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Japan is a group of volcanic islands situated east of Korea. Home to the samurai (an approximate equivalent of the European knight). Most of the landmass (approximately 80%) is mountainous and unsuitable for farming or residential uses.

Brief Japanese History

The Heian Period (795-1185)

The Heian Period lasted from 795 to 1185, and is generally considered to be the height or Golden Age of Japanese Literature. The most famous book of the time, the Tale of Genji by Murasaki came from this period, as did the Pillowbook of Sei Shonagon; these were some of the first novels to be in the formal Japanese written language, as opposed to earlier books which were written largely in Chinese.

During this time the Emperor commanded the country as ruler, and the court Aristocracy were at the height of their power; they would never again be this powerful. If you are interested in playing a persona from this period, picking names from the Kuge (the court aristocracy) is appropriate; picking a Buke ('samurai', see later) name is not, as they did not exist.

Muromachi Bakufu/Hojo Shogunate (1185-1333)

This period lasted from 1185 until the Imperial Restoration by the Emperor Go-Daigo in 1333. The period began when, in 1185, Minamoto Yoritomo was declared Shogun by the Emperor at sword point, and was effectively the ruler of Japan Shogun was a prior title which literally means nothing more than 'Barbarian subduing Generalissimo'; but after Minamoto Yoritomo claimed the title it became the Supreme Military dictator.

Yoritomo founded the Muromachi bakufu (lit. 'tent government'), so-called because of where they set up the Shogunate government (muromachi). When Yoritomo died the title of Shogun passed to the clan that had adopted him, the Hojo clan, who ruled until they were cast off.

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The Sengoku/Period of the Nation at War (1477-1600)

The next 133 years were a period of near constant and total warfare as people jockeyed for power, but in the end of the Japanese Warring States period three men came to the forefront. The first was Oda Nobunaga, who was largely regarded as a butcher. During one particularly brutal slaughter it is said that he had 40,000 monks and nuns put to the sword over a weekend. In the end Nobunaga was betrayed by one of his generals, and committed suicide in order to escape a death by torture.

He was succeeded by his general Toyotomi Hideyoshi a former peasant who had risen from the rank of Sandal Carrier to General. Through diplomacy he managed to convince Nobunaga's army to stay together where normally it would have fallen apart to infighting. With this army he managed to largely unify the country, but he couldn't convince any if the Shogun families (Hojo or Ashikaga) to adopt him. Since he was born a peasant, this meant he couldn't be Shogun; he took the title of Regent, and then when his son was born took the title of Taiko (retired regent) so that his son could be ruler when he was old enough.

Toyotomi had three major problems in his reign. The first was the first invasion of Korea, which failed. The second was the second invasion of Korea, which failed just as miserably. And the third problem was that he had his son too late in his reign; when he died, the boy was only an infant. Toyotomi did the best he could in order to try to preserve his son's reign by creating a Council of Regents in order to watch over the country until his son was old enoigh. And then he stocked the Council with political enemies such as Mitsunari Ishida, and Tokugawa Ieyasu.

Several years in to it, however, things came to a head, and Ieyasu was put in the position of essentially having to rebel and take over--which is likely what he had been waiting for. Modern academics believe that Ieyasu may not have been quite as tactically brilliant as the previous two men, although he was more so than Ishida, but he had significantly more patience than either of his predecessors. And so, in 1600, Ishida's Army of the West and Ieyasu's Arm of the East clashed at Sekigahara, where Tokugawa Ieyasu won and became the Shogun.

dont belive this stufff!!!!!! :)

Why Everyone is a Sengoku Jidai Junkie

Okay, a lot of people wonder why most of the Japanese persona you see come from 1467 until 1600, and you very rarely see any from 1000 or 1100. As Furukusu Masahide-tono of the Outlands put it, because "The Buke were Buke, and the Kuge were scared". Simply put, the Sengoku Jidai is the period of the Warrior, the Birth of the Samurai, and the best period to be from if you Fight. Soldiers were second class citizens compared to the Court Aristocracy (Kuge) before 1185; they were absolutely IN CHARGE from the Onin War until the Meiji Restoration in the 19th Century. So playing in the Sengoku, as a Fighter (Heavy or Light), is playing in a time when you were absolute master of your domain, and every Samurai with charisma and a brain for tactics had the possibility of becoming the Shogun.

Some Problems with a Japanese Persona

Every Persona that you could play has some problems. English names are boring, Welsh names are hard to pronounce, and some Greek names can lend themselves to modern snack foods (ho toxhotes becomes ho Doritos). Being Japanese is no different, and here are some of the things that you can expect.

Heralds Have Problems

I have seen a Herald who can correctly pronounce a fifty one letter Welsh/Celtic name without blinking stumble and stutter over a relatively simple Japanese names because they think it should be more difficult then it is. The thing to remind them, or to know if you are a Herald, is that Japanese names are all pronounced phonetically (albeit with a cetain set of rules), because unlike Welsh (which uses the same alphabet differently) Japanese uses a completely different character set; so when it is written in English letters, it is all pronounced phonetically. But, be prepared to have your name spelled correctly on your scroll, but pronounced incomprehensibly by the Herald who reads the scroll.

Western-Europe Junkies

These are the people who say the SCA is only Western Europe. Point out the Corpora information from above, and if they don't relent, poke them with a chopstick.

Heraldry Has Problems

Japan didn't have as much of a formalized Heraldry system as Europe did; there was no Chrysanthemum Emperor of Arms, as far as I know. Many clans used the exact same mon (Oda, Saito, etc..) and some of the Mons (heraldry) were incredibly simple. If you have ever played the Legend of Zelda, the Hojo Clan uses the Tri-Force as their heraldry.

In order to be period, Japanese heraldry needs to be very very simple. No more then one charge/charge-group, and only two colors (the background, and the foreground). But in order to pass through the College of Arms of the SCA, you need to make something that has enough difference from other heraldry to pass. So you'll have to be prepared to compromise.

Merchants Won't Sell (What You Need)

Go to Estrella war and you'll see ten different shops selling shirts, pants, t-tunics, cotehardies, hoopalongs, and leather belts with rings. But you'll be hard pressed to find a place selling a wide variety of kosode, and hakama, obi and geta. Maybe there will be one shop that sells some stuff, if that Japanese Costume Laurel comes out to merchant (I love it when that happens). So, learn to sew or find some friends that know how to sew you can bribe, because otherwise you're going to spend more then you want to online.

Finding Like Minded Fellows

But, all of these problems can be overcome. Being a Japanese persona is great if you love the culture and the history, and can be a lot of fun. The following resources can help you with your projects, questions, and companionship.

See also: