Saturday, March 17, 2012

Left or Right

Every time I display the Hina Dolls on our house alcove in time for the Festival on March 3, my husband never fails to bring about a topic just like an annual event.
It's a matter of the position of the two dolls. One is the Emperor Doll and the other is the Empress Doll. Now when I place the two dolls, I always put the Emperor on left and the Empress on right on the display. If you have a chance to look at all those Hina dolls decorations at the department stores or in the Internet, you will see most of them follow this position. Most Japanese take it for granted that the Emperor Doll sits on the left and the Empress Doll on the right. But my husband has the different idea.

popular position

Kyoto position

If you visit Kyoto,the ancient capital over a thousand years, you will notice the position of the two dolls is opposite from the position of our own dolls at home-----left right reversal, so to speak.
My husband would rather follow the Kyoto position. Why? Because in the ancient aristocratic society of Kyoto, "left" is considered more superior, sacred and divine than "right" during our long history. So when the ancient loyal couple appeared to the public, the Emperor had a seat on his left side and the empress on his right side. This custom which was deeply connected with the Chinese philosophy. It had been practiced over centuries until the new government changed its custom when the Meiji Emperor was crowned in 1867 in Tokyo, the new capital.

There are some explanations on why this manner was changed to the reversal after a long history of left-dominated value. At that time the government was open its doors to the foreign countries. It is said that they followed the western style and modified the ancient habits to the new ones. They changed our rule in the name of “internationalization.” Since then, our Emperor and Empress have appeared in the same way like many other loyal couples in the western world. This also affected the position of the Hina dolls which represented the Emperor and the Empress. Most people applied the same rule even to the Hina Dolls. Hmm, that was a problem. The whole display accompanied by an ancient aristocratic custom was disturbed and meant nothing.

I just wondered if there is a universal rule in the world. I saw some images of the loyal couples in the Internet. The pictures I saw didn’t convince me that they had a definite rule in terms of the standing position for the loyal couples in the world. It seems that there are both or some cases are exceptions. If there is not an universal rule, our people wouldn't have made a mess in the Hina Dolls position today. I feel so grateful that people of Kyoto have kept our ancient value in Hina Dolls display without being disturbed by a fraud "internationalization” that the old government declared.

examples of the loyal poses
(click for a larger image)

By the way, as far as our Hina dolls are concerned, I’d rather have them stay in the same position, though. If I changed, they might complain with saying,
“ Yuck, what is this all about? We don’t feel at home. We don't want changes. "


Janine said...

I never looked at it that way, and I don't now what the "good" way is, so I think just do how you like it ☺ I love this tradition off your country!! Have a great weekend.

Au and Target said...

In Western Europe and North America, the important person is always on the right of a photograph - just check the newspapers! Obviously we are Kyoto people :-)

Mekkan said...

It's nice of you to tell me the information. Otherwise, this would have been so confusing. I'm so thrilled to tell this to my husband when he gets home :D Thank you.

Anya said...

Love your post
it looks so lovely :)

Amin said...

Hello! Very interesting post! Thank You very much for sharing! For me the second position is very popular.

Mekkan said...

Thanks again folks for your comments. It's so interesting to know the different/same way of looking at things in each country.