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Fashion of Black Teeth in Old Japan by lilsuika Fashion of Black Teeth in Old Japan by lilsuika
A Yedo (Edo) chemist's recipe for black teeth dye from Tales of Old Japan by A.B. Mitford (1871):

"Take three pints of water, and, having warmed it, add half a teacupful of wine. Put into this mixture a quantity of red-hot iron; allow it to stand for five or six days, when there will be a scum on the top of the mixture, which should then be poured into a small teacup and placed near a fire. When it is warm, powdered gallnuts and iron filings should be added to it, and the whole should be warmed again. The liquid is then painted on to the teeth by means of a soft feather brush, with more powdered gallnuts and iron, and, after several applications, the desired colour will be obtained." (Mitford 203)

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MorisatoMegumi Featured By Owner 9 hours ago
Thanks a lot for sharing so much (and well researched) information! You really should make a book on drawing historical fashion from East Asia out of your works!!
Page-Mistress Featured By Owner Mar 18, 2015
[raises hand] Teacher, I think I once saw a Noh mask that's mouth was opened and black inside. Is this related to that?
WitchoftheMoor Featured By Owner Jan 3, 2015  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Huh...I had recently seen Miyazaki's Tale of Princess Kaguya, and saw Kaguya blacken her teeth. it was the first time I had ever seen this custom, but the way you explain it doesn't make too surprising. thanks for the info ^^
lavenderl Featured By Owner Nov 22, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Hmm, this is very interesting, I always thought that ohaguro lasted for about a week.  I didn't know about the Meiji ban or the shaving eyebrows, either.  Thank you for this. ^^
bluedog444 Featured By Owner Sep 28, 2014  Hobbyist Artist
Would I be dumb if I tried this?
xelanesque Featured By Owner Nov 12, 2014
No, you wouldnt
Throneofsouls Featured By Owner Aug 18, 2014   General Artist
This very informative though,( and this is just a guess) but wouldn't blacking your teeth over the years do something to them health wise?

