辻斬り

(Japanese: "to kill someone in the street", from 辻 tsuji, "street corner" + 斬 kiru, "to kill")

A Japanese word that has undergone a certain shift in meaning. Until the late 19th century, a member of the Japanese warrior élite (whether a daimyo, a samurai, or a lowly ronin), who felt that he had been treated with insufficient respect in a public place, might legitimately choose to avenge the perceived insult by murdering the transgressor.

The degree of disrespect required to trigger such a murder varied - a daimyo would expect elaborate obeisances to be performed when one passed him in the street - whereas a samurai or ronin might see deliberate disrespect in the mere act of brushing against him, or touching his sword-scabbard.

Tsujigiri passed out of customary usage when the samurai were obsoleted, but the word remains part of the Japanese language - nowadays, it is mostly used to describe street killings, such as gangland slayings by the Yakuza.

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