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Legend of the Five Rings: Expanded List of Terms

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I created this Rather LONG list of Terms and such for my long running Legend of the Five Rings Campaign in the Imperial City. while having some campaign notes in in it, it's msotly a generic list of terms that would be useful to fill in holes in the setting.

Officials that characters should be aware of:

Koshimono-Bugyo (Imperial Commissioner of Swords): Ikoma Sakura

The Machi-Bugyo (Otosan-Uchi's combined Post of City Commissioner and Police Commissioner held in a monthly rotation by two senior vassals to the Shogun)

The Okachi Metsuki (Palace Guard Inspector): Seppun Tanaka

The Honami (Shogun's Sword Appraiser): Tsi Ichkiawa

The O-Tamashiyaku (Master of Testing the Shogun's Swords): Yamakazi Asaemon

The Ro-Bugyo (Prison Commissioner): Doji Resei

The Roju (Senior Counselor To The Shogun): Toku Shikan

The Jisha-Bugyo: The Commissioner of Shines and Temples: Asahina Takuan


Ranking System: The Roju: currently 9 on the Roju advisory board. Subject to change at Emperor's or Shoguns whim.

The Wakadoshiyori: Officials below The Roju. The wakadoshiyori ranked below the rōjū in status, but they ranked above the jisha-bugyō. These officials were tasked with supervising the activities of members of the feudal class below daimyō status—and this would include the hatamoto (the Shogun's direct retainers), craftsmen, physicians, public works, and vassals of the Shogun whose annual income was less than 10,000 koku.

The Jisha-Bugyo: this title identifies an official with responsibility for supervision of shrines and temples. This is considered a high-ranking office, in status ranked only slightly below that of wakadoshiyori but above all other bugyō


Police Ranks:

Doshin: Constable

Jomawari: Lit: 'Regular patrolman'. A form of Doshin

Machikata: Town policemen. Typically the yoriki's assistants

Okappiki: unofficial policemen that were former criminals

Yoriki: Police Lieutenant (typically of samurai rank)

Ometsuke: High Ranking officials used to deal with Kuge crime issues, but can handle lower ranked issues (though this is viewed dimly by the metsuke). Typically brought in when the inner court has an interest.

Metsuke: Police officials. Ryoju and his immediate superior would be considered of this rank.

Kachi-Metsuke: Proxy Officials. lower-ranking police who could detain samurai. If one could do this, they must do so tactfully, as they are still technically peasants vs samurai. However, if the samurai resists an arrest or detainment order within eyesight of their superiors, the gloves come off.


Police/Magistrate Terms:

Asobinin: Lit: 'Players'. Men living in the fast lane.

Agarizashiki: Prison cells for prisoners of the highest rank

Bansho or Banya: A Police Box. Typically manned during the day by a Yoriki or Assistant.

Bugyosho: Office of the Commisioner (Bugyo)

Burei-uchi: Lit: “Striking down the Impolite”. The Samurai Right to kill commoners for rudeness.

Dairyo: Prison Boss. Prison Officials typically appointed reliable prisoners to keep order within cell blocks. The Dairyo was a cell boss.

Ebi-Zume: 'Shrimp Torture'. The Shinsen-gumi are particularly brutal in interrogations. An early “Stress Position”.

Enma or Emma-O: Lord of the Underworld

Go-Yo: Official Business. Often shouted during criminal press sweeps. The most terrifying words for a peasant criminal. The equivalent of “Halt! Police!” during police business, “Make Way!” for officials on their way somewhere.

Haritsuke: Crucifixion.

Hitsuke tozoku aratame: commonly abbreviated to kato-aratame. A special policing dedicated to stopping arson and violent crime, the former before the latter in priority. Does NOT report to the Machi-Bugyo, but to the Seppun Imperial House Guard directly in charge of protecting The Emperor’s Castle (the sakite-gumi) under the command of a wakadoshiyori counselor. Outranks the Machi-Bugyo in these two areas if a question of influence comes up.

