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When it comes to courtly interaction in Rokugan, it is a significant offense for a samurai to touch another person. In fact, this seems to apply in general. There are exceptions for intimate interaction, but what is acceptable behavior in private among family members?

  • In Rokugan, how taboo is familial touching?
  • Kissing a cheek or forehead?
  • Hugging?
  • Are there any acceptable forms of touching that don't involve injury?
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up vote 10 down vote accepted

In Rokugan, there are two problems with physical contact with other samurai:

The specific taboo of touching another samurai in public

Touching another samurai when others see you is improper. The taboo forces samurai to restricts all forms of physical contact to he least necessary, and only when need or duty demands it. Even if those cases, such as helping a fallen man to stand up, shoving another person out of the way, or grabbing someone to stop it from moving or falling, samurai are compelled to avoid skin to skin contact. Failing to do so can result in stain on both samurai honor (if the contact was voluntary) or a dire insult (if one of the samurai did not consent to the physical contact). This extend even to the affectionate kind of contact, like holding hands with your spouse, a father patting his son's head, or a hug between brothers that have not seen each other in a long time.
A important point here is privacy. Even if the taboo only applies to situations where another samurai are observing you, many samurai can never be completely sure that nobody is observing them, so they are very cautious about what they do.

Familial touching is a show of affection

For many samurai, showing affection to others is a sign of weakness of character. Samurai society can be obnoxiously rigid in its precepts, demanding that every samurai keeps their social mask on all the time, even when in home. Those that strictly observe those rules refrain from hugging, kissing or doing many other things that would be considered normal to most players mindsets, even in the most intimate circumstances. Also, It does not help at all that marriage an kids are more often than not a political obligation rather than a personal choice, and that many samurai share their homes with people that are complete strangers to them.

This mean that any kind of physical contact has negative connotations and, as with many other things in Rokugan, is restricted to the most private moments or avoided completely.

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Quite acceptable in general, I'd say. So, obviously my Rokugan differs from MACN's one. I'd say not so much though, I generally agree with him.

Why do I say so? You asked for "in private between family" touch:

  1. Privacy matters. My home is my castle: visiting private house is an entirely different matter than visiting a tea shop. Being at home is vastly different than being in your lord's keep doing your duties. At home you're allowed to somewhat relax from usual restraint.
  2. Family matters. Cases are, one puts family higher than duties or even his lord (disloyal, but if personal gain can be put above one's lord, so can family). And even if it's not above lord... it's still important.
  3. They still want it. To touch, to be touched. It's human. I read an account of an English teacher who went to communist China (more than 2 decades ago) and asked parents there if they really never kiss their children or pat their heads etc. upon learning about the 'no touch' rule. Nobody admitted it upfront, but many privately told him they had breached that rule.

Few additional points

Most samurai are not of kuge caste (aristocracy, direct descendants of the kami or family heads etc. - highest nobility) - court rules don't matter there as much and are not as strictly enforced at all times.

Judge how many samurai in your Rokugan are the rural types, the "provintional" chaps etc. If their etiquette ain't their primary skill, how much would they bother with it?

Add in a number of Crabs with their different approach to etiquette. Like: let me touch you with jade to see if I need to kill you now. I can't see clan which routinely accepts this as one that would at all times refrain from touching others.

Add in a fact that it's a widely accepted punishment to slap or hit someone (especially in the military, but also during training - and first teachers you get are your parents). Apparently, touching as punishment is ok, and they know touching as caress works as well. General rule against touching is against ANY touching. You're forbidden to gently touch as much as slap other samurai. Slapping is an insult, gently touching is inappropriate and suggests something between you (which may require other party to react harshly even if - or especially if - it's true).

Also, the delight Rokugani find from their love stories and lovers who manage to steal a moment of intimacy between their duties (accidental touches, letters passed from hand to hand and all that). Romances are crazy popular in Rokugan and widely accepted... but not publicly.

What family are we talking about?

Finally, it depends on particular family. Ikoma or Crabs? Sure. Shinjo, the compassionate ones - also. Ascetic and rigorous Akodo, traditional and zen-like Shiba or ceremonious Doji - much, much less.

Also, the higher the status the more etiquette comes to play.

In the end it's your Rokugan of course. :-)

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