The Yamada Clan (山田家の屋 Yamada ke no ya?) are rōnin who serve as sword testers and executioners. They are also infamously known as Neck-Chopper Asa (首斬り朝 Kubikiri Asa?) or Decapitator Asa (人斬り朝 Hitokiri Asa?).
In the clan, those who are given the name Yamada Asaemon (山田浅エ門?) are task with testing new swords on corpses to determine their value and executing convicted criminals through the method of decapitation. When performing executions, the Yamada clan's doctrine is that the condemned should not feel any pain or emotions coming from their swords and that they must try to hone their skills to perform an ideal cut that falls within that category.
Since they are a clan of rōnin who do not technically serve the shogun as public servants, despite being under the jurisdiction of the shogunate's blade magistrate, the Yamada clan are prohibited from receiving fiefdom, rice income, or any form of benefits from the government. To make ends meet, the Yamada clan provide additional services other than sword testing and executions.
Although sword wielding and executing is their main focus, the clan also manufactures medicine from the corpses they examine, such as producing Asayama Pills. According to Fuchi, this is the greatest source of income for the clan. The Yamada clan also sell severed pinky fingers of corpses to women who are hesitant to perform an actual "pinky promise"; the custom being that the woman cuts off her own little finger and gives it to her lover as a sign of affection, with the goal also being to engage in fornication.
The Yamada clan has a ranking system for potential candidates for the next head of the clan. The rankings are determined by one's suitability to become the next head, such as high knowledge in a certain field, and partially based on their level of skill with the Tameshi Ittō-ryū. The ranking goes from 1st to 12th, with the 1st rank being the most qualified.
In some circumstances, the ranking does not necessarily define the strength of the Asaemon. In terms of qualifications for a rank, an Asaemon's fighting ability is looked at as being the least important; meaning that a lower rank Asaemon could be seen as being stronger than the ones above them. For example, despite being ranked below Eizen, the highest ranked Asaemon, Shugen was recognized as the clan's strongest member, having possessed superior knowledge in swordsmanship than any member. Due to possessing the qualities of a leader that overshadowed his peers, Eizen was given the 1st rank but was noted to have poor prowess in combat. In Jikka's case, a ranked Asaemon that is ill-mannered, he was ranked above Shion due to his special intuition that allowed him to execute the condemned with a bamboo sword. Despite the fact that Yamada Asaemon women are viewed as being unfavorable because of their gender, they are still eligible to gain a ranking if a higher ranked Asaemon vouches for their position. Though Sagiri was given the lowest rank within the hierarchy, Senta, Genji, and Shugen recognized her skills with a sword as being unmatched.
Unranked Asaemon (段位無浅エ門 Danina Asaemon?) are Yamada Asaemon who do not have a ranking due to their lacking in certain areas. So far, Kiyomaru and Isuzu are the only known unranked Asaemon. Kiyomaru was not given a ranking due to being too young, while Isuzu was not given a ranking because of her gender. Despite being unranked they are nevertheless undoubtedly skilled as proof by the fact that they have earned their names.
|Aza Tōma *
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Abilities and Powers
|— Yamada Asaemon Sagiri.|
Each member of the Yamada clan are highly skilled with the sword and are renown for having the capabilities to cut off a person's head with one swing while only leaving a single flap of skin attached to the body, a feat which is considered difficult given how complex the human neck is. The secret behind this ability is due to the clan's knowledge of the human body, in which an Asaemon can spot the openings around the muscle, sinew and bone. Even if a person's body were to possess immense durability, an Asaemon would still be able to behead their victims by following the same principles of beheading, as proven by Sagiri who was able to cut down Rokurōta, a giant whose body was known to be impervious to blades and spears. Exceptional Yamada Asaemons can even go beyond this level of skill; Yamada Asaemon Kichiji, the clan's former leader, possesses the capabilities to cut off a person's head without their bodies being aware that they are dead for a brief moment, which leans towards the clan's ideology of an ideal cut. Members of the clan are instructed in the use of the Tameshi Ittō-ryū, which utilizes an Asaemons blade testing skills in battle.
With their knowledge of human anatomy, the members of the Yamada clan also have the medical expertise to cut open corpses and create medicine from their organs. As stated and demonstrated by Shion, the clan is also well-versed in the practice of "hiemontori" (ひえもんとり?).
The Asaemon wear kosode, which is colored white to express their sorrow for the condemned, a hakama that bears a single red band at the left gusset, a red waist cord to hold their katana, and sandals. Tied to their left collar is a bell dangling. The purpose of the bell is to console the soul of the deceased when it rings whenever the Asaemon begins to behead their victims. An Asaemon can also have their uniforms customize to better suit them.
They also have the option of wearing either a black haori aligned with stitches or a black kataginu with diamond shaped reefs on each shoulder over their uniform.
The Yamada Clan are based off of the real-life line sword testers of the historical Yamada Asaemon. Up to the early 19th century, the Yamada Asaemon family served the Tokugawa Shogunate as ronin sword testers, as well as executing criminals by incorporating Tameshigiri. The Yamada Clan also reference the nickname of Yamada Asaemon (山田 朝右衞門 Yamada Asaemon?), the protagonist of Samurai Executioner. Yamada Asaemon was a ronin who was responsible for testing new swords for the shogun and was known as "Neck-Chopper Asa".
- According to the side story, the technique in which the Asaemon decapitates a victims head leaving only a single flap of skin attached to the body is called Embraced Head (抱き首 Daki Kubi?). Another technique was given called Two Trunks (ニつ胴 Nitsudō?) where the Asaemon cuts the bodies of two corpses stack together in half.
- According to Sagiri, the Yamada clan are well-versed in the art of poetry. The reason for this is because the condemned would often recite their own poems before they are executed, which led to the Third Head of the Yamada Clan to decree that poetry be included in the clan's training as a way of showing sympathy since they too are eventually subjected to death.
- In Tōma's opinion, despite not receiving benefits from the government, the Yamada clan have more money than one would expect due to the additional sources of income.
- Shion and Jikka are the only known Asaemon to not wear their funerary bells tied to their collars. The reason for Shion's being that the noise interfered with his sensory perception.
- Shugen is the only Asaemon to not wear a white robe and hakama. Up until Chapter 56, Shugen initially wore the standard white robe of an Asaemon but was later redesigned to wearing a black robe. This suggests that this adds to Shugen's hatred towards criminals since the white robe is meant to symbolize the Yamada Asaemon's sorrow for criminals as they execute them.