Shirokuro (Meaning Black and White) in Japanese Culture

Shirokuro (白黒) means black and white in Japanese, as Shiro (白) is the word for white in English, while Kuro (黒) is the one for black.

As seen in the idiom 白黒をつける (meaning making it clear whether something is Shiro or Kuro),

the color combination often stands for “good (白) and evil (黒)” or “right (白) and wrong (黒)” or “true (白)” and “false (黒)” in Japan.

Shirokuro (Black and White) in Japanese Culture

Kujiramaku in the Japanese Funeral

In addition to Kouhaku (紅白) or red (紅) and white (白), Shirokuro is one of the color combinations often used by us.

As for the latter, a curtain with alternate stripes of black and white called Kujira Maku (鯨幕: Whale Curtain) has been a necessity in the Japanese funeral,

decorated not only to mourn for the deceased but also as a partition.

Kuro or black was a noble thing in ancient Japan, and people at the time would prepare Kujira Maku for Shinto rituals.

Also, the curtain was commonly used in the wedding ceremony until the Edo period.

And even now, you can see it on auspicious occasions held by Shinto shrines and the Imperial Family.

Originally a pure white curtain or a blue-white curtain called Asagi Maku (浅黄幕) was prepared for the funeral.

But after the Western culture flooded in, the black and white curtain Kurjira Maku became a staple and took over their roles.

(Reference Pages:, )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

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