February 02, 2012

Kumosuke



In Irezumi: The Pattern of Dermatography in Japan, Willem R. van Gulik explains that the term "palanquin bearer" or kumosuke (雲助) can refer to a reckless taxi driver or ruffian. "When business was slack, palanquin bearers would often resort to highway robbery as a side line."

Ryô's concerns about her own palanquin bearers notwithstanding, kumosuke served middle-class travelers. Palanquin bearer for the noble classes were known as rokushaku (六尺), or six shaku (尺 = .995 feet), a wooden pole used to carry things across the shoulders.

Nowadays, rokushaku more often refers to rokushakudoshi (六尺褌), the loincloth (made from a six-foot strip of cotton) worn by rokushaku.

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