In Exclusives, Insight

The Japanese concept of color is a dynamic one, and red is particularly important. It represents strong emotions rather than ideas, and has held a prominent position in the country over time.

The crimson hue has played a big role in the beauty history, beginning in the Kofun period (250–538), during which it was common practice to paint the face with red pigments. From here, it evolved into rouge accents for key
facial features.

There are many words in the Japanese language that refer to the color. One definition of the very word for color, iro, translates to a palette containing red. Another term, beni, comes from benimochi, the name for a traditional paste made of fermented safflower petals used to color the lips, cheeks, and outer corners of the eyes. It is still a popular ingredient in Japanese lipstick.

Shades of red are commonly used to decorate young women as a symbol of the innocence of youth. After marriage, red is worn only in undergarments—passion kept in hiding. Since the Heian period (794–1185), fabrics dyed with safflower red have been worn close to the skin to evoke physical healing power.

Photo: DJ Paine via Unsplash

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