Empire of Secrets
Gempukku is the ceremony by which a samurai enters adulthood. Children take a new name, their adult name, at this time, and a trial takes place.
A child is sent to a school at the age of seven, and the annual or semiannual ceremony usually takes place when a young samurai reaches the age of fourteen, but might take place earlier or later depending on how well the student has learned the basic techniques of his school. It is the decision of the student’s sensei as to when he is ready to take the trials. A sensei will lose face if he allows a student to face the trials before he is ready.
The ceremony differs from clan to clan but there are some common elements. The student is required by his sensei to demonstrate that he has learned the techniques and skills taught by his school, by successfully completing tests of these skills, called trials. If he successfully completes the trials the student is proclaimed an adult. He then chooses his adult name and receives his first daisho or, in the case of non-bushi samurai, his wakizashi. From that point forward he is considered a full adult and is expected to conduct himself as such.
If a student fails the trials he might be given a second chance, if his sensei judges that he still has promise. The trials of some clans are dangerous enough that a student who fails the trials is unlikely to survive for a second attempt.
Examples of Trials
In the Crab Clan, the student is required to enter the Shadowlands and return with the head of an enemy. Returning with a single goblin head is enough to ensure that the student will be accepted as an adult, and a student who returns with the head of a more powerful enemy is expected to do well in the clan. A student that comes back with the head of a nezumi is banished from the clan for not knowing friend from foe.
In the Crane Clan, the student is expected to demonstrate his knowledge of courtly manners and arts, along with more martial skills. The Asahina family requires their young shugenja to commemorate their gempukku by tattooing the family mon upon their wrists.
In the Dragon Clan, the ceremony of the gempukku tends to be traditional and straightforward, except for the three orders of monks that are part of the clan and which have no gempukku ceremony.
In the Lion Clan, the student is required to display tactical knowledge of the Akodo family or historical knowledge of the Ikoma family. The Matsu gempukku ceremony is one of the harshest in Rokugan, whilst the Kitsu gempukku ceremony is one of the most secret.
The Phoenix Clan gempukku is for the most part unremarkable, although bushi of the Shiba family are required to show their philosophical learning as well as their martial skills. The gempukku ceremonies of the Asako family are shrouded in secrecy.
The gempukku ceremonies of the Scorpion Clan, as might be expected, all involve tests of stealth and manipulation. Their rituals are private, and not performed with outside observers. If one succeeds at the gempukku they are awarded with a mempo (mask). If one fails the gempukku then they are still allowed to be in the clan, but as a sign of failure they do not receive a mempo.
Before the Ki-Rin’s Exodus, the Kami Shinjo had released her followers from their obligation to serve her. Since then, the Unicorn have always believed that devotion does not come from blood, but from the heart. In the Unicorn gempukku a child must proclaim their intention to become part of the Clan. The Unicorn Clan of course honours horsemanship above all other skills during their gempukku ceremony, and they perform the gorugen, or ‘Great Hunt’. The Battle Maidens have their own, very rigorous gempukku. The Iuchi family also require their students to show knowledge of various gaijin rituals, as well as traditional Rokugani sorcery.