Heian period (平安時代) 794 – 1192
Heian period（平安時代 ) is from the time when the Emperor Kanmu(桓武天皇) moved the capital city to Heian-kyo(平安京) at 794, that is Kyoto(京都) today.
The circle indicate the time we are discussing in this section.
During the Heian period, the Emperors ruled the country, yet early part of the Heian period, the political power shifted to Fujiwara family, a very wealthy aristocrat family. Fujiwara family managed their daughters to marry Emperors. By doing so, real political power shifted to the family of the Emperor’s wife. They were called “Sekkan-ke” (摂関家) that means a guardian, a representative of the Emperor. During the Heian period, aristocrats’ lifestyle was elegant, refined, and they had a graceful culture. This is called Fujiwara culture. Many essays and novels were written by females during this time. The most famous one is “Tales of Genji (源氏物語)” by Murasaki Shikibu (紫式部). The Imperial court held ceremonies quite often, followed by the elaborate and extravagant banquets. Imperial social life became important for getting ahead in their political career. Women had participated actively in those occasions. Many high officials had several huge houses. Sometimes those houses were inherited by daughters. The courting procedures were different then. The Heian aristocrat’s society was a polygamous society. First, a man sends a poem called Waka to a young female whom he set his eyes on, carried by his servant, hoping she will write her poem back to him. Once he was accepted, little by little young woman allows him to visit her for a short time from some distance. Eventually, longer stay and getting closer. After they are married, a groom visits the wife’s house a few days at a time or longer, unless she is the legal first wife. A legal first wife lives with her husband in his house. Children were raised by wife’s family. Those days (and next Kamakura period also), wife’s side of the family were considered important. The middle part of the Heian period, the Emperors regained their power over the imperial court, since their mothers were not from the Fujiwara family.
Origin or Samurai
Upper-class people during the Heian Period, their lifestyle may be graceful and elegant, but the Imperial court did not have the strong political power to control the county. There were many thieves, constant fire and combats everywhere. It was unsafe and disorderly. Imperial court, nobleman, and temples needed to protect themselves and maintain the public peace. Those hired hand (forces) were the origin of Bushi (武士) or Samurai (侍). Samurai spread their power by uniting among themselves and putting down uprisings, grew bigger and powerful. Two large Samurai groups were Heishi (or Heike) and Genji. Little by little they gained power in the Imperial court. After many power struggles, Heishi (平氏) started to control the Imperial court. Heishi also managed their daughters to marry to the Emperor. The latter part of the Heian period, the political power shifted to the Heike family. They became tyrannical and arrogant. That behavior created too many enemies against Heike. The Genji ( 源氏 ) joined with the Fujiwara started a war against Heike and chased Heike to the place called Dan-no-Ura (壇ノ浦) at 1185 and defeated them. This is called Genpei-Gassen (源平合戦). The Heike’s loss was the end of the Heian period.
The Heian Period is the time, the shape of the swords changed to the curved shape. Until this time, swords were straight. The study of swords starts from the Heian period on. During this time, the elegant and graceful taste of Fujiwara culture reflected on the swords. The preference of their lifestyle appeared clearly on the swords. The group of wordsmiths in the Kyoto area created a certain