Those who spend their lives on the Kaiu Wall may either shave their heads or allow their hair to grow long and wild.
The Crabs believe in two simple principles when it comes to food; simple and plentiful. In honor of those who’s duty is on the Wall, the Wall cuisine is the Crab normal. Wanting food that can be made fast, eaten fast, and can keep them going.
Crab of all levels favor thick, hearty noodles called udon. However, their most famous meals is that of age (deep fried tofu) due to the extra calories and flavors from the oils and noodles, because of its simplistic nature that the Wall has time to specialize in.
One food advantage the Crabs have over anyone else is their fresh vegetables almost all year round. Due to their southern location, they are able to grow kale, mustard, broccoli, broccoli rabe later in the fall and earlier in spring than any other place in the Empire.
Crab chopsticks are usually made of bamboo. Most non-Crab assume this is because the Crab don’t care what they are made of, but the truth is that bamboo is a common symbol of perseverance, a virtue the Crab readily admire. The fact that the wood is also tough enough to be sharpened into an emergency weapon is just a bonus.
--New children are cherished in the Crab as a sign that the clan’s strength is being replenished, and Crab birth customs are oriented toward protecting the child. When a pregnancy is about to come to term, whether samurai or peasant, a local shugenja makes sure to renew all blessings on the home. During childbirth a guardian always stands vigilant over the house holding a specially blessed wand (called a gohei) to keep away goblins, spirits, and other demons that might want to harm or corrupt the child. In the case of an important samurai family, this guardian is always a shugenja. With lower-status samurai families the shugenja gives the wand to a lesser priest or monk, while in peasant families the fatherto- be (or, if he is dead, another male relative appointed to act as “father”) is given the wand. Even an eta family will get a blessing at this time, as corrupt eta are every bit as dangerous as corrupt samurai.
As the child grows, most Crab mothers will sew a wish doll, a practice started by the Kuni. Wish dolls are stitched with one eye and the spirit of the doll is asked to watch over the child. As the child grows the doll sits watchfully in an honored place in the house (usually in the child’s room), and at gempukku the second eye is stitched on as a sign of thanks for the doll-spirit’s aid.
Crab gempukku ceremonies vary widely from family to family. The most well-known custom is the Hida practice of sending the student into the Shadowlands (admittedly, only after the student has demonstrated his skills with an assortment of martial demonstrations). The student must return with the head of a Shadowlands creature to be made samurai. Crab sensei take careful note of what the student brought back and how he went about it. Students who bring back the head of an oni or other dangerous creature are given important responsibilities on the Wall, and those wise enough to seek out their peers and enter the Shadowlands in a group are groomed as offi cers. Students who return with the head of a nezumi, however, are labeled as fools and cast out of the clan.
The Hiruma also have stringent tests, though theirs emphasize cunning and speed over brute strength—the ability to return from the Shadowlands with information is valued more highly than the ability to return with an oni’s head. During the two centuries when Shiro Hiruma lay in the hands of the Shadowlands Horde, a common test was for the student to bring back an item from the fallen castle. During other eras, different tests were applied, such as bringing back a weapon or piece of armor from one of the many battlefi elds where Crab heroes fell against the forces of Fu Leng.
The Kuni have no formal dojo, and so their gempukku tests vary from sensei to sensei. These tests are never easy, and in fact many of the senior Kuni have a secret rivalry over who can devise the most difficult but passable gempukku test.
While the Crab believe marriage is very important (the next generation of Crab samurai has to come from somewhere, after all) they don’t put a lot of emphasis on the process. Any Crab who reaches the age of 22 without marrying is granted an arranged marriage. The arrangements are typically handled by parents, and frequently a local magistrate will fill the role of matchmaker, the whole affair carried out in an atmosphere of efficient practicality. The receptions following a marriage ceremony, on the other hand, are times of wild and boisterous celebration. The Crab can turn even a party into a feat of endurance, and this combined with the clan’s notorious fondness for strong drink results in many marriages remembered mostly for the drinking contests that happened afterward.
Crab samurai rarely retire to the life of a monk; the idea of someone still capable of serving the clan going off to a life of meditation and contemplation strikes them as almost mad. The few Crab monasteries usually hold monks who suffer from devastating injuries or some form of insanity, and these establishments often double as hospitals. More frequently, older Crab samurai become sensei at one of the many Crab dojo, where they can contribute to the war effort by passing on their skills and knowledge to the next generation.
Funerals are a solitary exception to the Crab Clan’s usual disdain for ceremony. Death on the Wall is common, and each death is accepted with quiet respect. Funerals are elaborate affairs, usually commemorating the death and life of many samurai at once. In the case of large battles, such an act is not only practical but allows the Crab samurai to be remembered as they lived—as fellow soldiers and comrades. If the deceased are even suspected of Taint or Maho, however, the body is cremated immediately. The formal funeral is performed later.
While Crab insult their living comrades with jovial familiarity, to speak ill of the dead is a grave offense. The only fault ever spoken of after death is cowardice; all else is forgiven once a soul has passed from the mortal realm. Visitors who accidentally insult a dead Crab find every Crab in the room suddenly turning their backs, quietly pretending they no longer exist. If the visitor is truly unfortunate, the dead man’s comrades or relatives will immediately demand a duel. The Crab Champion almost never refuses permission for such duels, for no Crab will endure an insult to his duty. Even if no duel is forthcoming, the insulting visitor may find himself trapped in an alley later that night by a swarm of masked crab with jo staffs.
Part of the Crab’s formal attitude toward funerals is the custom of “voice after death,” in which a person is allowed to speak of the deceased as if he were still alive. Prior to death many Crab warriors will chose someone to act as their voice. This person is given a message the Crab wishes to be said at his funeral. To ask another person to be one’s voice is the ultimate gesture of trust and respect between two Crab, and it is a bond some take more seriously than marriage.
The Draw-Lot Plays of the Crab
The only thing a Crab commander on the Kaiu Wall fears more than an oni attack is boredom. Boredom saps the will, takes the edge off reaction times, and lulls the mind into a false sense of security. Unfortunately, bringing in artisans to provide entertainment can create even more problems than it solves. During the reign of Hantei XXXIV, a Crab officer named Hida Monzaemon had an idea—his unit could entertain itself with an amateur kabuki production.
Since he was fairly certain that he would never get volunteers for this, he wrote the names of characters from a popular play on small scraps of paper and put them in his kabuto (helmet). Then he added enough blank slips of paper to make the total number of slips equal to the number of men in his unit, lined his men up, and ordered them each to draw a slip out of the kabuto.
The ones who drew character names were informed that those were their roles and they had a week to rehearse. None of the “actors” were happy about this (especially the ones who drew female roles), but they quickly got into the spirit of the thing when they saw how much their comrades were looking forward to the play. The week after the performance Monzaemon was besieged by bushi who wanted to know when the next one was going to be. The tradition of the draw-lot play was born, and the idea quickly spread up and down the Wall.
There are three rules for a draw-lot play:
- All roles must be drawn by lot out of a kabuto.
- The play must have at least one scripted fight scene.
- The play must have no Shadowlands characters.
Beyond that, anything goes. The average draw-lot play features minimal props, wild improvisation, and ludicrous amounts of audience participation.
A Kakita playwright who once witnessed a draw-lot play described it as, “crude, lewd, loud, poorly paced, over-acted, and yet somehow… perfect.”