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If you think dating today is hard, imagine how it must have been back in the Kofun Period
of Japan.
We have all kinds of options today...dating apps, huge cities full of people, body pillows...but
they didn't have any of that back then.
So what did they do?
What was marriage like?
How did they view sex?
What role did prostitution play in society?
There is a lot of evidence that Kofun Japan had a pretty matriarchal society, much more
matriarchal than in later periods.
At the very least, women's status in society were similar to that of men.
They had a lot of female clan leaders, even as late as the 6th century.
The main kami of Japan, Amaterasu, was female.
Shamans, who were religious leaders that revealed the will of the kami, were female.
Remember that Queen Himiko in the Yayoi Period was a shaman priestess.
There were a number of female empresses up until the end of the 8th century.
Early Japan had this pattern of dual male-female rule.
If they were not married, the female was usually the older one.
The female ruler usually handled the religious business, and the male ruler handled the secular
side of things.
We see this pattern all over the place.
For example, in Shinto mythology, Izanagi and Izanami created the islands of Japan.
They were a husband and wife pair, also brother and sister.
Amaterasu is the kami of the Sun, and her counterpart, Tsukiyomi, is the kami of the
Queen Himiko had her brother, and later Empresses had a male relative (like a husband, brother,
or nephew) who shouldered the burden of the throne with them.
Some historians suggest that the Japanese imported this practice from the continent.
The Silla Dynasty in the Korean Peninsula also seemed to have this double male-female
We found a Korean tomb where a king and queen were buried, but it was the queen who wore
the crown and flaunted all kinds of shiny jewelry.
The Liao in China traced royal blood through both male and female lines.
Some of this matriarchal mindset lived on to the modern era, where if there were no
suitable male heir, the throne could be passed on to a female.
This practice only recently stopped during the Meiji Period, when women were forbidden
from sitting on the throne.
Here's another sign of the matriarchy
(Oh no...the matriarchy...)
After marriage, the wife continued to live in her parents' home.
Hubby either visited once in a while, or lived a nightmare of a life by moving in with the
wife's family.
I know.
At this early stage, inheritance went through the female line.
A man who sought a career in the Imperial court moved to the capital, supported financially
by his wife's family in return for representing their interests in court.
His wife stayed home.
She and her family took care of their children.
In later periods, as Japanese society became more patriarchal, men would demand to have
their own homes in the capital where they would live with their wives, separate from
the wife's family.
You could see this as them gaining independence, except they demanded the wife's family pay
for their new homes).
C'mon guys.
Marriage between pretty close family members was a thing in these days, like marriages
between aunt and nephew, stepsiblings, stepmother and stepson.
The reason may have been to maintain close relations within the family.
Polygamy was common.
Early on, they had both kinds, men with many wives, and women with many husbands.
Eventually, only men were allowed to have multiple spouses.
Some rich women could indulge in extramarital hanky panky, but it became rude to take on
additional husbands.
And now for what 90% of you are waiting for...
sex and hookers.
Prostitution was legal, and was common in major trading hubs.
Most sex workers did it to pay off debt, or their parents sold them to pay off their own
But there was a smaller number of high class prostitutes who chose the profession.
It does not seem like there was a stigma against prostitutes.
They could own and inherit property, and often lived a normal life or adopted a normal profession
after their sexual career.
These early Japanese prostitutes actually had more job opportunities after their careers
ended than another type of prostitute,
the US politician,
who, after their political
careers end, can only seem to find jobs in the lobbying field.
I couldn't help but wonder how these Japanese courtesans avoided STDs (or didn't avoid).
Bamboo condoms probably not too popular.
Couldn't find any info about it though.
There did not seem to be a prohibition against sexual promiscuity like there was in Judeo-Christian
Youthful sexual experimentation and premarital sex was common, and expected.
They had a fun practice that I think you'll like, called “yobai,” or “night crawling.”
At night, a young unmarried man would sneak into a young unmarried woman's bedroom,
without alerting the rest of the household, and proposition her.
She would think long and hard about it.
If she declines, the creeper slinks off with his tail, or something else, between his legs.
If she accepts, they bump, and he leaves before morning.
Even if the other family members know, they usually turn a blind eye towards it.
This practice was considered a normal part of the dating process.
There wasn't really a formal marriage ceremony.
After a woman sleeps with the same guy a few times, he can stay over for breakfast, making
it official, and there you go, a happily married couple.
The practice varied between regions.
In some places, older people could do it, or even married women could participate.
It seems fun and all, but as you can imagine, problematic things may have happened.
How easily could women refuse?
And how often did men continue even after being rejected?
Farmers would house many seasonal workers for their fields, knowing that their daughters
may be night-crawled upon.
There were no prohibitions against masturbation or homosexuality.
Sex between men was common and did not make them seem less masculine.
In fact, it became the preferred sexual relationship between warriors well into medieval Japan.
It's pretty safe to say that sex between women was also accepted, since we don't
see any social prohibitions against it.
They also didn't particularly value virginity or saving themselves for marriage.
This period of equality of the sexes changed as Japan began adopting more Chinese culture,
particularly Confucianism.
Confucius was like the old neighbor who kept telling you to pull up your pants, put on
some damn clothes, and stop peeing on my dog.
Whenever people wanted to have a good time, Confucius had to go and ruin it for everyone.
Confucianism was more puritanical when it came to sex, and very patriarchal.
The patriarchal ideals did come to dominate Japan, but the sexual conservatism did not
seem to penetrate as much.
The only real concern about sexuality that they imposed was making sure there was a male
heir to continue the family line.
If the man produced an heir, his sexual activities were beside the point.


古来の日本の恋愛事情 (Dating, Marriage, and Women (in Ancient Japan) | History of Japan 13)

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Mayu Okuuchi 2020 年 2 月 12 日 に公開
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