Considering the list of ingredients in teeth blacking wouldn't that weaken the teeth & gums over years of usage?
Chromarin Featured By Owner Sep 21, 2014   General Artist
Oxided iron itself is not particularly bad, even nowadays a Japanese black bean dish (kuromame) is made with rusted nails to enhance the black colour.
mayshing Featured By Owner Aug 12, 2014  Professional Filmographer
neat lesson. O_o thank you for organizing it.
TheGirlIsDaEbAk Featured By Owner Aug 4, 2014  Student General Artist
Japan's weirdness...its nothing new
Bunni89 Featured By Owner Jul 23, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow, this is so fascinating! I'm curious whether it made their food taste strange or left an aftertaste in the mouth. I can't imagine dye would be very pleasant so close to your tongue, after all. Ah, the sacrifices made for nobility!
sofitssofi Featured By Owner Jul 1, 2014
so that's why I saw many picture of japanese ghosts with black teeth.... they were actually very sincere and loyal women. That makes their image even sadder D:
ladyZosimos Featured By Owner Jun 29, 2014
Thank you! It's very informative and fun to read because of the pretty pictures. Do you draw them? Cool!
PagodaComics Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2014  Student General Artist
WOW, I only knew it happened at times but didn't even know men were doing it as well. Thank you very much again the educational post! :hug:
I wonder how that stuff tastes, since it comes off... <,<
thefadedpanda Featured By Owner Jun 25, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
That's kinda gross looking, but I guess it was the thing at the time Llama Emoji-11 (Come Here) [V1] 
Urtear Featured By Owner Jun 24, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
the black teeth smile *shiver* so creepy tho >w<
PetiteBubu Featured By Owner Jun 23, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
I have no words. Wow. Well, the more you know...
charliestatzer Featured By Owner Jun 20, 2014  Student General Artist
Didn't know that was thing back then. Well you learn something new everyday. :)
Ive always had a fascination with certain cultural practices from around the world and painting teeth black was one of them. I know in some tribes in Southeast Asia they still practice this custom but Ive always wanted to know the hows and whys of the custom in Japan. Thank you for this interesting look into the practice!  
IzzyMarrie Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
I've heard of the tradition of painting the teeth black in Japan, but I never knew why or which people in Japan did this.  Thank you so much for the detailed information  ^_^  It's very interesting
HelpILostMyEraser Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
This is so cool, I didn't even know about this. I love Japanese history, it's much more interesting (in my opinion at least) than Canadian history (which is pretty much all we learn about in Canadian schools. That and European history.)
Thank you for sharing this awesome information!
AngelSmileeeee Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2014
Thank you for sharing the interesting information! That's something fresh and fun to follow :) Your art is great,too :aww:
BittersweetWaltz Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
Yes I knew they were blackening their teeth but didn't know why actually. This is really interesting !
Yagamiseven Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2014
Very interesting 
kotorikurama Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2014  Student Filmographer
Very informative
TheWilyWildcat Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2014  Student General Artist
Amazing, I'd heard that the Elizabethans also had black teeth and viewed it as fashionable, but I had no idea it was practiced in different cultures and exactly why they did it, and I never knew they treated people with white teeth with such scorn.  Really interesting.   
Kelazi5 Featured By Owner Jun 14, 2014
That was really interesting, I'd never heard about this before. A neat bit of history you don't really hear about in America. Thanks.
ManWithTheMetalArm Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014  Student Artisan Crafter
Magickat Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Thank you for sharing, I enjoyed reading that. Always curious about that.
pikeyPIE Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014
My head won't make a suitable trophy?! :'(
Pumagami Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Very interesting!
Trencher7809 Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014  Student General Artist
This is very informative and interesting, well done :)
ABronyAccount Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014
We in the West may think it an odd custom, but rumor has it that Magneto found the effect to be quite attractive!
riverotter7 Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014  Hobbyist Artisan Crafter
I suppose it would be one way of getting one's iron for the day. Very very interesting. I'd always wondered about this one!
Kayru-Kitsune Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Wow... with all that iron consumption, I wonder how that affected their health/longevity...
I-am-the-Zombie Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014
There probably wasn't that much iron in the final product (filings being powder), and given the iron deficiency in the traditional Japanese diet, at the time it was probably helpful.
Kayru-Kitsune Featured By Owner Jun 16, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Ah, given a deficiency, that makes sense. I know what filings are and it seems like it would still be a lot, but I suppose it would level out an unbalanced diet.
TheDevilReborn Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014
This is very interesting! Thank you! 
SilverFoxThief Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014
:iconamazingplz: ...Why haven't I ever heard of this tradition before...?
UltimateSketchQueen Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
That was really interesting :3
Thank you for the neat comic and awesome history!
WhiteFoxFarm Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Haha, poor white-toothed head, tossed aside. xD

Well that was interesting. ♥
juicyindaskull Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014  Hobbyist
This is very well done! Nice :D I always wondered what that was, it's very strange!
bvvuz Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014  Hobbyist Photographer
old Japan (woman) lips also painted black...
AdmiralCookie Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014
I think one of the theories of what motivated it was in Ivan Morris' "World of the Shining Prince" --that some people blackened their teeth in the Heian period because the white facial makeup made their teeth look yellow?
bloedzuigerbloed Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
Fascinating. I didn't know this. I love how the guy laughing at 'white teeth' gets his head cut off in the next panel. Did the black die cause any health issues when swallowed?
The-Little-Derper Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014
This was very interesting! Thank you uvu
Moonst Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014
Didn't know about this former trend. Very interessint. Might use this for distraction when playing an asian larp character. :D
ashimbabbar Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014
also, Fukuzawa Yukichi in one of his articles written I think in the 1870's satirizes old courtiers with blackened teeth bemoaning the changing of Japan
Baconmoose Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014  Professional Digital Artist
Very interesting and informative thank you!
Am I the only person who thinks the ohaguro looks absolutely terrifying? I mean the whole look during this era in general is pretty creepy. The oshiri for the extremely pale skin, the hikimayu smudges, and the rouge around the eyes and lips... Together it just looks so creepy and demonic to me, lol. No wonder J-horror is so scary.

I suppose that's also why ohaguro-bettari exists.
Bjarru Featured By Owner Jun 13, 2014  Student Traditional Artist
Huh, in slavic countries it was pretty similiar
Women would blacken their teeth to make it look decaying because only wealthy people could afford sweets and sugars
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Submitted on
June 12, 2014
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