The Land of Wa!


Say waaaaa?

…deepest apologies for that.

Anyway, the land formerly known as “Wa” is actually a place all of you are familiar with. Perhaps the Chinese decided to call them that because there was a “Great Wave” of crying after finding out the Four Inventions were created by someone other than the inventors of, well, nope, the Chinese invented Ramen too. On the same moon phase now? Good! (Also, do you know what the “Four Inventions” are? See if you can guess; the answer is on the bottom! Ganbatte!)

Since I know very little about the History of Japan other than that Tom Cruise saved the Samurai from being forgotten in time (I kid), I’ll be doing a bit of studying that goes beyond reading volumes of Rurouni Kenshin.

So, to prepare myself and you for this journey into the Empire of the Sun and Sailor Moon, I leave you with a passage I came across which describes Early Japan (Yayoi) from a 3rd century AD Chinese perspective! And to get you all on track, 3rd century AD means we’re talking about Han Dynasty and afterwards the Three Kingdoms. So Dynasty Warriors. Okay, enough talk!

The social customs [of the Wa] are not lewd. The men wear a band of cloth around their heads, exposing the top. Their clothing is fastened around the body with little sewing. The women wear their hair in loops. Their clothing is like an unlined coverlet and is worn by slipping the head through an opening in the center. [The people] cultivate grains, rice, hemp, and mulberry trees for sericulture. They spin and weave and produce fine linen and silk fabrics. There are no oxen, horses, tigers, leopards, sheep, or magpies. Their weapons are spears, shields, and wooden bows made with short lower part and long upper part; and their bamboo arrows are sometimes tipped with iron or bone…

The land of Wa is warm and mild [in climate]. In winter as in summer the people live on vegetables and go about bare-footed. Their houses have rooms; father and mothers, older and younger, sleep separately. They smear their bodies with pink and scarlet, just as the Chinese use powder. They serve meat on bamboo and wooden trays, helping themselves with their fingers. When a person dies, they prepare a single coffin, without an outer one. They cover the graves with sand to make a mound. When death occurs, mourning is observed for more than ten days, during which period they do not eat meat. The head mourners wail and lament, while friends sing, dance, and drink liquor. When the funeral is over, all members of the whole family go into the water to cleanse themselves in a bath of purification.

When they go on voyages across the sea to visit China, they always select a man who does not arrange his hair, does not rid himself of fleas, lets his clothing [get as] dirty as it will, does not eat meat, and does not approach women. This man behaves like a mourner and is known as the fortune keeper. When the voyage turns out propitious, they all lavish on him slaves and other valuables. In case there is disease or mishap, they kill him, saying that he was not scrupulous in his duties.

Yikes. Paint a vivid picture?

Fact check it yo!

Tsunoda and Goodrich, Japan in the Chinese Dynastic Histories–
Later Han Through Ming Dynasties,
pp. 10-11.

A History of Japan R.H.P. Mason & J.G. Caiger. Revised Edition, 1997.

The Four Great Inventions were: Gunpowder, Papermaking, Compass, and Printing! Thanks, China!