* “J-WOTD” = “Japanese Word of the Day”
Literally gyaku means opposite and, generally, tama means ball. However, despite it becoming a common enough term over the last decade or so, it is not easy to see just how gyakutama took on its meaning of “to marry a wealthy woman.”
Tama is short for the phrase tama no koshi ni noru （玉の輿に乗る、to marry a wealthy man). Of old tama also meant gemstone or a thing of beauty and it is that connotation that is being used here. Koshi ni noru means to ride in a palanquin (a covered litter for one passenger). These can often been seen in the samurai dramas where someone of importance is being carried in a koshi. Thus, the phrase literally means “to ride in a beautiful palanquin.”
As only people of the upper class could ride in a beautiful koshi, it took on the meaning of a women marrying well. Tama no koshi is well ingrained into the lexicon and is often shortened to just tama no koshi, but the addition of gyaku and the abbreviation of the term to just tama to form gyakutama is a very modern addition. For some reason around Tokyo these days I tend to hear it much more than the original.
彼は逆玉を狙っている。(Kare ha gyakutama wo neratteiru.)
“He is aiming to marry a wealthy woman”