It maybe helpful to remember that the vowels in Japanese are always pronounced the same. In fact, if you're familiar with Spanish, you'll have an easier time of pronouncing any of the words below. The vowels are pronounced as such: "a" as in father; "e" as in the word pet; "i" is pronounced like the double "e" in bee; "o" as in toe; and "u" the same as the double "o" in boot. So, if you're about to order that popular rice wine drink at your favorite sushi bar, the correct pronunciation is sah-keh, not sack-key.
A local policeman, much like a sheriff.
bu - small coin, worth 1/4 of a ryo.
mon - a copper coin.
kan - A bund of 1,000 mon.
monme - A silver piece.
ryo - A gold piece, worth 60 monme or four kan.
shu - Edo-period coin. Worth 1/16th of a ryo.
The primary local representative of the shogunate in territories outside the capital of Edo.
A fight between rival yakuza gangs.
A battle sword. Literally, "sword that cuts through torsos."
The capital of medieval Japan and the seat of the shogunate. The site of modern-day Tokyo.
The 47 Ronin
In one of the most famous stories in Japanese history, 47 loyal retainers of the lord forced to kill himself because of the schemes of an enemy, dedicated their lives to avenging him, before commiting ritual suicide at his grave.
A feudal domain.
The traditional world of the yakuza was bounded by elaborate codes of behavior and duty. Improper greetings, rude speech, and other violations of the code could escalate into bloody feuds.
Folk expression of Kshitigarbha, a bodhisativa comforting the common man. Over time, the rough-hewn jizo figures came to be worshipped as guardian saints of travelers, children, women, and the weak and ailing.
Castle warden. The ranking han official in charge of a daimyo's castle when the daimyo was spending his obligatory years in Edo.
The shogun's business.
The shogun's own second, who performed executions ordered by the shogun.
A bale of rice. The traditional measure of a han's wealth, a measure of its agricultural land productivity.
The Edo city commissioner, combining the post of mayor and chief of police. A post held in monthly rotation by two senior Tokugawa vassals, in charge of administration, maintaining the peace, and enforcing the law in Edo. Their rule extended only to commoners.
The Buddhist symbol of prosperity and good fortune, the svastika in Sanskrit. The clockwise "swastika," a solar symbol in many mystic traditions, was adopted by the Nazi regime as the "hakenkreuz." The Japanese Buddhist tradition, however, uses the "sauvastika," or counter-clockwise sign, dating back more than a thousand years.
The Buddhist Hell. The way of demons and damnation.
Inspector. A post combining the functions of chief of police and chief intelligence officer.
A two-handed spear-like weapon taller than a man with a short shaft and long, curved blade. Similar to the more common naginata, which had a longer shaft.
Westerners were known as "southern barbarians," after the first traders reaching Japan from the south. By the Edo period, Portuguese, Spanish, and Dutch adventurers, traders, and missionaries were active across Asia.
"One in the garden." A ninja, the secret agents of the Shogunate, heard but never seen.
The often-ornate bolt of fabric used to tie a kimono closed.
The largest castle outside of Edo, originally built by Hideyoshi Toyotomi, the first unifier of Japan.
Literally, "father status," the boss of a yakuza gang. His underlings were known as kobun, or children.
A masterless samurai. Literally, "one adrift on the waves." Members of the samurai caste who have lost their masters through the dissolution of han, expulsion for misbehavior, or other reasons.
A sake cup. As part of the traditional initiation rites into a yakuza gang, a kobun accepts a drink from the oyabun, and keeps the cup as a sign of loyalty.
Lowest rank of yakuza.
Another name for "o-metsuke." The senior law enforcement officer of the shogunate, reporting directly to the roju senior councilors who advised the shogun.
Lanterns. The mando lanterns are simple constructions of wood and paper for festivals.
Japan's criminal syndicates. In the Edo period, yakuza were a common part of the landscape, running houses of gambling and prostitution. As long as they did not overstep their bounds, they were tolerated by the authorities, a tradition little changed in modern Japan.
A local inspector, reporting to the chain of command to the o-metsuke in Edo.
Copyright 2001 Dark Horse Comics. Re-printed from the Dark Horse publications of the Lone Wolf and Cub comic series. For information, contact Dark Horse Comics at 800-862-0052 or on the web, www.darkhorse.com.