Keywords: Question, Culture & History

Japanese Big Question Mark 9

Chris Hayashida: I thought it would be fun to add some historical notes for Hikaru no Go.

Sai is supposedly a Go player from the Heian era (794-1185, according to the English version of the comic.) This is before the Four Houses are established, and before Go is really organized on any level in Japan. Later, during the Edo era (1600-1868, again according to the English comic) Sai possesses Shusaku and helps him become the strongest player of the era. Presumably, this is takes place from sometime during Shusaku's childhood until his death in 1862.

I am still trying to figure out what Sai's job was during the Heian era. In the English comic, it says, "During the Heian Period, I held a position in the Capital as Go instructor to the Emperor."

The Japanese this is translated from reads:


I read this as:

At the Heian capital, I taught Go to okimi.

The problem is that I can't find a good translation for okimi. When I look up emperor in my dictionary, I get a different word. Feudal lord doesn't seem to be a good translation, either, since Hotta-san didn't use daimyo. My grasp of Japanese history is kind of shaky. Did daimyo exist before the shogunate was established?

Can any of you historians shed any light on this? I figure it's good to supplement fiction with historical facts...

Harleqin: I am not a historian, but as far as I know, the feudal system (with the tenno and daimyo etc.) evolved way in the ancient times. The shogunate was just a sort of national unification. Prior to that, there was a great deal of civil war where different daimyo contested for the rule of all japan (the tenno was just a symbolic figure). After that, the Tokugawa clan had won, so the rule of Japan was not contestable anymore. The new shogun defined the status, responsibilities and rights of the different classes in a more rigid way and introduced a nationwide bureaucracy system, but there was no overall revolution.

Since the introduction of a great deal of Chinese culture to Japan (I think around 600 AD) Go was considered one of the arts a civilized man should have knowledge of, so I guess many members of the nobility would have had a Go instructor.

For okimi, all I have found is a translation for kimi as "master" ([ext] http://www.animelab.com/anime.manga/kanji/code/14127 ), so okimi would be something like "great master" or "grandmaster" and I assume it is a synonym for the emperor.

tderz: Could be, yet monarch; king, lord/prince; gentleman; ruler, lady; head here are further meanings of 君 (Chin. pronunciation jūn). Perhaps it could have simply meant "My profession is to teach my master"? (gentleman, lord, maecenas; 君子 jūnzi /nobleman/person of noble character)
I know, I approach this from Chinese and furthermore dozens of centuries after the inquired meaning.
However in Chinese 'monarch, sovereign, emperor' etc. would be indicated by another, additional character 君主 (jūn zhǔ, Jap.: くんしゅ kunshu). Differing on context and position in the sentence it seems able to mean also you (sg.), You (pl.), Mr., Ms. etc.
Could this have been a necessity in Japanese as well? (honest question, as I am Jap-analphabet)

Example sentences, arguments?:

  • 君の仇を討つ ( きみのあだをうつ / kimi no ada o utsu / to avenge one's master )
  • 一天万乗の君 ( いってんばんじょうのきみ / itten-banjou no kimi / Ruler of All; Caesar; Tenno)

Bob McGuigan: The prefix Oo in Ookimi means great or exalted. In feudal Japan there were lesser daimyo, or lords, as well as the highest one, or emperor. So referring to the emperor as Ookimi (大君) then makes sense, and my Kenkyusha dictionary translates Ookimi simply as "the Emperor".

kokiri: The superlative [ext] Jim Been Japanese Dictionary gives okimi as emperor, king, prince. The also invaluable infoseek.co.jp dictionary gives various different readings and meanings, but the long and short of it in this case would seem to be a respectful term for the emperor.

Chris Hayashida: I guess to bring this back to a historical point, was there an emperor of all Japan during the Heian era? Did he have an appointed Go instructor? I figure that there should be some record of this somewhere...

kokiri **tenuous grasp of historical fact alert** Yes there was an emperor (Tenno) of Japan during the Heian Era. Even during the periods when real power was wielded by the warrior classes (eg the tokugawa shoguns, the kamakura periods) there were emperors holding court although the government was run elsewhere. I have seen the emperor likened to a 'pope' of japan- i.e. a seat of religeous power who may or may not hold political power. Anyway, in the Heian era, the imperial court was the centre of government, with the emperor as its head. It was a period of artistic development and the [ext] Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon makes some references to Go amongst the aristocracy - both women and men if memory serves me correctly.

Bob McGuigan: A quick survey of Japanese history can be found on Wikipedia at [ext] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Japan It isn't clear what is meant by "Japan" before the unification of the warring states. In the Heian period, for example, the Northern part of Honshu was not under the control of the emperor. On the whole the Heian period seems to have been peaceful but the creation of strong generals to bring Honshu under the imperial court eventually led to the creation of rebellious warlords, the "warring states", and the shoguns taking over political power. Go is mentioned in the Heian literary work Genji Monogatari, too. Since Weichi was one of the "four accomplishments" it seems likely that the Emperor would have had to "do" go and there would have been an imperial instructor.

JBQM9 last edited by Dieter on July 5, 2008 - 12:49
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