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Gambling in Historic Japan

So if a Gojyo-type character were to end up in Edo-era Japan, would he be able to support himself by gambling? This stray thought brought me to this article from the Japan Times Online:

By the middle of the Heian Period (794-1185), gambling had become rampant among the inhabitants of the capital, Heiankyo (present-day Kyoto). People wagered enthusiastically on practically anything: cock fights, horse races, cricket fights and fanciful competitions that made use of flowers, pictures or folding fans.

Around this time professional gamblers, known as bakuto, first appeared. Historical accounts gave details of brawls, killings and robberies involving gamblers, which led to increasingly strict measures to repress their activities. Between 1225 and 1284, the authorities issued no fewer than nine edicts prohibiting gambling.

During the Edo Period (1603-1867), members of the ruling samurai class were discouraged from gambling ... .

What's less clear is what he'd be playing - not cards, which came in with the Portugese, later. From the discussion later in the article, the likeliest thing would be a dice games of various sorts. Hmm ... .

Comments

( 33 comments — Leave a comment )
smillaraaq
Mar. 12th, 2008 04:26 pm (UTC)
He'd definitely be playing dice games, and he'd probably have yakuza ties. This could also give you an excuse for some interesting tattoos -- have you seen the EGS piece where he's falling halfway out of kimono, with a gorgeous red peony tattoo over his shoulder and pectorals? That's a design that was associated with samurai and gamblers; the peony symbolized the daring, risk-taking attitude common to both.

There are tons of films with period settings showing gambling scenes, but your best bet for research would be the long-running Zatoichi movie/TV series. The lead character is an Edo-period wandering blind masseur (who's also secretly an astonishingly skilled swordsman) who primarily supports himself through gambling. (If you get the MHz channel, they're currently running the Zatoichi TV series about three days a week -- and it's a very rare episode that DOESN'T include gambling scenes.)
smillaraaq
Mar. 12th, 2008 04:57 pm (UTC)
Almost forgot...for manga references, I'm pretty sure that the Edo-period Lone Wolf and Cub had a few gambling scenes, but it's a 28-tankoubon series and I haven't reread it recently, so it would take me a little while to be able to tell you which volumes to look in...

(And the Egoistic Guess pic can be seen here -- possibly worksafe? His kimono is untied and only over one shoulder, but the way he's seated and the way the cloth is draped, there are no naughty bits showing even though he's clearly mostly undressed. And the hikae-gobu tattoo and ume blossom-patterned kimono are gorgeous. EGS clearly love to draw our boys in kimono, often with very apt design symbolism...there's another one where Gojyo's wearing...well, half-wearing...one with another botan design, but I'm not linking that one here as it is not even remotely worksafe.)
chomiji
Mar. 12th, 2008 07:25 pm (UTC)

That pic is so pretty (and rather more realistic in some ways than the fangirl artists usually get ... XD   ). I've seen it before, and it probably informed my description of what Sanzo saw in "On the Rocks."

The Mr. may have some of those films/episodes down in our rec room. He went on a samurai and samurai-related video kick a couple of years ago (and after that it was a Chinese martial arts epic kick, triggered by Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), but as mentioned previously, I don't like watching stuff myself, and he'd usually sneak off and watch them when I was online, or whatever. Maybe you oughta come over sometime and we can make popcorn and watch stuff.

smillaraaq
Mar. 12th, 2008 08:26 pm (UTC)
EGS is one of my absolute favorite Saiyuki doujinshi circles -- there is a lot more gorgeous stuff in her gallery. Save that link for when you're at home, though -- while the majority of the images are sweet and fairly tame, the handful of explicit ones towards the end are absolute not remotely worksafe. (And just for circularity with that anime vs. manga/artbook discussion elsewhere, she does often tend to depict Gojyo with a skintone that's slightly warmer and deeper than Hakkai's -- here's a worksafe example.) She's also got a bit of a fondness for putting the boys in kimono, irezumi tattoos for Gojyo, and a couple of pics of Hakkai in beautifully elaborate kinbaku rope bondage, all of which makes me a very happy fangirl indeed. ;)

And I'd love to have a movie night at some point -- I don't tend to buy an awful lot of films, but I've got a couple of other wu xia titles on DVD that might have gambling scenes, and I've still got an old VHS copy of The East Is Red. My DVR is pretty much stuffed with wu xia and chambara films and episodes of Zatoichi and Saiyuki Reload, so you're welcome to do the same...if you don't mind a fairly small TV and a shoddy futon couch, accompanied by a small bouncy pibble who will want to be a lap fungus!
chomiji
Mar. 14th, 2008 03:54 pm (UTC)

Since I don't usually watch TV at all, I doubt I'll mind the screen size, and I love animals ... .

sanada
Mar. 12th, 2008 05:58 pm (UTC)
Most of the gambling scenes I've read in manga set during the Edo period have involved the dice game cho-han ("odd-even") or fights/races. Wiki has an article on cho-han here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cho-han_bakuchi
smillaraaq
Mar. 12th, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
And that's the game that's usually shown in Zatoichi, too!

