I want to first thank you for all the comments via email about the first Makoto Letter (see here: about 雨にもまけず). That really made my day. Please hit reply if you have anything to add or suggest this time around. While replying to one member--thank you, Don!--I thought of the theme for the second Makoto+ Letter.
Yes, our dog.
Okay, you're probably thinking what an unflattering photo of both man and beast. Yes, but that's not the point. The point is the spot above her eye.
The extra "eyebrow" above her right eye is affectionately called "Maro Mayu" or "Me eyebrow."
Yes, 麻呂 is an archaic (not used anymore except for comedic effect) first-person pronoun: I or me.
And then, 眉 means "eyebrow."
Even though 麻呂 is a pronoun, in this instance, it refers to nobility from the Heian period. These aristocrats used the 麻呂 pronoun. They also shaved their eyebrows and painted new eyebrows higher up the forehead.
It was the style of the day.
It was cool--very cool--for the time.
The Heian socialites also painted their teeth black, because... you know, nobody likes having white teeth--I mean who would? Yuck!
Or, more probably, it was to disguise bad teeth in a time before the age of orthodontics.
Below is a Noh mask from the Edo period. You can see it has both of these features.
The Heian nobility were heavily influenced by Chinese culture. Powdering one's face white was seen as a sign of elegance and of one's high social status. That influence is still with us with modern-day geisha and kabuki actors.
Another more practical reason for the powdered faces was due to the pre-Edison architecture. Even during the day, the inside of Heian homes would be dark and gloomy. Painted faces made it easier to see others.
The Eyebrow Problem
Powdered faces was the thing to do, but what do you do with the eyebrows? The powder doesn't stick and it just ruins the whole effort.
Perhaps because of this troublesome problem, they began shaving or plucking their eyebrows and, once the powder had been applied, painting them back.
One other result of the powdered faces was a lack of emotion. Smiling broadly or making exaggerated movements would crack or thin out the white powder or paint. So, from the Heian period through the Edo period, an expressionless powdered white face with plucked eyebrows and black teeth was the epitome of beauty.
So, back to our dog. Yes, we have a noble beast.
Yumi took one look at her face and, with a determined voice, she said, "マロ." There was no doubt that would be the dog's name.
You can see many examples of maromayu via Google image searches. It is a common name for pets with such appearances. A famous anime called おじゃる丸 ojarumaru has maromayu and he uses the maro pronoun (I'm 99.99% sure--I haven't seen this anime in years). If you've ever watched a jidai geki (historical flick) set in the heian period and have seen the painted eyebrows, now you know why. The ornamental dolls of the ひな祭り hinamatsuri also have this feature.
It isn't one of those words that is useful in everyday life, but if you look close enough, you can find まろまゆ in many places.
Until next time!