknames based on the positions of their close male relatives as it was rude to say their real names.
Historians differ in their ideas of how important women were to the Heian Era. Some say they are very important, as without the women of the Fujiwara family, the family would not have as much political control as it did. Other say that because women lead idle lives, they did not participate in the major events that changed the nation, and therefore were of little importance to the Heian era.