Men and women alike are known for dying their hair white and wearing it long, with only a loose topknot or ponytail to constrain it in honor of Daidoji Hayaku (further details under Customs).
Their accustomed meals involve plenty of rice and fish; having a long stretch of both rice fields and coastal line. Because the Cranes set the standards for most things “traditional”, many other clans have adopted this meal set.
The higher ranks within the clan will eat noodles almost as thin as the Imperials do, because the Imperials do.
Ordinary Cranes look for freshness and balance of flavor in their foods; the Crane elite are fanatical about it.
The Crane favor very simple chopsticks made of beautiful woods, and it isn’t uncommon for a Crane household to have several different sets of chopsticks to coordinate with the passing seasons: plum for winter, cherry for spring, kaya (a hard, golden-tinged wood) for summer, and maple for fall. Kaya is used for summer both because of its sunshiny color and because it is the favored wood for go boards—a subtle reminder that summer is the season of war.
The birth of a child is as welcome and joyous an occasion among the Crane as anywhere else in Rokugan, but the Crane feel that to show too much pride over a new child attracts the attention of vindictive spirits. Spirits of dead children are quite tragic, but they are extremely dangerous to a young child. The Crane believe these spirits are attracted when a parent displays too much pride, so they express their joy at childbirth in more subtle fashion.
Neighbors, friends, and relatives are invited over in small groups over several days following the birth, with the closest friends and relatives invited first. These individuals offer gifts and lavish compliments to the newborn. The parents are expected to humbly turn the gifts down and brush the compliments aside as a show of humility. The gifts are put aside in storage until the child’s fifth birthday, when they are offered to the child again. Since the number four represents death, to pass that age—and therefore overcome that number—suggests the child is now somewhat safe from evil spirits and can safely accept the gifts.
The Crane do not merely practice the traditional gempukku ceremony—they define the traditional gempukku ceremony. The parents of the young samurai-to-be will use the occasion as an opportunity to display their wealth and political connections.
This allows the guests of the ceremony to properly evaluate where the new samurai will place in the great game of court— which of course is itself part of playing the political game. The greatest example of this is the special gempukku ceremony hosted by the Kakita Dueling Academy, the so-called Topaz Championship. The Championship features young men and women from every Great Clan and a few of the Minor Clans in a competition designed to showcase the talents of Rokugan’s youth. Invitations to participate or attend the festival are some of the most hotly traded favors in Rokugan. Of course, it is no coincidence that this prestigious competition ends in an iaijutsu tournament, the dueling art-form that the Crane define and dominate.
Though the Crane avoid open warfare and prefer the peaceful court life, they respect the way of the warrior as much as any other samurai. Many Crane bleach their hair white shortly after their gempukku to honor Daidoji Hayaku, the legendary hero who entered the Shadowlands to find the missing Thunders and came back with the Ancestral Sword of the Crane.
Courtship and marriage rituals are of utmost importance, since many Crane political alliances are cemented through well-placed betrothals. It is considered every Crane samurai’s duty to marry well. Generally, such decisions are resolved entirely by professional marriage arrangers, experts in creating unions that will be long lasting and fruitful for both the clan and the parties being wed. The Crane city of Musumi Mura is home to some of the most skillful nakado in the Empire, and their services are much in demand.
Crane marriage celebrations are always lavish affairs. It is considered to be poor taste for a lord to pass up an invitation to a vassal’s wedding, and so the celebration is seen as honoring the lord’s presence as well as the new couple’s union.
Among the Crane retirement is seen as a just reward for a life well led. A samurai who gives his life in glorious combat for his lord is a hero, but a samurai who serves his lord, survives, and goes on to provide his wisdom to the next generation is equally well regarded. Even the most revered sensei show respect and deference to retired Crane monks, and it is not unusual for a Crane daimyo to have a few such inkyo in his household for counsel and guidance.
For a Clan that celebrates life as much as the Crane, death can be difficult to accept. Funerals are somber, stately occasions in which friends and family pay their respects to the deceased. There is little variation from the Rokugani norm in Crane funeral ceremonies—hardly surprising, since here as in so much else the Crane set the standard for the rest of the Empire.
A deceased samurai’s lord need not attend the funeral ceremony if he is otherwise occupied or simply does not wish to attend, but it is considered an insult not to at least send a representative. This representative usually carries a short message written by the lord himself (or by one of his artisans and approved by the lord), conveying his respect to the family and sorrow for their loss.
Crane playwrights believe every element of a play, from the words of the text to the patterns on the actor’s costumes, must be chosen to help convey and intensify the effect of the drama. Thus they will commission new dances for their plays, working with the dancers who will first perform the roles to establish the correct sequence of motion that will precisely create the tone the playwright is seeking. Dancers and playwrights who work especially well together will establish relationships that can last years, sometimes becoming permanent by means of marriages between the families.