Daimyo-Bikeshi :Fire Departments serving family daimyo's and their Clans

Jōbikeshi: Fire departments that serve the Office of the Shogun, technically reporting to the city mayor's office

Machi-Bikeshi : Fire departments made of commoners, typically organized by district

Kobun: “child status” Denoting junior status in a gang

Irezomotsu: Lit: “Enter Bribe Thing” Someone framed as a takadaimono at the end of the year for okappiki desperate for rewards

Jitte: A metal truncheon carried by police. Otosan-Uichi police carried the Jitte-gusari.

O-Shirasu: Interrogation Center, often a torture chamber

Osadamegaki: The Official Provisions. Formal name for Imperial Laws

Ronanushi: Prisoner in charge of other prisoners. Typically one of the more well behaved ones that may be facing minor charges while in lock-up. Remember, prisoners are considered Guilty until proven innocent. On the other hand, if they behave themselves while things are sorted out, prisoners are typically treated pretty humanely. Being in ‘Emma-O’s Court’ tends to make Prison Staff behave themselves.

Sumaki: The Concrete boots of Rokugani underworld. The victim would be tied up in a bamboo screen, then heaved overboard to drown

Takadaimono: Lit: “High Platform Thing”, those sentenced to death via crucifixion, beheading, or burning.

Oyakata: Boss

White Wave”: Elegant term for a thief


Sections of Imperial Laws

Note: The technical name of the Imperial laws is the “Ritsuryo” from the combined words Ritsu meaning 'Criminal Code' and Ryo, meaning 'Administrative Code'

The Ōmi code (近江令 ōmiryō?) are a collection of governing rules compiled by the Scorpion Magistrate Saibankan no Soshi, hence being the first collection of Ritsuryō laws in classical Rokugan. The original collection of laws is now actually lost and its disputed existence is supported only by short references in later documents. It is furthermore missing from the Rokguan Shoki (the Chronicles of Rokugan). This legal codification is no longer extant, but it is said to have been refined in what is known as the Soshi Kiyomihara ritsu-ryō ; and these are understood to have been a forerunner of the Taihō ritsu-ryō.

The Soshi Kiyomihara Code: The first major refinement of the Official Provisions. This also marks the initial appearance of the central administrative body called the Daijō-kan (Council of State) composed of the three ministers—the Daijō-daijin (Chancellor), the Sadaijin (Minister of the Left) and the Udaijin (Minister of the Right). Although not "finalized" (not incorporating a penal code, a ritsu, for instance), the code already incorporated several important regulations (for instance compulsory registration for citizens), which paved the way for the more complete Taihō Code.


General Terms

Bugeisha: Lit: Armed Female Gentry. A polite way of differentiating between woman courtiers and female warrior bushi. Considered complimentary by more of the militaristic inclined female-led clans.

Banto: high ranking assistant to a merchant (as in trusted advisor or second)

Tedai: lower ranked merchant's helper/roustabout.

Kozo: child helper to a merchant/runner.

Atsumono: Lit: “Thick Things”. A form of chrysanthemum flower

Bokujuya: a man who applies black paint to wall the same way we ‘whitewash’ walls in the west

Danna: Term of respect among commoners for a great man

Daikan: An official of Otosan-Uichi set aside to collect taxes owed to the city and oversee public works, agriculture, and other projects administered by the city.

Daikansho: Office of the Daikan

Funai: The Inner City of Otosan-Uichi

Fusama: The sliding doors between walls in a Rokugani house. Often taken off the rails in the summer to let the breeze through.

Gokenin: Lower ranked retainer

Haru Ichiban: The first strong winds of spring. Every year, the Haru Ichiban are considered the signs of springs arrival.

Hibachi: traditional fire urn used for heating houses.

Hyakubiroi: Lit: “picking up a hundred things” Lowest of the low without actually hitting eta status, living off the discarded junk of others. Considered rather distasteful by most castes, including the eta.

