Toucha – Game of Choice in Medieval Japan

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The Kamakura Shogunate fell in 1333 to the warring Northern and Southern dynasties, as situation that had occurred due to a large split in the royal family. It was during this time that the then-famous game of Toucha became popular among the gekokujou, a group of upstart nobles. It was played by inviting the guest to distinguish real tea (honcha, which literally means genuine tea. Honcha was tea sourced only from Toganoo) from other tea. As tea diversified and spread across Japan, Toucha also diversified to fit its audience; it became a game combining skill, knowledge and luck, where guests would guess which plantations different teas had come from.

Toucha was the game of choice for so many that it even became normal to bet money and extravagant items on it, so much so that a skilled player could almost earn a decent living on it. Toucha gatherings were common and as time went on many of the poorer classes in feudal Japan were also introduced to it. While they could not afford to be as extravagant as their higher-class brothers and sisters, this didn’t stop them from betting amounts more appropriate to their income.

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