When I was sick in bed in last weekend, a question floated up in my brain.

In almost all samurai drama, a samurai sick in bed wears a headband.
Moreover, such a headband is colored in purple.

(A typical scene in many samurai drama. The samurai master is sick in bed, wearing a purple headband, taken care of by a female servant. Then a messenger jumps in with a bad news.)

Why? Might not a headband tighten the head and exacerbate the pain?
And what is the meaning of the color?

After the recovery, I made a search for it.
I input a sentence directly (in Japanese) into the search box:

Why a sick samurai in Edo era wears a headband

So many QA pages were hit! It had been a nation-wide question!
And, to more surprise, the question in each page was solved by the same kind of answer.

The purple color was derived by a medical herb. It might have been really used as a remedy at that era, but in fact it was a manner in Kabuki to express the actor playing a sick man. It was further a principle to make the knot at the LEFT side of his head.


On the contrary, in the famous Kabuki play “Sukeroku,” it was directed that the main actor , who was designed not to be sick at all, should wear a purple headband with the knot on the RIGHT side. That was a revolutionary art of expression for “a coolness of a hero.”

Yes, everything has a reason. And where there is a reason, there is someone to know it.

Hence, even now in Japan, a fashion to tie a ribbon at the (left) side of one’s head is sometimes pointed out as “Honey, you look like a sick samurai.”


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