Things Japanese/Blackening the Teeth
Blackening the Teeth. This peculiar custom is at least as old as A.D. 920; but the reason for it is unknown. It was finally prohibited in the case of men in the year 1870. Even women have now abandoned it in Tōkyō, Kyōto, and the circumjacent provinces; and to see it surviving as a means of feminine adornment (?), one must repair to certain remote rural districts, the north-west coast, for instance, or the extreme north-east, where distance and poverty have acted as conservative forces. Every married woman in the land had her teeth blackened, until the present Empress set the example of discontinuing the practice. Fortunately, the efficacy of the preparation used wears out after a few days, so that the ladies of Japan experienced no difficulty in getting their mouths white again. Mr. A. B. Mitford, in his amusing Tales of Old Japan, gives the following recipe for tooth-blacking, as having been supplied to him by a fashionable Yedo druggist:—"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 gall-nuts 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 gall-nuts and iron, and, after several applications, the desired colour will be obtained."
- By "wine," must of course be meant Japanese sake.