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Beni

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Dried safflowers and benimochi on display at the National Museum of Japanese History
  • Japanese: 紅 (beni)

Beni, or safflower red, is a pigment traditionally used in ukiyo-e prints and lipstick, among other applications.

Though the safflower's petals are yellow, when submerged in water, crushed, and fermented, it turns red. The fermented mash, called hanamochi or benimochi, was then shipped to Edo or Kyoto where other materials were added, to make it into usable lipstick (kuchibeni) for geisha, courtesans, and the general population, and into pigments to be used in prints and books. The flowers could produce a variety of shades of red, yellow, and orange.

References

  • Gallery labels, "Benihana and benimochi," National Museum of Japanese History.
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