Koboshin-gumi: “Small builders group”: consisting of samurai with no official postings who still receive a salary. In charge of procuring day laborers for construction projects.

Hiyameshukui: Lit: 'Cold Rice Eater' Term of contempt for second sons who are not heirs.

Kasa: Umbrella

Kasa-Bari: Making umbrellas from paper and bamboo. Under the strict caste provisions, bushi are not allowed to work the fields like peasants or go into business like commoners. Even a penniless ronin could make money by making umbrellas or performing menial tasks not covered by the caste restrictions.

Kusaku: ‘lees vinager’: produced from the dregs of sake makings

Koshi-ire: Palanquin's entrance: the bride's entrance into the groom's house

Jikisan: A Samurai directly under the Shogun

Matamono: A Daimyo’s Retainer, unlike a Jikisan, directly under the Shogun

Matoi: Fireman’s Banner

Nengo: Year or Period, typically used in past tense to refer to a ruling Emperors reign.

Nanshiji: a form of lacquer finish that incorporate gold or silver flakes.

Penpen Grass: Shepard’s Purse, a plant fairly common around the capitol. Called penpen as the seeds resemble the Shamisen’s pick used to pluck the strings making the penpen noise.

Setta: a type of sandel made from rope and bamboo

Tanomoshiko: Mutual Financing Association

Wakadoshiyori: ‘Junior Elder’: High government official in charge of critical areas of interest, but not part of the Emperors Inner Council, the Daijokan.

Uwazumi: The sake that rises to the top during the brewing process, with the fewest impurities. Highly Prized.

Yoshiwara: “The Floating World”: A nickname for Otosan-Uichi’s famous pleasure gardens. A derisive nickname among commoners and some bushi for the Inner Ring of Otosan-Uichi (not said within earshot of upper ranked samurai)


Castle Terms:

Yamashiro: “Mountain Castle”. Most of the early castles of Rokugan were built atop of mountains or tall hills. A typically rudimentary wooden fortress on top of a hill used to restrict enemy movement

Hirajiro: “Plains Castle” A castle built in flatlands surrounded by flooded rice fields and rivers.

Hirayamajiro: “Mountain and Plains castle” As the name implies, a mixture of the two styles of castle above.

Sengoku Yamashiro: “Warring Period Mountain Castle” One of the earliest designs of castle, and something of a misnomer. Evolving from a rudimentary wooden fortress and fence perimeter blended into terrain, eventually involving creative uses of the surrounding terrain, turning gulleys into ditches, with removal of local foliage and sculpting of local hills to be more defensible This would eventually result in nearby concentric mountains being turned into a series of inner and outer baileys for the local castle system. This would be refined over time with certain mountain tops being leveled off, with each mountain top going towards the inner core somewhat higher and interlocking and supporting fields of fire being setup by shaping the mountain sides. Ditches would have ventricle cross pieces built to make for bridges connecting the complex together, strengthened by the 90 degree application to the various fortress walls. Come would have channels cut into them to allow boulders to be rolled down hill. Mountain streams could be diverted into gullies to make natural moats surround the castles as well.


Shinobi/Ninja Terms

Chunin: Ninja 'Officers'

Genin: Regular Ninja, typically lower rank.

-gumi (kumi): military unit

Gunkimono: war tale (typically) involving ninja

Hamagari: long thin folding saw. Common tool of the ninja

Kancho: Spies

Komuso: a flute playing Zen mendicant. Commonly used as a cover of ninja operations. Typically give to those with a fair amount of theological skill

Koran: agitators or disrupters.

Kunai: implement for gouging holes in walls.

Ninjutsu: Ninja techniques, including hand to hand.

Shinobigama: proper term for the traditional sickle and chain weapon used by ninja.

Shonin: Head ninja or leader

-shu: military unit

Teisatsu: ninja scouts



Sword Terms

Bokuto: A wooden practice sword

Chokutō: ancient straight bladed sword. In essence, an early version of the katana

Daisho: Lit: “Matched Set”. The paired Katana and Wakazashi.

