Etiquette

Common Etiquette

  • Samurai are always polite, even to bitter enemies.
  • They use family names or clan identity to address strangers, and full names (family and then personal) to address those they know.
    --Only a close friend, family member, or a child can be addressed with the personal name alone.
    --Rokugani nearly always use formal suffixes when speaking to each other – these show good manners and a proper knowledge of the forms of address.
  • All Rokugani bow when greeting or acknowledging each other.
    --When the greeting is between persons of broadly equal social rank (such as two samurai, or two peasants), both bow from the waist, with the person who is of lower station offering the deeper bow.
    --When there is a serious difference in station (peasant greeting samurai, samurai greeting daimyo, or anyone to the Emperor), the person of higher station simply nods, while the person of lower station kneels and touches their forehead to the ground.
  • Rokugani samurai are normally modest and restrained in their public deportment.
    --They do not raise their voices, save in battle or other emergency, and remain calm and smoothspoken as much as possible.
  • Samurai also do not touch in public unless required to by circumstances (e.g. catching someone who is falling, helping up a comrade on the battlefield, treating an injury, and so forth).
    --To touch someone without absolute need, and especially to touch someone in a formal public setting like court, is a serious breach of etiquette.
  • Samurai make a point of ignoring anyone who violates the rules of etiquette, whether such violations be deliberate or accidental – such uncouth persons simply do not exist, and are shut out of all conversations and denied all requests or petitions.
  • Samurai also make a point of not “hearing” conversations that does not include them. This means any conversation in another room, not directed at them, or behind a shoji screen.
    --However, acting on the information heard is not considered rude, as long as you have no need to admit to having eavesdropped.

Appearance

  • Rokugani men tend to have only modest facial hair, and usually keep themselves clean-shaven, especially when they are young men.
    --Beards and mustaches, when they do appear, are kept carefully trimmed, and the goatee is the most common type of beard.
  • The Rokugani always dress modestly, and it is considered inappropriate and barbaric to show one’s limbs or torso in public.
  • Rokugani dress according to their station, and it is usually possible to tell someone’s social status and profession simply by looking at their garments.
  • Most samurai will find creative and fashionable ways to incorporate their Clan colors and symbols.
    --It can be construed as an insult if one wears only another Clan’s colors.
    --Fashion can be found with the netsuke, a small toggle-shaped or button-shaped object intended to help secure items to an obi; kimono have no pockets, so this allows one to keep small personal objects handy.
  • An unmarried woman will wear a kimono with very long, flowing sleeves, often reaching the knees or even dragging on the floor.
    --A married woman’s sleeves are traditionally much shorter than an unmarried, but are still considerably longer than a man’s.
  • All samurai, except Ronin, wear mons. This is a unique and circular symbol embroidered into their kimono to lay claim to what Clan, Family, School, Dojo, and so forth to the world.
    --Traditionally, the Clan mon is on the back of the kimono.
    --If a mon is placed on the right side, it means this is what guide’s the samurai’s sword.
    --If the mon is placed on the left, it says what leads to the samurai’s heart.

Meal Etiquette
--The custom of using chopsticks to pick bone from funeral ashes has influenced meal etiquette. It is incredibly rude to pass food from one person to the next via chopsticks because it too closely mimics this part of the funeral rite. The proper way to do it is for the first person to place the food on a plate, and the second person to then pick it up.

Communication

  • A casual note to a close friend can be quickly brushed on the back of a piece of used paper.
  • A love letter should be done on fine paper and scented with a symbolically appropriate fragrance.
  • A letter to one’s lord calls for thick new paper, the finest ink and the best possible calligraphy.
  • Subjects like Shadowlands, Taint, maho, blood, sweat, eta work, and dead bodies are considered ghastly and highly inappropriate, leading to the speaker of such subjects to becoming ostracized.
  • Samurai also avoid being too direct or blunt in their speech, and favor heavy use of indirect phrases, symbolism, and allegory, as well as leaving things unsaid so as to be assumed by context.

Etiquette While Visiting

  • When visiting another samurai, it is appropriate to present your personal chop (stamp with your name) to the guard or first servant available. This is when you introduce yourself and intentions for the visit.
  • Wait outside the threshold in which you are visiting until you are invited in by the head of the household.
    --If a servant returns stating that the “host is busy” and “Please come back and try again tomorrow”, this usually means it is a polite refusal OR the host is not home.
  • It is considered polite while visiting a geisha house, samurai, inn, or even lord, to set aside your weapons, either in a guarded room or closet that is specifically provided for the purpose.
    --It is appropriate in some cases to keep your wakizashi with you, as it is a mark of your samurai station. However, in most places it is a sign of good will and peace if all weapons are removed.
    --If the visitor is an acquaintance, stranger, or enemy to the host, he will usually keep his swords with him.
    --If your host allows you to keep your blade with you, it is customary to have it on the floor. If you place it on your right, you are suggesting trust. If it placed to your left, the side drawn for combat, it implies hostility or distrust. Either way, if the hilt is facing the host, it hints that the visitor doesn’t believe much in the host’s swordsmanship.
  • Drawing steel is one of the greatest breaches in etiquette. To draw steel in a home, where the family shrine is, entails insulting both the host and his ancestors.
    --It is easier to excuse a murder committed in your house than it is accepting the insult to your ancestry.
  • While visiting, it is expected to offer tea, and more if the visitor will stay longer.
    --Sake is traditionally only served during the evening.
  • Depending on your reason for visiting (wedding, gempukku, festivals, formal social gathering, etc), it is customary to present a gift to the host.

Gift Giving

  • Unless the gift is being presented to your daimyo or the Emperor, you should present the gift 3 times. This shows your intentions and sincerity of presenting the gift.
  • The gift itself says a lot to the person receiving it. If it is an expensive present with no personal meaning, it does not carry much value. However, if the present itself has personal meaning or history, it has more meaning.
    --If the item itself is something that should be provided by your daiymo (weapons, armor, clothing, food) it is a grievous insult, suggesting your daimyo & lord is not providing you properly.
    --Money is in the same place, having little value to samurai because their business is not in commerce.
  • The more useful and practical the gift, the more insulting it can be perceived. However, something with history and useless, like a fan brought to the first Winter Court held in Kyuden Shiro, holds more value and meaning.

Etiquette

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