=Dating Champloo=

by Zantetsuken/Gecko Zero/Judy Renee Pope


Anything involving actual dating of this series truly is Champloo--it's time-line stew. But there are clues scattered here and there that concern what part of the Tokugawa Era we should place it in... Arguments may be made for a post 1800 date, and most of the ones seen recently have to do with baseball, which is an obvious anachronism here. In our (I and Amalgam's owner) estimation, the bulk of the evidence points to at least 150 years earlier. Here's some of the reasons for that conclusion.

First off. our Master's voice on the topic: from Newtype, October 2003, article/interview with Shinichiro Watanabe.
"The show is set during the Edo era some 60 years after the confusion of civil war lifted. But forget the historical details. Think of it basically like some period in time 60 years after the end of a war."

Recall that--as we said above-- the Civil War period in Japan is (obviously) not the age of the American Civil War, but the Sengoku Jidai or "Warring States Era". (Historical footnote: The latest generally listed date for the ending of the Sengoku Jidai is 1615; it spanned through the middle 15th to the early 17th centuries. It started in the late Muromachi period in 1467 with the Onin War (Onin no Ran 1467-1478), lasting through the entire Azuchi-Momoyama period, until final peace and order was achieved in 1615 of the Edo period.)

SO: We can pretty safely assume that Champloo is meant to be taking place in roughly 1675. Not (evidently) quite the 1675 we know here, but some other 1675...where police palanquins have flashing lights on top, and baseball has popped into existence a bit early.

But, for the purposes of the series, we need to place a wider frame around the series to allow a little room for artistic license. 1650-1690 is our proposal for this frame.

Basic dates SC cannot be before:
--First Japanese gold coinage (vs. round Chinese copper coins; people are still using both forms of coinage during the series): 1601.
--Ryukyu invaded by Satsuma: 1609.
--Dutch East India Company founded: 1609.
--Hakone Checkpoint (ep. 9) founded: 1619.
--Japanese nationals forbidden to travel overseas: 1635.
--Trade closed to all except Dutch/Chinese: 1639, until 1854.

Basic dates SC cannot be after:
--Matthew Perry reopens Japan: 1853.
--Meiji Revolution: 1868



Dates from within the series:
--Hishikawa Moronobu (ep. 5) lived from 1618 to 1694 and began producing illustrations--regarded as the beginning of the ukiyo-e art movement--in 1658.

--“Nanshoku Okagami” (ep. 6) was published in 1687.

--Yatsuha and Hankichi's conversation in episode #15 re: the Negoro being mercenaries from the Civil War period (i.e., the Sengoku Jidai or "Warring States Era"). Yatsuha expresses mild surprise that these guys are still around ("There are still some left?") but she's not astonished. The latest generally listed date for the ending of the Sengoku Jidai is 1615. If it's now 1650-90, hers is a reasonable response; if it's 1785 or later, I wouldn't say so.

--1789 marks the date of the last major Ainu uprising in east Hokkaido. Again, something that seems to be after SC. We could be witnessing the very begining of it in 16/17, but the Ainu were persucuted for a good long time before they rebelled--well over a century.

--Our villain in episode 19 is presenting himself as 'the grandson of Francis Xavier', that has to be at least plausible to the majority of the Christians around--and Xavier was born in 1506, and died in 1552.

--The hermit in episode #21 at one point identifies himself as the samurai Miyamoto Musashi (1584-1645). Quote: "Much of Musashi's life between 1600 and 1640 is the stuff of legend and some have postulated that he served at Osaka Castle (1614-1615) on the defending side, taking quite a few heads in the process. In a similar vein, he is sometimes said to have helped quell the Shimabara Rebellion of 1637-8--a theory which, as with his glories at Osaka, is impossible to prove. " So it's not really known where he was during that part of his life--he could well have been a simple hermit. Again, like Yatsuha with the Sengoku Jidai survivors, Jin is surprised but not incredulous--the claim is at least roughly plausible--though in this case, the base timeframe would have to stretch out another decade.

--The go-roujuu in #24 likewise refers to "remnants of the Shimabara Rebellion"; this means the events of the episode cannot occur too long after 1638.

--Also in #24, Mugen adimits to killing "a strange old man". By clues given in the quick flashback, this strange old man is none other than Mito Komon (Tokugawa Mitsukuni, (1628-1700)), one of Tokugawa Ieyasu's grandsons. Mito Komon, besides having been a real person, is the lead character in an extremely popular and long running Jidaigeki show (1969 to ?, 1000+ episodes). Typically, each episode ends with a fight with the current episode's baddies, and when all looks bleak for our hero, one of his attendants flashes Komon's inro, (a lacquered case bearing the Tokugawa crest, as seen in the flashback while Mugen's talking), thus revealing his actual identity and proclaiming: "Koko ni owasu o-kata koso, mae no fuku-shogun Mito Mitsukuni-kou ni araserareruzo.'' ('Here before you is Lord Mitsukuni of Mito, uncle of the shogun'). Guess he finally met the person who wouldn't back down...

--In 1657 the last large group of Christians was discovered in/around Nagasaki, with many tortured and killed. This ongoing hunt for Christian outposts continued through the 1660s.

--Harigaya Sekiun, the founder of the Mujushin kenjutsu style (in which Jin is trained), was writing about it in the 1660-1670 time frame, indicating its development at a slightly earlier time. Normally, this wouldn't have any reflection on dates within the series, but in real life, Mariya Enshiro (Jin's sensei) was the third headmaster of this school, most likely dating his tenure there to the 1600s.

-- In the opening narration of episode 5, our narrator (Detective Manzou) says: "In 1885, an artist [Vincent van Gogh] who was much impressed by the ukiyo-e art he saw in Paris moved to the French province of Arles...But now it’s a hundred years before that." Or, "Just like that, time rewinds a hundred years." Either translation would seem to state that the present year, Champloo-wise, is 1785 or close thereabouts, and a number of discussions of the show's history and anachronisms have used that date as their foundation. However--as we've just shown--it's not borne out by anything else in the series, and one is forced to wonder if it's an error on the translators' parts or if Manzou is just really bad at time. (Geneon's DVD dub renders it as "But now the hands of the clock turn back more than one hundred years", which is an admirable way of trimming this tangle.)


Relevant Tokugawa laws and things:
1682-Tsunayoshi sets laws to raise morality: ban on prostitution; ban on employing waitresses in teahouses, limit on fabric prices; ban on foreign luxury imports. Obviously this law is not in effect at this time, considering Fuu's employment situation in episode 1.
1705-Law passed forbidding people to walk around town after dark (do not know if this was countrywide or just Edo, but we see plenty of people on various streets after dark).
1705-Any stranger housed overnight must be reported. Again, a law that seems to not be in effect at our story's time. Or is it....? Hm.


Finally, some "fun facts" and laws of the time:
"Assorted Tokugawa Laws, Economic Reforms, Sumptuary Rules"
Examples of punishments--
= for killing one's master: expose for two days in public, then saw off head and display headless corpse (ouch)
= for striking or wounding master or former master: death
(date?) = Laws against travel without passport for more than three days (runaways = kakeochi):
= punishment for runaways is erasure from register (choomenhazushi)
= laws existed against harboring runaways at inns, houses...
= banta: a town guard to keep out runaways and undesirables
= runaways could still live on main highways, as beggars, thieves, etc.

(Much more on this at Tokugawa Era Events.)

OK, so how many of these have our kids collectively broken? (Mugen wasn't kidding about their list of crimes in 21...)


--Go back to Compete Guide to Anachronisms main page.