Every language in the world has certain terms that they use to describe different things around them. It can be very useful to know some terms when you go abroad because speaking in local language that is always seen as a sign of intelligence by the locals there. The greetings for certain languages are a must to learn if you are trying to impress people this way because these greetings will be useful in almost any conversation you start. Another term that is advisable for you to learn as a tourist is how to call something or someone beautiful and in Japan, that statement can be expressed in one word which is “Bijin”.
The Definition of the Japanese Word “Bijin” When You Translate It in English
There are many ways to say or hint that a person is beautiful or attractive but to specifically call a beautiful women is best expressed with the Japanese term “Bijin”. It originated from the Chinese language and it is used solely for women because the translation of its kanji characters literally means “feminine beauty” therefore it would be wrong to use bijin on males, things, or animals.
In a way, those who were referred as bijin became what modern models are nowadays. In Japan, there are actually certain areas that are known to have a lot of bijin. These areas are the liked of Akita, which is in Honshu, and Fukuoka, which is in Kyushu. The bijins of Akita were popular because of the particular traits they would have. They are described to have round faces with very clear skin and they are also characterized to have a high-pitched voice which was and is still seen as an attractive trait in the Japanese culture. The bijin of Fukuoka was not described in detail like the bijin of Akita but this area was known to have to most bijin in Japan.
Many times these bijins are the ones chosen as brides for important people like the situation between Mutsu Ryoko and Mutsu Munemitsu but there have also been times when these beautiful ladies were not just blessed with attractive traits but also with artistic ones. A perfect example of such a beautiful women is a bijin of Akita known as Ono no Komachi. She gained a lot of attention from people because of her beauty but moreover, because of her skill. Her skill in poetry got her recognized as one of the Thirty-six Poetry Immortals which is a group of Japanese poets selected by Fujiwara no Kinto because they are seen as exemplars of Japanese poetic ability.
Komachi had a huge impact in Japanese literature even after she passed away because legends about her were used extensively by several writers of Noh plays. These legends sent mixed messages about her character though because there was one legend wherein she was speculated to be the lover of another contemporary poet in the Rokkasen. There was another legend that portrayed her as a cruel lover because there was supposedly a time when a man wanted to court her and she promised to be her lover after 100 days of courting. Sadly, the man didn’t make it as he died on the 99th day. Considering both these legends, it sent mixed signals because on one side, she is seen as a lover in secret but not a cruel lover while on another side, she is seen as a beauty that likes to toy with peoples’ hearts.
The Art That Came from Bijin Like the Dolls and the Bijin-ga
Poetry was not the only thing that the bijin contributed in. Dolls have been in Japan since the time of the Jomon culture in Japan. There were the likes of the kokeshi dolls and much more but the identification of bijin eventually pushed the Japanese dolls designs towards beautiful lady dolls. You can think of it as the Japanese version of Barbie dolls and it really took flight as a product when those beautiful dolls were released to the public.
Another thing the bijin craze brought to Japan which made the bijin of Japan more like models was the Japanese art called bijin-ga. This bijin-ga isn’t actually a standalone kind of art form because it is considered to be a genre of a Japanese art form called ukiyo-e. If you don’t know what ukiyo-e is, it is a form of Japanese painting that makes use of print blocks for the images and not simply water and paint. These bijin-ga works were very popular until the coming of the 20th century and for an art form to be adored for so long, you can expect that there would be artists that people considered as masters of bijin-ga. These masters were namely Utamaro, Suzuki Harunobu, and Torii Kiyonaga.
As artists, they created more than just bijin-ga art. The three were very involved in other things like nature studies, illustrated books, and other forms of design creation.As masters of bijin-ga, their works for this particular genre gained the most attention and appreciation from the public. Utamaro’s most well-known works are his bijin okubi-e which are large-headed paintings of some beautiful women in Japan during the late 17th century. Harunobu did not have a certain collection of works that were recognized as much as Utamaro’s but he did become one of the primary producers of the images of bijin-ga during the late 17th century as well. Kiyonaga was also like Harunobu who did not have specific artworks that highlighted him as much as Utamaro in terms of bijin-ga images. Despite this fact, in the art history of Japan, he is still considered to be one of the greatest masters of full-color prints like the nishiki-e and, of course, the bijin-ga.
The Japanese Restaurant Known as Bijin Nabe
In the recent years, a new bijin has emerged but it is nothing like the bijin discussed above because it is surprisingly a restaurant called Bijin Nabe by Tsukada Nojo. Contrary to common assumption, this franchise did not originate from Japan. It actually came from Singapore but they partnered up with the Japanese Jidori chicken farms which are known to have some of the best chicken in the world.
Bijin Nabe, when translated, means “Beauty Hot Pot” and this is exactly what this restaurant is. It is your usual hot pot restaurant that serves food that has to be heated in a pot. The twist here is that their dishes center in on giving their customers the right nutrients to make them look better physically as well. They do this with the use of collagen which is something that is known to have great effects on the skin. It is because of this goal to incorporate beautification with food that they worked with Tsukada Nojo for its specialization with beauty collagen stock.
For those who do not know what Tsukada Nojo is, it is a farm that uses the most popular and historic way of poultry raising in Japan. It can be found in the Miyazaki Prefecture in Kyushu and they are famous for the quality of their golden collagen chick stock that has been raised in a safe, natural, and stress-free environment.
They have branches all over Asia like in the Philippines, Singapore, Japan, and much more. The food that they serve is very affordable considering that all their food is oriented towards health and beauty. Of all the food choices you have in this restaurant, you cannot leave without having their signature dish called Bijin Nabe. Much like any hot pot, this dish is served with all kinds of ingredients like meats, seafood, and vegetables along with the collagen soup that is usually served in small sake glasses to add a Japanese touch to it.
Bijin Nabe did not just take the Japanese term for beauty because it sounded catchy. It took it because this term truly embodied what this business is all about. The theme of this restaurant is unique and it goes well with the health trend that people from all over the world are crazy about. You don’t have to watch the news to know that everybody wants to be good looking and healthy which is why gyms and other fitness businesses are booming nowadays. Branches of this restaurant have reached several countries in Asia but from the looks of how it is going so far, it would only be a matter of time before more restaurants copy this brilliant and successful business plan. Copying the theme and idea does not necessarily mean the same success though. Bijin Nabe will always have an edge over any mimic as long as the Jidori chicken farms of Japan stay consistent with the quality of their produce. If you want to try some of their food, you need not travel to Japan just to try it because every branch found in a certain country assures the same quality of food and service. With this being said, you can easily go to countries that are just a couple of hours from you for you to experience eating at this restaurant.
From all that has been mentioned, it is apparent that bijin is still a part of the Japanese culture and it has also spread out to influence other cultures as well. The bijin-ga genre may be dying but the concept of bijin itself has been revitalized with the birth of businesses like Bijin Nabe. From starting off as a simple term used to call a beautiful women, it has now become more than anyone could have ever imagined with how it was used for art and how it is being used for business in more recent times. Despite this growth in its meaning though, you should remember that it would still mean the same thing if you use bijin on your next trip to Japan. Doing so will still definitely make some pretty ladies blush at you.