Two periods are particularly important for our understanding of the current status of Japanese women - The Heian period (794-1192), when pure Japanese culture originated and the Edo period (1603 - 1867), the richest time in the history of Feudal Japan.
The position of Japanese women in the society is one of most discussed themes beyond era. Thus, I believe that knowing women's position in the society of those periods is important to understand Japanese culture from the historical facts shown in textbooks to the real underground culture.
Truly many paintings that include images of women were created in those periods, paintings which display many aspects of human life and remind us of the importance of women's roles in society. These paintings reveal the dynamic diversity of images of women in Japanese art, including women of all ranks and periods, at work and at play.
I chose "Genji Monogatari Emaki" (Picture scroll of the Tale of Genji) to analyze court women in the Heian period since the Tale of Genji illustrates the life of aristocrats of this period more clearly than any other court tale. For the Edo period, I picked from more varied sources since the number of preserved images is greater than during the Heian oeriod, and each genre of paintings depict women at work in a truly surprisingly diverse array of occupations. In addition to the dynamic beauty of Edo women at work and at play, these paintings vividly convey the society and culture in which they lived.
Edo Period Tale of Genji