Cosmetics of Edo: Am I Beautiful?

Our desire for beauty, whether you are a man or a woman, is universal.

If we had a choice, most of us would probably opt in for looking gorgeous than the other way around. (To avoid misunderstanding and potential loss of readership, I would like to add that beauty is in the eye of the beholder.)

The people of Edo (1603-1868) were no different.

Readers, be prepared to be surprised by what they used for cosmetics to stay youthful.

The most common beauty product was nuka or rice bran.

They put rice bran in a bag and washed their body with it.

It is still sold in Japan, and I have tried it a few times myself. It actually works, and your skin will be noticeably smoother.

They also used funori, a kind of seaweed.

It was used as hair product to keep their hair nice and shiny. They melted it in hot water and mixed with other ingredients like flour.

But the ultimate beauty product of Edo was…

Drum roll, please…

Japanese bush warbler or uguisu’s waste.

They smeared this bird’s… ahem… poop on their faces!!!

It was very expensive and cost a fortune.

I have no idea how they collected it, but that will be my next research topic.

And guess what, it is STILL used in Japan though it isn’t common, and you can purchase it online wherever you are in the world.

If you ever decide to give it a go, please send me the before and after photos.

I am very curious.

Photo Attribution

Alpsdake, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What’s Up With Eishi? [Voiceless Edition]

Hi all, how have you been? Hope everything is well with you over there!

I usually post my monthly updates on my YouTube channel called “What’s Up With Eishi?”, but this month I am writing one instead because I was literally voiceless for about 3 weeks and my voice is still around its 80% capacity as of today…

It all started during Auckland Lockdown 2.0.

One morning, I woke up with this violent pain in my throat, and I was convinced it probably would be… the virus.

Resigned to my fate, I let this super friendly nurse with super beautiful smiles stick a stick in my nostril.

Really… REALLY deep… which made me teary.

I remember feeling a sense of respect and fear at the same time for her to keep smiling all the way through the procedure.

Anyway, it turned out negative!

But this virus or bacteria caused the worst throat infection in my entire life…

The swollen larynx blocked my air pipe in my sleep the first 4-5 nights, which kept me awake most of the night.

Excuse my drivelling, but I just noticed…

You are not really here to read about my sufferings, are you?

In conclusion, my voice is back to about 80%, and I have started performing rakugo as usual!

I kicked off this week with a rakugo workshop for language teachers at my alma mater, the University of Auckland.

This morning I ran an online rakugo workshop for an intermediate school in Wellington.

I am working as an actor this Saturday and doing a play reading for Babel Theatre. It will be held at TAPAC, but I am not sure if it will be open to public.

You can probably gatecrash if you are really desperate (no guarantee!).

But the biggest news this month is…

The funding for developing a documentary film/ art installation has been granted!!!

I will be working with a very established documentary filmmaker.

It will deal with the concepts of war, aikido, and rakugo.

We are about to start this project next week!!!

And of course, I have to finish my Online Rakugo Project, which is due on Christmas Day!!!

I forgot to add that the rakugo club is returning at the end of the month! The venue is moving to Onehunga.

Busy life ahead!!!

Eishi’s Podcast Available RIGHT NOW!!!

Hi everybody! Hope everything is well with you! 😊

I am letting you know that my new podcast is just about to go live… as soon as I post this blog entry!!!

The show is called ‘Japanese Street WisdomA Rakugo Performer’s Musings’, and I will be talking about Japanese wisdom from the past that I learn through my rakugo practice.

As you can see, it is still a rough-cut, but I NEEDED to post the first episode asap as it is the first step nonetheless, and from now on it will force me to keep posting new episodes.

The bright side of posting the first episode anyway, regardless of its quality, is that from here onward, it will always be up and up!!!

It will be also available on Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube.

Thank you always for your continued support!!!

Similarities Between Māori and Japanese

September is the Māori Language Month in New Zealand.

One of the things that I am really fascinated about the Māori language is its similarities with my first language, Japanese.

Even though I am well aware that the Māori language took a very different journey from Japanese, I sometimes wonder if the two languages somehow interacted with each other a long, long time ago.

The vowels (a, e, i, o, u) are practically identical though some of the Māori diphthongs (combinations of two vowels) can be tricky for Japanese speakers to pronounce.

