Wednesday, June 8, 2011


Οne of the most striking customs to Western eyes in ancient Japan was the blackening of  teeth by married women and courtisans as an enhacement of their beauty .The custom rooted in antiquity,had gradually become proof of the married status of women.
Before a new bride entered her husband's home,she visited the establishments of seven relatives to receive dye and then underwent what was called "THE FIRST BLACKENING".Ιts significance is expressed in the adage," as the  colour black never changes,neither does the intimate bond between .a husband and a wife."Blackened teeth were  evidence that a wife had sworn eternalfidelity to her spouse.
This practice called Ohaguro, persisted until the late 1800's.
The main ingredient was a smelly dark-brown colored liquid, made of an acetic acid called kanemizu. This teeth-blackening process was labor intensive. First, in order for the surface of the teeth to hold the dye well, the rind of a pomegranate, or something similar, would be rubbed across the teeth. Once dry, the dye mixture provided a rich black lacquer coating.
Unfortunately, it faded quickly and the process had to be repeated regularly to maintain a beautiful set of blackened teeth, so no respectable woman who cared about her appearance would go more than three days without applying the dye again.

A side effect of this fashion fad was that the die actually did prevent tooth decay!

This practice gradually died out after it was banned by the Japanese government on February 5th, 1870.
Though the Japanese have lagged behind in dental care teeth bleaching procedures are nowadays the most popular cosmetic procedures in Japan. Funny how things used to be quite different…

p.s The next post must be about tooth whitening!!

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