Ancient Japan Introduction

Everything in Ancient Japan from fashion to architecture is different than Modern-Day Japan's style. Today we will be exploring the similarities and differences between Ancient and Modern-Day Japan.

Nobles Create Art

These people were known as the "dwellers among the clouds" and they had nothing to do with common folks of Heian. They lived apart from the common folks and rarely left the city. The Nobles enjoyed their lives of ease and privilege. They loved beauty and elegance. Because of this, they supported art a lot. As a result, the court at Heian became a great center of culture and learning. The same cannot be said for Modern-Day Japanese nobles.

Noble Fashion

The Nobles' love of beauty began with their own appearances. They had wondrous wardrobes filled with silks and golden jewelry. Nobles loved elaborate outfits. Noble women often wore long gowns with 12 different colored silks layered to show all layers at once. These Nobles often had delicate fans to complete their outfits. These fans oftentimes had flowers or long silk cords attached to them. Today, Japanese citizens have a new type of fashion called Cosplay. It involves dressing as one of your favorite characters from a movie, manga, anime, and/or video games. Most of their fashion is from western ideas.


Japanese Nobles took great care in how they wrote and spoke. Writing was very popular among the Nobles. Women were very fond with writing, as the wrote diaries and journals about their lives at court. Their words were chosen so carefully, the writing was beautiful. The women wrote in Japanese while the men wrote in Chinese. One of the greatest writers in early Japanese history was Lady Murasaki Shikibu. She wrote The Tale of Genji. Both men and women loved to read and write so much that they even held parties just for those occasions. Now, Japanese writers make books such like western books and have a new type of book called a Manga. Japanese citizens like manga so much, they even dress up like characters in a manga and act like that character (cosplay).

Noble Visual Arts

Visual Arts were another of the Japanese Nobles' hobbies. Many of their favorite forms of art included painting, calligraphy, and architecture. When they painted they liked to use bold, bright colors and often had paintings to depict their literature. Most of the greatest illustrations are from The Tale of Genji. Some artists even painted on doors and furniture. Calligraphy was the art of decorative writing. Often times, calligraphers would spend hours carefully copying poems. They wanted the poems to look as beautiful as they sounded. Now most of Japanese visual arts are parts of anime or manga, two very popular parts of entertainment. Most mangas are not colored while animes are.


The nobles worked hard to make their city beautiful. Many of the things they made were modeled after Chinese architecture. The nobles of Heian made their city to look like the Chinese capital, Chang'an. They liked simple, airy designs. Most buildings were made of wood and large open spaces inside. To add to the beauty, they surrounded the houses with elegant gardens and ponds. Many of the modern-day Japanese buildings are tall, steel skyscrapers. There are small houses, often made in a contemporary style. Some elements of ancient Japan's buildings are still in the modern-day architecture of Japan.

Noble Performing Arts

The performing arts were very popular in Japan during the Heian Period. Those performances consisted of musicians, jugglers, and acrobats. These performances were wild and fun. The plays in which actors mimicked others were most well-known. In later centuries, these performances became much more serious and dramatic, getting the name Noh. Noh was created in the 1300's. These plays often depict stories about great heroes or figures from Japan's past. Since then Japan has a new type of drama called Shinpa. This drama is about trying to fit into the contemporary world.

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