Akudaikan (cruel bailiff) (悪代官)

Akudaikan is an emblematic expression of the bailiffs who oppressed people of the domain or committed a fraud. In the actual history, it is said that there were not so many bailiffs called 'Akudaikan' (See also Bailiffs in the Edo Period.). However, in the fictional world (period dramas), they appear as a 'stock character,' like a czar of villains. Especially in the period dramas encouraging the good and punishing the evil, they are essential roles as they always end up being punished by the main character (or his colleagues) in spite of their overpowering demeanor and tough look. And their image was stereotyped, which has been widespread and popular.

This term can be used also nowadays as a metaphor for chiefs, bureaucrats, or officers who commit a fraud or often take aggressive measures.

Historical background

Some bailiffs who were called 'Akudaikan' did exist, but, against the image that we have now, they were in fact strictly controlled, and would have to commit ritual suicide when problems occurred, and, in most cases, they were replaced immediately.

There are some reasons that bailiffs have had the 'evil' image.

Akudaikan in period dramas

In the period dramas encouraging the good and punishing the evil, someone, who shows his presence and makes viewers understand easily that he is a villain, is essential in order to emphasize the heroic feature of the main character (or his colleagues).
Certain authority or position is needed in order to 'side with the weak and crush the strong.'
Helped by the 'evil' image which has been involved since the overthrowing the Shogunate, bailiffs have often appeared as a villain.

Since there are fewer period dramas encouraging the good and punishing the evil in the early 21st century, and the situation or personal aspect of the villain side has begun to be portrayed, the appearance of the typical Akudaikan itself has decreased.

'Mr. X, you are evil indeed'

One of the typical images of Akudaikan is a line, 'You are evil indeed.'
As a stereotyped situation, when he plots together with a corrupt merchant (a freight broker in most cases) at the residence of the Akudaikan at night, he is given a bribe (such as a confectionery box full of koban [former Japanese oval gold coin]) by the corrupt merchant. Although many people associate Akudaikan with this line, this has not been really used often in period dramas. According to an actor Nobuo KAWAI, known as an Akudaikan in period dramas, this was born as an improvisation when shooting a commercial message with Kei TAGUCHI. As a result of its adoption, it gave an impact to viewers and it has been rooted.
In addition, the typical line of the corrupt merchant following this line is 'No, I'm not a match for you, sir.'

Other images of Akudaikan

His reaction varies with each drama when the main character (a noble person disguising as a common person) discloses the identity, but it mostly falls in either of the followings.

I'm - I'm very sorry...'
'The real Mr. A would not come here.'
'He is a ruffian assuming the name of Mr. A.'
'Get him!'

The latter ends up being punished with his men by the main character and his colleagues as a matter of course, and the former is also destined to be imposed a severe punishment later.

There are also genuine villains who knows the identity of the foe and tries to kill him thinking 'If I get him now…' fairly infrequently (such as a wicked roju [senior councilor] appeared in "Abarenbo Shogun").

[Original Japanese]