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Police invoke old anti-dueling law over Osaka club catfight

9 Comments

"If you're gonna lose your temper, then fight it out with each other," came the command, from Eiichi Ueno, manager of CUBE, a "girls bar" in Osaka's Kita-Shinchi entertainment zone.

On Oct 31, Ueno, 30 years old and a self-described han-gure leader (head of a group of quasi-gangsters), was arrested by officers from the Tenma police station.

Nikkan Gendai (Nov 21) reported Ueno has been charged with violating the 130-year-old law prohibiting dueling.

Ueno's alleged offense, called ketto-zai in Japanese, took place several months earlier, on the evening of August 3.

The incident took place around 11:30 p.m.on the street where 18-year-old Ms A, a former employee who had quit the bar earlier, and Ms B, age 17, went toe-to-toe. Apparently Ms B, angered by A's resignation, denounced her in a text message on LINE. The two were transported in separate taxis to an affiliated cabaret club five minutes away.

Their bare-knuckled slugfest lasted about five minutes, with B clearly the loser, receiving treatment for bruises to her head and a sprained neck, requiring 10 days to recover.

Prior to that skirmish, A's girlfriend (Ms C) was assaulted by another female employee at CUBE (Ms D), suffering a broken nose and other injuries. On Aug 5, D was arrested on suspicion of assault. 

The practice of dueling in Japan goes back to remote antiquity. In days of yore, hot-tempered samurai were quick to take offense, and dueling, typically with swords, became a headache for the authorities.

To make matters worse, not all duels were actually duels. One of the most notorious abusers of the system was a young samurai named Hirai (or Shirai) Gompachi, who was already a fugitive from justice in his home province of Tottori. 

Gompachi made his way to Edo and around the mid-1670s turned to crime in order to fund his visits to his lady love, who worked in Edo's licensed brothel quarters, the Yoshiwara.

Gompachi is believed to have killed as many as 130 people in the course of his robberies. He eventually came under suspicion, not for armed robbery -- an act considered beneath a samurai’s dignity -- but for what he claimed were duels of honor.

One day near Kumagaya, multiple witnesses saw him murder a wealthy silk merchant from whom he robbed 300 ryo (pieces of silver), and soon fliers were posted around northern Kanto, requesting that citizens "be on the lookout for Hirai Gompachi, age 24-25, white complexion, about 5 shaku 5 mon (about 165 cm) in height."

Gompachi eventually turned himself in, and in 1679 was sentenced to death by haritsuke (perforation by spears while tied to a crucifix).

Gompachi's distraught lover committed suicide. The two repose together at a hiyokuzuka (a grave where lovers are buried together) just outside the grounds of the Meguro Fudo temple in Tokyo's Meguro Ward.

Authorities didn't get around to making dueling a criminal offense until 1889. In its current form, the law provides for punishment both to those who issue a challenge to a duel as well as those who respond to the challenge. A guilty verdict can result of imprisonment of not less than two years and not more than five years. A person who acts as a witness to the duel, or who provides the venue where the duel is held, can be subject to imprisonment for not less than one month and not more than one year.

In recent years, the same charges have been applied to teenagers, who refer to dueling in contemporary slang as taiman.

Subsequent to the Aug 3 duel, a 23-year-old university student named Takeshi Ozawa, believed to be number two in the organization, was also arrested on the charge of entering a false name on the written affidavit.

Since last April, CUBE has also been subject to multiple complaints from customers claiming they were overcharged.

"Ueno heads a group of han-gure called the 'Kyokushin-kai,' and Ozawa is his kobun (underling)," a police investigator told Nikkan Gendai. "But we have yet to obtain the full details."

© Japan Today

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9 Comments
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Interesting there’s a specific law against dueling. I would have thought disturbing the peace, assault, inciting violence etc would have it covered. Will need to remember this 決闘罪 law in case someone ever insists that I meet them behind the bike sheds after school (and I forget to just run away).

3 ( +3 / -0 )

That's bad news for boxing promoters.

quote: complaints from customers claiming they were overcharged.

How much should a seat at a five minute bout of all female MMA action cost? Asking for a friend.

At school when there was a fight like this, someone would shout 'bundle' and the entire school would gather to watch, forming a small fighting area within a sea of cheering kids.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"Police invoke old anti-dueling law over Osaka club catfight"

"Catfight"? Really? That's what you're going with? How about just "fight", or maybe "fistfight"?

3 ( +3 / -0 )

How to say "handbags at dawn warrior" in Japanese?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

What a lovely bunch of people.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

The whole underage night worker in shady clubs thing didn’t even make the writer bat an eye it seems. Then again they refer to it as a cat fight as well so …

4 ( +4 / -0 )

They should have thought to record it, they could have recovered their costs selling it!

I suppose it’s better they face each other in a comparatively controlled environment rather than one knife the other in ambush. Sometimes it’s better for people to get it out of their system than bottle it up until they explode.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

about 5 shaku 5 mon (about 165 cm) in height.

Isn't it 5 shaku 5 sun (五尺五寸)? There's no mon as a unit of length.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

At school when there was a fight like this, someone would shout 'bundle' and the entire school would gather to watch, forming a small fighting area within a sea of cheering kids.

We had something like that at my school as well when two lads would 'square go'

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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