How Old Is Old In Heian Japan?

IOU0116youngWarlord

Recently I sent part of a chapter to a professional editor for review. I got an interesting reaction.

In the excerpt young Inari Takakatsu, 17 at the time, is thrust into the position of ruler after his father, the war lord, is killed in an accident. It’s kind of like Hamlet, without an uncle who marries the widow, since the uncle is an abbot at the local garan, a Buddhist monastery.

Enemies of the young warlord attack him. Since he was trained from childhood as a warrior, he fends off multiple opponents in a narrow hallway.

My editor suggested credulity was stretched. How could someone so young fight them off?

Yet, as we read in history of the Heian period, there were no teens. They went from child, straight to adult, at around age 12 to 14. The average woman in the Court lived to about 27 or 28. A man maybe to 34. This would mean some around 17 could be called “middle aged.”

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6 thoughts on “How Old Is Old In Heian Japan?

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  1. Yeah. I used to get so angry at a classmate who called Genji a “pedophile” because he was sexually attracted to a 11-year-old Murasaki… but he was only 16 at the time, and he didn’t actually sleep with her until she turned 16 herself…. and as you say, adulthood happened much earlier in those days.

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  2. Yeah. I used to get so angry at a classmate who called Genji a “pedophile” because he was sexually attracted to a 11-year-old Murasaki… but he was only 16 at the time, and he didn’t actually sleep with her until she turned 16 herself…. and as you say, adulthood happened much earlier in those days.

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  3. When a woman in court of Muraski (who died at 40) could expect only to reach 27 years of age on average and man reached only 32, people entered adulthood at between 12 and 14. The world on the year 1000 was very different.

    The comment by the classmate is not productive. I think it is meant to annoy and distract. Romeo was 12 and Juliet 11.

    People died young. The idea of the teenager is a rather recent construct.

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  4. When a woman in court of Muraski (who died at 40) could expect only to reach 27 years of age on average and man reached only 32, people entered adulthood at between 12 and 14. The world on the year 1000 was very different.
    The comment by the classmate is not productive. I think it is meant to annoy and distract. Romeo was 12 and Juliet 11.
    People died young. The idea of the teenager is a rather recent construct.

    Like

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