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Tsujigiri and Kabukimono

 
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Saru
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 4:52 pm    Post subject: Tsujigiri and Kabukimono Reply with quote
From the SA Wiki: http://wiki.samurai-archives.com/index.php?title=Tsujigiri

Quote:
Tsujigiri was the practice of a samurai striking down unarmed passersby (almost always a peasant, merchant, or other members of a lower class) in order to test the sharpness of a sword, determine the effectiveness of a new fighting style, or simply to experience the thrill of killing someone.

Tsujigiri literally means 'crossroads cutting', referring to the fact that practitioners would often lie in wait for their victims at crossroads. Despite tsujigiri being declared a capital offence by the Tokugawa bakufu, these attacks became increasingly prevalent during the Edo period when armed combat was no longer an outlet for samurai to engage in. Kabukimono gangs were notorious for this type of attack, indulging in these assaults for little more than kicks. Fuwa Kazuemon of the 47 Ronin was known to carry out tsujigiri assaults. Tsujigiri and similar types of assaults were a key reason for the formation of yakuza gangs in an attempt by commoners to defend themselves.


I am curious about who exactly would take part in tsujigiri and why. For the entry for Kabukimono, it says that they were often "low-ranking samurai" or sons low in the succession order. Who would constitute low-ranking samurai? And if it was a second or third son, who would they encourage to be Kabukimono along with them? Kabukimono are referred to as being in gangs, but the entry (and Fuwa Kazuemon's entry) seem to suggest that they were individual Kabukimono in service to a lord.

What sort of crossroads would these guys harass? I would sort of suspect them to be in relatively rural areas -- remote crossroads where peasants could be brazenly killed at night.

Would it be feasible that peasants would enlist the aid of ronin to get protection from tsujigiri?
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PostPosted: Tue Dec 04, 2012 9:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
'Low ranking samurai' that performed tsujigiri would typically be hatamoto, many of whom had rank but no real position or official duties. The same would hold true of many second and third sons of samurai families-the eldest would usually inherit whatever official position the family might hold, but everyone else was often out of luck. Like any members of an elite class with no job or anything constructive to do, they'd gravitate towards drinking, womanizing, and looking for thrills. Kabukimono/tsujigiri were largely urban-based, for the same reason modern gangs and gang violence are-it's much easier to put together a group of like-minded violent individuals in an area of dense population. As to why they'd do it-well, generally for the same reason drunken college kids do stupid things all the time-for the thrill, the feeling of power and control they lack in real life, to impress their friends with their toughness, to avenge slights real and imagined-maybe even to actually test a sword or fighting style.

Even though it translates as 'crossroads killing', these attacks took place pretty much anywhere that was deserted. Even in a big city like Edo, there wasn't much street activity in most of the city at night (gates between wards were shut and people slept-after all, oil for lamps was expensive) outside of places like the Yoshiwara.

These attacks became more common as the Edo period progressed, but I wouldn't think they were very common overall. Bullying of peasants, sure, all the time-killing them, not so much. It wasn't as if there were packs of serial killers walking the streets killing peasants at random. Even the much ballyhooed concept of 'Kirisute Gomen' (a samurai having the right to strike down a peasant who had offended him) was very rare, since every case would be reviewed in court and very often resulted in the death or banishment of the samurai who had carried it out.

Peasants hiring ronin to protect them? Ehh, I wouldn't think so. Edo had plenty of police and stations that were explicity there to oversee the behavior of samurai. Ronin were occasionally hired by yakuza and would help to keep rougue samurai in line in outlying areas. There are a few accounts of townspeople hiring ronin to protect their villages against bandits ala Seven Samurai, but this was pretty rare.
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Saru
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 6:27 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Thanks for your post! Very helpful.

I am actually planning a samurai fiction entry centered around tsujigiri and you already corrected some misconceptions I had. Sounds like an urban setting in a deserted area would be more appropriate than the remote rural hamlet I was thinking. Also, while I want the offending party to be kabukimono, I am unsure how to describe his exact position -- perhaps the third son of a minor official in Kyoto who is, as you say, little more than a spoiled kid high in status but bored with peace.

I was thinking Kyoto rather than Edo because I want to set the story between Sekigahara in 1600 and the Osaka campaigns in 1615. Also, Kyoto has a history of being the bloody stomping ground of samurai with the average person suffering since at least the Onin War, so I can tie that in as well. Any suggestions for a specific minor official position in Kyoto around this time would be appreciated.

I'd also like some help in describing exactly what the kabukimono would wear. "Women's kimonos" and hair loose without topknots is a good foundation, but are there more descriptive resources easily accessible out there for reference? Even some more detail on how a woman's kimono would be different from a man's during this time would be useful.
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PostPosted: Wed Dec 05, 2012 8:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Something like this is kabukimono:



Just search for kabukimono on Google and hit the images tab, you should be able to find lots of examples. Or rent the movie 'Ichi' and check out the gang's attire.

As for what type of post, one of the major functions of the Kyoto Shoshidai was interacting with, controlling, and keeping an eye on the Imperial Court. Anything connected with this sort of thing would be fine-say, third son of the Protocol Deputy.
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