‘Kubi-jikken’ means ‘kembun’ [visual confirmation and inspection] of whether or not a severed head is really that of the person in question. The collection of enemy heads was a common practice in medieval Japan, developed from war. In the Battle of Sekigahara, the commanders of the Tokugawa army would present the heads of enemy commanders to the shogun. The enemy heads would be counted and examined to check their identities. It was ritualized as a ‘performance review’. Commanders were rewarded for the most heads they collected. Commanders who failed to gather heads were publicly scolded in public. The heads were either buried or publicly displayed on bridges or execution grounds. Women of samurai class were also involved in kubijikken. They were responsible for washing the traditional makeup off the decapitated heads for identification. Commanders of high ranking would blacken their teeth as a display of their status. Women would blacken the teeth of the heads in order to present it as a higher, valuable prize.
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