Both in their demeanor and traditions, the Gaki oppose the Chinese authority of the Quincunx, instead determined to preserve their own way of unlife. They see themselves as the custodians of the delicate web of dragon lines and Chi reservoirs that give life to this chain of islands, but are faced with the growing urbanization and the massive amounts of Tainted Chi that spill forth from Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Originating from the remnants of the Azure Dragon Court of the Fourth Age and the elder Kuei-jin who managed to avoid the foreign occupation, the Gaki are organized into clans, also called Uji. Fiercely independent, the Gaki nonetheless follow the same Dharmas as their Chinese brethren and adhere to the Great Principle.
After the collapse of the August Courts, the Gaki enjoyed a long period of isolation, cultivating the chi reservoirs of Japan. It was only when the westerners forced Japan to begin to trade with them in 1853, that the Gaki were forced to acknowledge the outside world again. Many of the younger Wan Kuei adapted quite well and began to challenge their traditional Ancestors, creating a rift between the generations that continues to divide the Gaki and makes them vulnerable to influences from the Quincunx.
During World War II, the Gaki followed the Japanese conquests, claiming many dragon nests from them until their supply lines were disrupted in 1945, when the first nuclear bomb hit Hiroshima. Today, both sides have still not fully reconciled, but have arranged a truce that allows them to cooperate, mainly during operations like the Great Leap Outward.
- Main article: Clans of the Sun
The gaki fall into extended "families" or "Houses" called uji. Each uji may claim several cities as their territory, though small uji are restricted to a single urban area. This structure imitates the mortal aristocratic clans, like the Fujiwara or Minamoto, who dominate Japan for much of its history. Of course these vampiric "families" grow only through adoption.
A senior gaki called a daimyo heads each uji, and regardless of Dharma, gaki must pledge fealty to their daimyo and obey him as parent, lord and commanding officer. Although the daimyo are old and powerful creatures, comparable to ancestors, they are not bodhisattvas, who actually founded several uji.
New Kuei-jin traditionally join whatever uji claims the region where they took the Second Breath, though the tradition is not absolute since some uji pursue specializations leading them to recruit beyond their domains. Most uji permit new gaki to emigrate, especially if a hin finds herself drawn to a Dharma not widely popular in his family. Once a gaki swears fealty to an uji, however, she must obtain the daimyo’s permission to emigrate. Kuei-jin defecting without permission incur decades or centuries of hostility from their former House.
The two mightiest and oldest uji are Bishamon (often mistakenly translated as "Bushi") and Genji, which claim between them more than half of Japan’s Kuei-jin (including allied houses). Exactly which uji aligns with whom shifts from decade to decade, making a complete list of uji impossible. Genji and Bishamon both fathered sub-families with their own daimyo, while uji may merge or dissolve into a larger clan grouping. A particular group of vampires may be an independent but allied uji, a vassal clan or merely a collection of wu within Bishamon or Genji. Some gaki say Japan has six or seven Houses; others list more than two dozen.
Kyoto, Osaka and Edo/Tokyo are the three exceptions to this rule. By 1840, all three are already enormous, large enough for multiple wu to find sustenance. More importantly, Kyoto holds the Imperial Court and Edo is the Shogunate’s capital: any uji claiming exclusive domain over such centers of power immediately provoke an alliance of all other uji against them. Osaka, Japan’s most mercantile city, has a reputation for doing things its own way, while Edo begins the century under Bishamon dominance. By 1900, Bishamon, Genji, and a few independent uji claim domains in each of the three great cities, while Tokyo also holds a few coteries of Western Cainites as well.
Before the release of Kindred of the East, the Gaki were considered an exotic bloodline of Cainites who used the Discipline of Rift. These older depictions reflect the incomplete picture Western Kindred have of their Asian brethren.
Gaki is a word that means "shorty" in Japanese and is often employed as an insult, a fact that amuses most foreign Kuei-jin. However, the Gaki themselves note that the word also means "Demon" or "Ghost" in traditional folklore.