The Māori consonants are very similar to Japanese, too, except for a few sounds such as the nasal ‘ng’ and ‘wh’ that is pronounced like the English ‘f’.

Some of the vocabulary are very similar as well as you can see in the table below:

MaoriJapanese
Ana (cave)Ana (あな): hole; “hora-ana”is a cave
Kōura (crayfish)Koura (こうら): shell of a crayfish, crab, etc.
Tuki (to ram, bump, crash into)Tsuki (つき; 突き): to ram, poke, etc.
*The standard form is ‘tsuku’ (つく; 突く)
Puku (stomach)Puku: stomach in expressions such as man-puku (まんぷく; 満腹: full stomach)
Kura (tank, container)Kura (くら; 蔵): storehouse
Awa (river)Kawa (かわ; 川): river
Tokotoko (cane, to walk with a stick)Tokotoko (とことこ): onomatopoeia for the sound of walking fast in short steps
Pakipaki (to clap)Pachipachi (パチパチ): onomatopoeia for the clapping sound
Ika (fish)Ika (いか; squid)

Finally, I stumbled upon this article by the Asia Media Centre yesterday. I wanted to share it with you as it was a great read.

According to the Perceptions of Asia and Asian Peoples from a Te Ao Māori Perspective survey, “Japan was seen as the country that shared the most culturally similar views and values to Māori”.

No wonder I feel at home in Aotearoa!

Eishi (Hiroshi) Attempts to Speak in Māori!!!

Kia ora, e hoa mā! (Hello, friends!)

Here in New Zealand, September is the Māori Language Month (Mahuru Māori), so I have decided to post my pepeha (self-introduction) on my YouTube channel to take part in this special occasion!

The Māori culture is an oral tradition just like the rakugo tradition, so I have always been fascinated by the immense richness of te reo Māori me ōna tikanga (Māori language and its protocols) since I moved to New Zealand.

My Māori is very limited, so I probably made some mistakes in grammar, pronunciation, etc. in the video. Please kindly comment below to correct if you spotted any so I can improve my reo!

In my household, my Pākehā (NZ European) wife and I try to use Māori as much as possible, and my children now can recite karakia (Māori prayer) before meals.

I will keep learning this beautiful language and culture to deepen my understanding of this world, oral tradition, and rakugo.

Ngā mihi nui ki a koutou katoa! (Greetings to you all!)

#MahuruMaori #TeWikioteReoMāori, #MāoriLanguageWeek #1MirionaTihau #1MirionaTweets #1miriona

Fox Deities and Japanese Fireworks

What I miss the most about Japanese summer is those amazing fireworks.

They are inseparable from my childhood memories of summer festivals and make me very, very nostalgic!

If you have been to a firework event in Japan, you might have heard some people shout “Tamaya! Kagiya!” (たまや!かぎや!). These calls are archaic, but I still heard them when I was growing up in a small town near Yokohama.

As you Japanese culture enthusiasts may know, these are the names of the most famous firework makers from the Edo period.

Kagiya (鍵屋 かぎや) started operating in 1659 and still exists even today. Tamaya (玉屋 たまや) was established in 1810 but shut down in 1843 due to an accidental fire.

Now…

You may have known the origins of the firework calls, but did you know where the names of these firework makers (Tamaya/ Kagiya) were from?

The answer is fox deities.

Fox deity worship was a very common form of spirituality during the Edo period (1603-1868). You can still see many shrines dedicated to them all over Japan.

There were at least three in my small neighborhood, and there was one at my primary school. They are literally all over Japan even today. Not many people now actually worship them, but they still treat these shrines with respect.

Now look at the picture above. Can you see that the fox has a key in his mouth? (It’s not a sword, by the way!)

A key is “kagi” in Japanese. So “Kagiya” literally means a “key shop”.

Another common item fox deities carry is a ball that is similar to the one dragons carry.

A ball is “Tama”…

You got it right. “Tamaya” literally means a “ball shop”.

So these two firework makers got their names inspired by the fox deities.

I don’t think many Japanese know this, so if you do your Japanese friends will be impressed 😁

See you next time!

Reference

花火の歴史ー江戸時代