Do-Maru: a type of close fitting armor

Gyokishin: Lit: Energy Concealing Heart. A term for hiding ones intentions in dueling and kenshin.

Ha: The cutting edge of a Sword

Habuchi: the visible white line along the length of a sword blade.

Hadagane: The harder outer steel section of a sword.

Hamon: the pattern of the habuchi along the length of the sword.

'Hitotsu no Tachi': 'One Stroke'. An expression on idealized swordsmanship.

Hiromono: Carved decoration along a blade, typically along the 'back' of the blade or along the spine

Ji:The surface of the blade.

Kagebara: a particular form of seppuku to take responsibility for failure. The Warrior makes the cut in secret, concealing it from others.

Kajiya: Blacksmith: often used by swordsmiths of refer to themselves in modesty and humility when they craft weapons. Courtier note: If a swordsmith of repute refers to themselves as this, accept the terminology and move on.

Kamidana: 'God Shelf', a place in the household that holds images of the local Kami. Typically also found in a force, with various kraftsmen 'kami' over looking the local forge.

Kengo: Master Swordsman. Not a honorific, but a title of recognition.

'Kiai!': 'Energy', an exclamation at the start of an attack.

Kissaki: The point of a blade

Kireaji: Lit: 'Cutting Taste'. How well a blade cuts.

Koshimono: A Sword. Koshi from 'hip' so koshimono meaning 'hipwear' or garment.

Kubiuchi: Decapitation. Kubu meaning 'head' and Kiri meaning 'cut', so Kubukiri Asa, literally meaning 'Headcutter' Asa.

Menkyo Kaiden: Secrets of the Art of the Sword.

Mune: Back of the sword.

Muto or Mu-do: 'No Sword' technique of swordfighting

Nie: course granular particles within a blades surface

Nioi: microscopic granular particles within a blades surface

Satsuki: ‘Murderous intent’. Satsuki is a state of mind that all samurai are trained to look for or sense from an opponent. Some samurai are trained to use it to distract, or to hide it. See Gyokishin

Sori: The curve of a Rokugani Blade

Suemonogiri: Cutting through a stationary object

Togishi: Sword Polisher

Toshio: 'Swordsmith' used to denote a person that all they do is make swords or a Swordsmith with a considerably high opinion of themselves to actually use the term. While technically accurate, the usage of the term is often viewed as a bit of bluster among the craft. Unless it is justified.


Religious Terms

Akuso: Evil Monk. typically used to describe a Sohei as a prejorative, but if Tainted monks are known about....

Do-maru: simple Armor. typically worn by sohei

Ikki: organization or league

Jinja: Shintao Shrine

Jisha-Bugyo: The Commissioner of Shines and Temples

Baku: Nothingness

Ihai: Shinseist mortuary tablet

Jizo: a Bohdisattva comforting the common man. Jizo figures are the patron guardians or children, travelers, women, and the weak and ailing.

Kanbe: An allotment of households made to shrines under the Ritsuryō system, a system of legal and administrative codes of the early Japanese state during the seventh and eighth centuries. These households were responsible for paying all taxes to the shrine (so [tax on agricultural products],chō [land tax], yō [corvée labor]) and also for cleaning and maintaining the shrines, as well as miscellaneous forms of labor necessary at shrines.

Kannushi: Shintao Preist

Kashiwade: The traditional clapping of hands before a Shintao shrine to call the attention of the kami

Kata-kesa: Shinseist robe worn over one shoulder

Keidaichi: Land on which a shrine located. The term shrine encompasses in this case the immediate shrine buildings as well as other constructions and edifices located on its grounds. Furthermore, shrines require land and space to maintain the shrine's dignity and places to perform rites and for public worship

Kesa: the ceremonial scarf worn by Shinseist monks

Kokuinichi: refers to land granted to shrines (and temples) under a black seal by a daimyō

Mikoshi: a miniature shrine carried during festivals

Mitama: the spirit of a Shintao kami. In this particular instance, referring to it's nature, much as a person has a spirit.

