I drew this diagram for you to illustrate the simplicity of kamiza and shimoza, but then I realized the only camera I had the rather shoddy one my phone…

Beautiful Deportment 14
The Upper and Lower Seat in a Japanese Room

From ancient times, we have considered the kamiza (upper seat) and shimoza (lower seat). It is not unconditionally established whether the kamiza and shimoza are left or right. It changes depending on the time, location, and people.

  • In Japan, the side of the sunrise while facing south is the kamiza.

There is the saying: With the Emperor sitting at the North Star, it is ranked from the east facing south. It means that the Emperor is at the highest seat, sitting so the north star can be seen above him. Because the ranks are aligned from the East while facing south, the East is kamiza and the West is shimoza.

Usually in Japan, the exact center is the first ranked seat. Next, in rank is the East when facing south which is where the sun rises, and then below that is in the West, where the sun sets. The East when facing South is left, and the West is right. So left is kamiza, and right is shimoza. Because this left and right direction is judged by looking at it from the perspective of the kamiza, if you are looking at it from the shimoza, the left becames the right side and the right becomes the left side. (In Western countries, South facing East is the higher rank and north is the lower rank).

That the kamiza is on the right while looking at it from shimoza can be seen in how the hina matsuri dolls are displayed. Looking at it, the male doll (the prince), the Minister of the Left, the Sakura, and the lady-in-waiting carrying the long-handled decanter are on the right. Also, this is same as when one passes another person when walking and you keep to the left, leaving the right side–the kamiza–open. In China, there were periods of “esteeming the left, esteeming the right (Shousa, Shouyuu)” depending on the age. The Tang and Song periods, by which Japan was much influenced, were ages that esteemed the left. The word “demotion (lit. moving-left)”, meaning there is no leaving from the right, is from the Six-Dynasties Warring Period, which esteemed the right side.

In a washitsu, the kamiza is in front of the tokonoma and shimoza is the seat nearest the door. When seating many people, the first seat is in front of the tokonoma. The second seat is the right side when facing the tokonoma and the third seat is the left side. This is in the case of a hongatte (standard) room. In the case of a gyakugatte (reversed) room, the second seat is reversed with the third.

美しい立ち居振る舞い⑭
日本間の上座と下座

古来、上座下座という考えがあります。上座下座は一概に左、右という決め方ができません。時・所・相手により変わることがあります。

●日本では南を向いて陽の出づる方角が上座になる

『天子北辰に座し、南面して東に位す』という言葉があります。最高位にある天子は、北極星(北辰)を上に見るように座り、南を向かいて東側に位置するということから、東が上座で西側が下座になるということです。
一般的に日本では、正中を第一位として、次いで南を向いて陽が出づる方角である東を上位、日が入る西が下位としています。南を向いて東は左、西は右となりますので、左が上座、右が下座となります。この左、右というのは、上座から見た位置ですので、下座から見れば左は向かって右側、右は向かって左側になります(西洋では東を向いて南を上位、北を下位としています。
この、下座から向かって右が上座というのは雛飾りにも表れます。男雛(親王雛)、左大臣、櫻、長柄の銚子を持った官女が向かって右に位置します。また道を歩いていて人と行き逢う場合も上座である右を開けて左に避けるのも同じです。中国では、時代によって尚左尚右(左を尊び・右を尊ぶ)の時代があり、日本に多くの影響を与えた唐・宋の時代は尚左の時代でした。左遷、右に出るものはいない、というような言葉は、六朝の戦乱時代、尚右の時代にできた言葉になります。
和室では、床の間の前が上座、入り口に近い方が下座になります。大勢で座場合には、床の間の前が第一位に、向かって右側が第二位、向かって左側が第三位となります。これは床の間の造りが本勝手(中央の床の両脇に脇床があるのが正式ですが、床と脇床が一つの場合、向かって右に床があるのを本勝手、向かって左にがあるのを逆勝手といいます)の場合で、逆勝手の場合には第二位以下が逆になります。

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