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Gempukku was the ceremony by which a samurai entered adulthood. Children were often expected to take a new name, their adult name, at this time, and a trial would be expected. [1]

Timing Edit

A child was sent to a school when he reached the age of seven, [1] and the annual or semiannual ceremony usually took place when a young samurai had reached the age of fourteen, but might take place earlier or later depending on how well the student had learned the basic techniques of his school. [2] It was the decision of the student's sensei as to when he was ready to take the trials. A sensei would lose face if he allowed a student to face the trials before he was ready.

Common Elements Edit

The ceremony differed from clan to clan but there were some common elements. The student was required by his sensei to demonstrate that he had learned the techniques and skills taught by his school by successfully completing tests of these skills, called trials. If he successfully completed the trials the student was proclaimed an adult. He chose his adult name and received his first daisho or, in the case of non-bushi samurai, his wakizashi. From that point forward he was considered a full adult and was expected to conduct himself as such.

If a student failed the trials he might be given a second chance if his sensei judged that he still had promise. The trials of some clans were dangerous enough that a student who failed the trials was unlikely to survive for a second attempt. [3]

Examples of Trials Edit

Crab Clan Edit

In the Crab Clan, the student was required to enter the Shadowlands and return with the head of an enemy. [4] Returning with a single goblin head was enough to ensure that the student would be accepted as an adult, and a student who returned with the head of a more powerful enemy was expected to do well in the clan. A student that came back with the head of a nezumi was banished from the clan for not knowing friend from foe. [5]

Crane Clan Edit

In the Crane Clan, the student was expected to demonstrate his knowledge of courtly manners and arts along with more martial skills. The Asahina family required their young shugenja to successfully craft a simple tsangusuri. The Daidoji family commemorated their gempukku by tattooing the family mon upon their wrists. [4]

Dragon Clan Edit

In the Dragon Clan, the ceremony of the gempukku tended to be traditional and straightforward, except for the three orders of monks that were part of the clan, which of course had no gempukku ceremony. [6]

Lion Clan Edit

In the Lion Clan, the student was required to display tactical knowledge of the Akodo family or historical knowledge of the Ikoma family. The Matsu gempukku ceremony was one of the harshest in Rokugan, and the Kitsu gempukku ceremony was one of the most secretive. [6]

Phoenix Clan Edit

The Phoenix Clan gempukku was for the most part unremarkable, although bushi of the Shiba family were required to show their philosophical learning as well as their martial skills. The gempukku ceremonies of the Asako family were shrouded in secrecy from the rest of the Empire. [6]

Scorpion Clan Edit

The gempukku ceremonies of the Scorpion Clan, as might be expected, all involved tests of the arts of stealth or manipulation. Their rituals were private, [7] and not performed with outside observers. If one suceeded the gempukku they were awarded with a mempo or mask. If one failed the gempukku then they were still allowed to be in the clan but as a sign of failure they did not get a mempo. Instead they got a veil. [citation needed]

Unicorn Clan Edit

Before the Ki-Rin's Exodus the Kami Shinjo had released her followers from their obligation to serve her. Since them, the Unicorn reminded that devotion did not come from blood, but from the heart. In the Unicorn gempukku a child must proclaim their intention to become part of the Clan. [8] The Unicorn Clan of course honored horsemanship above all other skills during their gempukku ceremony and they performed the gorugen, or 'Great Hunt'. The Battle Maidens had their own, very rigorous gempukku. [9] The Iuchi family also required their students to show knowledge of various gaijin rituals as well as traditional Rokugani sorcery. [10]

Shugenja Gempukku Edit

The gempukku of a shugenja was a far more intimate affair than that of a bushi. The final "test" of a shugenja was to summon a great deal of power and release it in a controlled manner. [11]

External Links Edit


  1. 1.0 1.1 Roleplaying in the Emerald Empire, p. 26
  2. Way of the Lion, p. 25
  3. Legend of the Five Rings; Third Edition, p. 312
  4. 4.0 4.1 Winter Court:Kyuden Asako, p. 37
  5. Great Clans, p. 14
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Winter Court:Kyuden Asako, p. 38
  7. Winter Court:Kyuden Asako, pp. 38-39
  8. Way of the Unicorn, pp. 26-27 Sidebar
  9. Way of the Unicorn, p. 31
  10. Winter Court:Kyuden Asako, p. 39
  11. Way of the Shugenja, p. 9

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