HeianHeian life

Picture contains Ito Hideaki as Minamoto Hiromasa and Nomura Mansai as Abe Seimei in Onmyoji, directed by Takita Yojiro

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Japanese sociopolitical ranks 1185 - 1868
Japanese Emperors, Empresses, Shoguns, Regents, Chief Ministers, Rulers since 660 B.C. until today
History of Japanese music and dance that involves Minamoto Hiromasa, Abe Seimei, and the actor Nomura Mansai

Abe Seimei

 

 

Minamoto Hiromasa

 

Abe Seimei was a real person. He was just a young freelance astronomer when promoted by a member of the most powerful clan of his times, Lord Fujiwara Michinaga, to be the Imperial Astronomer. Nobody knew how old Abe Seimei was when he died in the year 1005 in Kyoto (and no one dared to ask, since he was believed to be shamanically great). That's why he could stay forever young as a legend.

Click here for more pictures of Abe Seimei in his times, and snapshots of his hangouts today.

Click here for everything about real-life Onmyoji, their actual job, and so on.

  Minamoto Hiromasa that Ito Hideaki played as in Onmyoji was a real man, too. He lived between the year 918 and 980. He died at 62. His first name means 'bountiful truth'. His Minamoto family belongs to the so-called 'Daigo Branch', i.e. those who shared the DNA initially trickled down from Emperor Go-Daigo. The same branch consists also of the line of Prince Minamoto Takaaki (914-982). Although he wasn't so brilliant so as to sting songwriters of Heian to compose love stanzas about him, he was definitely one of those Heian courtiers lounging about in his times.

 

How could Abe Seimei and Minamoto Hiromasa lived so laid-back, in a sphere where all was aplenty, and
had time and energy to chase all sorts of demons? Of course they could. They had no laundry to mind.

Click here for history of Japanese music and dance that involves Minamoto Hiromasa, Abe Seimei, and
the actor Nomura Mansai.
| Click here for Nomura Mansai's dance. | Click here for Nomura Mansai as flutist.

 

 

 

 

The Heian period of Japanese history, from the year 794 to 1185, was one Golden Age for the nation -- even if there was no such a thing as a nation yet. The capital city Heian-kyo is today's Kyoto, whose name means 'the city of Peace'.   Japan had just unloaded a lot of imported stuff from China those days, and had fun assimilating those with its homegrown culture. The Imperial Palace was the center of the so-called 'high culture', and the Court was the standard of unaffordable splendor for average people.
     

 

 

 

There was virtually no war going on; the warrior clans was mostly out of town anyway. Unrests always happened some place else. Kyoto itself hosted nothing but cultural activities. If you were a courtier, that is. Otherwise life was very hard for the lower classes. They had to work to pay for these cultural activities without participating. The worst fate, as always, was the peasantry's. They never even knew what Kyoto was like. But they paid heavy taxes so that the nobles could give their horses the best.   Minamoto Hiromasa rode on this kind of carriage, pulled by an ox; only noblepersons whose DNA was related to the Imperial family's got the right to use the decidedly uncomfortable vehicle. Those a few bytes lower in status rode horses. Lower than that, everywhere you went to you got to go on foot. What was in Kyoto wasn't the same in remote provinces; the Heian political system was actually wrecking the country apart. Independent warlords had started to grow out there, unknown by all these people in the capital city. The Minamotos, actually, was one of the warrior clans that rose during this time, harboring ambition to rule the country.
     

 

 

 

Playing a flute on horseback when passing the house of the lady he loved, was what this man was doing; there was nothing to do in Heian but to get lovesick. That's why in this era poetry was rampant. So was music, dancing, and literature. Mobile entertainers ('shirabyoshi') were in vogue; they performed some kind of variety shows.   Though the trappings were still the same, samurai of this era assumed all the habits of the effeminate non-combatant noblemen, unless they belonged to some regiments stationed far away from Kyoto. What usually happened was, the closer you were to Heian-kyo, the less warlike you became. That isn't a good thing; why on earth you be a member of the warrior class then?
     

 

 

 

The city was dominated by the Fujiwara clan. In it, nobles like Lady Murasaki Shikibu got all the time in the world to write novels. Murasaki's Tales of Genji (Genji Monogatari) was about the lives of the Minamoto princes like Hiromasa around palaces in Kyoto. 'Genji', just in case you forgot, is written the same way as 'Minamoto' in Japanese ideograph.

Since Murasaki's tales were woven out of real incidents around her tiny social circle, they helped us to see what it's like to live a Heian life if we were in her shoes. The old tome was all the rage again in the Tokugawa era (click here for story and pictures), especially after 18th century when Edo (today's Tokyo) had grown listless because the era of warlords was over. Such a period is warranted to get more or less artistic.

The Minamoto clan was one of warriors, unlike the Fujiwaras that were mostly courtiers and dabbled in civil service. Their rival and later sworn enemies, the Taira clan, was also a crowd of soldiers. Even in the distinctly laid-back atmosphere of the time, if you were born into the warrior class like Hiromasa, you had to undergo some martial art training, regardless of whether you'd use it or not. This includes the Fujiwara guys, for they were samurai even though they preferred sedentary jobs.

 

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