Monto: adherant of a Ikki. also: Zealot

Nembutsu :"Shinsei calling" the act of praying to the Shinsei

Sohei: "Shinseist Soldier" or "Warrior Monk": The famed fighting monks of Rokugan. Typically guarding caravans of the Faithful or those that make a donation to the Temple from bandits or corrupt officials.

Shingun: A specific type of gun (district), one of the provincial administrative units under the system of laws and codes that provides services to a shrine.

Shinryo: Land owned by a shrine. The term is especially used to refer to land providing a shrine's economic support from the medieval through the early modern period. Shinryō can be divided into the sub-categories of sharyō shōenmikuriya, and shuinchi. As private land ownership of shōen (estates) increased from the late ancient period, the majority of the shōen owned by shrines (sharyō shōen) were dedicated to them by the emperor, the nobility, warriors, or others with authority.

Shuinchi: refers to land granted to shrines (and temples) by the shogun and sealed with a vermilion seal

Yamabushi: Literally "Mountain Gentry": Those monks that follow the path of enlightenment by mediation in mountainous areas. Also meaning "Monk of the Mountain"

Chinga Kokko no Dojo: A term given to the lead temple of monks protecting the Imperial City. Lit:"The Temple for the Pacification and Preservation of the State."

Wasshoi!”: shouted when carrying a mikoshi during festival

Zazu: Head Abott of the Chinga Kokko No Dojo. Appointed by the Emperor.



Units of Measurement:

Cho: approximately 300 meters. Also a section of a city

Ken: Approximately 2 yards

Shaku:. Roughly 30cm

Sun: Roughly 3cm

Ri: approximately 4 kilometers

Rin: approximately 1/3 of a millimeter

To: A measure of capacity equaling roughly 4.8 gallons

Tsubo: Roughly 4 Square Yards


Monetary Terms:

Koku: a Bale of Rice (typically before bagging). Theoretically 1 person could live off of this for one year.

Kan: a bundle of 1000 copper coins

Mon (or Monme-ita): A copper coin


A Note on Samurai Women: Stephen Turnbull's Samurai Women does note that Bugeisha  (Armed Female Gentry) typically tended to carry a naginata in lieu of a daisho, along with a tanto/waskazashi to make up for the differences in upper body strength. Given that most naginata were crafted by swordsmiths with as much attention to detail and craft as the katana, this is not considered an insult or a diminution of the Bugeisha. Given the level of force that can be brought to bear from a properly trained wielder with the naginata and the weapons reach, a properly trained bugeisha with a naginata will not be taken lightly by any samurai with the slightest bit of sense.


Invoking the Name of Ones Lord

When dealing with functionaries and others of technically higher station than the Samurai in question, it can become rather difficultto get people to take you seriously. Medieval Japan recognized this and the invocation of a lords name to indicate that you were there on their behalf tended to make things bit easier for lower ranking functionaries. And this was a socially acceptable form of intimidation within the Samurai caste. Annoying a lower ranked bushi was one thing. Angering a Shomyo or a Daimyo was another kettle of fish.

When invoking the name of ones lord during official business, the bushi is treated as having Glory and Status of one rank lower than their lord. Standard rules apply for such rolls at the adjusted levels


Testimony with multiple samurai against a single higher ranking samurai:

This is one that’s a bit of a grey area, but I’ll try to give a rough guide. Generally, if you have bushi within the same rank (Bonge, Buke, or Kuge) it usually takes multiple samurai of Rank equaling or exceeding the target samurai’s rank before anyone will take them seriously. This is modified if the Target Bushi has a title of some form or position, and general reputation of credibility vs the accusing samurai. If one has a reputation that is upstanding, then the accusers had best have very good Sincerity skills, cold hard 'proof', or the ability to convince another bushi of higher caste to back them.

If accusing a bushi of much higher rank, without damning testimony and backing, other more radical actions may need to be taken (see the 47 Ronin) or the accusers will be doomed.



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