When the dealer is female, the shirtless-dealer convention is modified, she'll just have one arm and shoulder completely bared...a touch Gojyo would surely appreciate! There seems to be a similar tradition in China, I've seen gambling scenes in wu xia films where a female character will pull her robes off on one side before rolling the dice; there's a fairly memorable example with Brigitte Lin's character Asia the Invincible in Swordsman III/The East Is Red.
chomiji
Mar. 12th, 2008 07:37 pm (UTC)

Interesting ... I presume that would only be done by a woman with an already interesting reputation. I'm now recalling that Chinese women gambled among themselves when playing mahjong, but that was at a much later period.

smillaraaq
Mar. 12th, 2008 08:02 pm (UTC)
In the Zatoichi films and other Japanese period drama, the women dice dealers are clearly working for the house and thus can be assumed to be yakuza themselves.

The East Is Red is a bit of an odd case, since the character was born male but slowly tranformed into a woman in the earlier films by way of the magical macguffin sacred scroll, so there's a lot of gender-blurring with her hobbies, clothing, love interests, etc. In the gambling scene, though, she's clearly playing the vampy bad-girl role to the hilt -- after faking her own death in an earlier film and withdrawing from the world, she's been lured back out over the outrage at hearing people have been assuming her identity -- in one case it's her old lover Snow, maintaining leadership of Asia's old martial cult in her name; the bit that prompts the gambling scene is where a rival male general has an entire brothel stocked with Asia impersonators. She's assumed to be yet another extremely specialized whore, and plays it up as a way to get closer to the next target of her vengeance...
chomiji
Mar. 13th, 2008 03:10 pm (UTC)

>> magical macguffin sacred scroll <<

Shades of various Saiyuki fics! (Sounds like a combo of freeradical9's recent "Minus Wave Cure" and louiselux's about the sacred sex scroll ... .)

(no subject) - smillaraaq - Mar. 13th, 2008 05:37 pm (UTC) - Expand
smillaraaq
Mar. 14th, 2008 01:12 am (UTC)
BWAH! Oh, Youtube. Hunting through endless HK-film-fanatic and Brigitte Lin fansites didn't turn up any good shots, but there's some dude on YT who's put up the entire movie, dubbed in Khmer and broken up into chunks. And one of the chunks conveniently picks up right before the start of the dice game:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aez5vFRkfEk

No subtitles, but the action is fairly self-explanatory. Asia has come across the camp of the Evil Japanese Ninja, gets drunk and changes out of her usual male clothes to infiltrate the ninjas' camp followers. She's the one with her hair down, vamping in looser pale robes and playing a lute, while all the rest of the women around her are in kimono with their hair up.

And while I'm at it, here's a clip of one of the endless cho-han dice games from the Zatoichi series, complete with a shirtless house dealer in full irezumi bodysuit tattoos. (Ichi's the one cuddling the baby...its mother was an innocent bystander caught in the crossfire when some asassins tried to take out our sad-sack hero, so he's back on the road trying to safely deliver the child to its father...)
chomiji
Mar. 12th, 2008 07:29 pm (UTC)

I imagine you can guess where this is going!   XD   The trouble is, I don't have a plot, just part of a scene. The shirtless business certainly adds to the concept ... .

(Yeah, I bet Yuan gambles. I wonder if Tokito does ... probably cheats if so, the little snot!)

smillaraaq
Mar. 12th, 2008 08:31 pm (UTC)
I could honestly see a plot taken straight from Zatoichi here -- much like Gojyo, Ichi is constantly getting dragged in to help out with other's peoples problems, particularly mistreated/orphaned/etc. kids or pretty ladies. He sometimes acts gruff and complains about not getting involved, but it never makes a whit of difference; he clearly can't stand letting innocents suffer. And he has to pretty much stay on the move constantly, because the gambling-house bosses tend to be a little cranky when you win too consistently or catch them out in rigging the games...not to mention all the people who want revenge on him...
chomiji
Mar. 12th, 2008 08:37 pm (UTC)

Yeah, but you don't know what I'm after with this ... it was gonna be a crossover ... .

XD

smillaraaq
Mar. 12th, 2008 09:03 pm (UTC)
That actually could fit with the Zatoichi canon too! There are crossovers where he meets Yojimbo and Wang Kang from the Chinese One-Armed Swordsman series... ;)

(Really, between 26 original movies, 100 hour-long television episodes, and the recent artsier movie remake with Takeshi Kitano in Shintaro Katsu's role, I'm sure you could find some plotbunny-fodder...)
(no subject) - chomiji - Mar. 12th, 2008 09:24 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - smillaraaq - Mar. 12th, 2008 09:40 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Mar. 13th, 2008 03:20 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - smillaraaq - Mar. 13th, 2008 05:39 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Mar. 17th, 2008 03:39 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - 0nolicious - Mar. 17th, 2008 06:10 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Mar. 18th, 2008 07:16 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - 0nolicious - Mar. 19th, 2008 10:17 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Mar. 20th, 2008 10:15 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - smillaraaq - Mar. 21st, 2008 08:26 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Mar. 22nd, 2008 04:22 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - 0nolicious - Mar. 22nd, 2008 05:30 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Mar. 25th, 2008 06:22 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - smillaraaq - Mar. 26th, 2008 12:12 am (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - chomiji - Mar. 27th, 2008 06:54 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - smillaraaq - Mar. 27th, 2008 11:02 pm (UTC) - Expand
(no subject) - smillaraaq - Mar. 21st, 2008 10:07 pm (UTC) - Expand
( 33 comments — Leave a comment )

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