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Wa is an island nation made up of several islands.
The largest island and most populated island of Wa is known as Tsukishima composed of towering but extinct volcanoes and fertile lowlands. Uwaji the capital, is located on the east coast. The second largest island is knows as Shidekima. Shidekima is dominated by vast dry plains, making it mostly unsuitable for farming. To the north of Tsukishima lie the islands of Paikai and Machukara, and like Shidekima are sparsely populated. Paikai comprises of a cluster of islands covered with rugged mountains and stretches of volcanic ash. Machukara is a land of dense unchartered forests and is the northern most region of Wa.
The rest of Wa is known as the Outer Isles comprising dozens of charted and hundreds of uncharted islands. Charted islands include The Isle of Devils, The Isle of One Thousand Pines, The Isle of the Gloomy Temple, The Isle of the Black Tree, The Isle of No Mosquitoes, The Isle of Immortality, The Isle of the Long Legged and Long Armed, The Isle of Gargantuas, The Isle of Poison and the Isle of Pearls.
After centuries of war, Wa has settled into an era of peace that has lasted longer than in any other nation of Kara-Tur. Peace brought a renewed interest in education and the arts, producing a flourishing culture and the promise of a secure future.
But change has not come without a price. The same rigid social system which ensures domestic tranquility borders on tyranny and oppression for most. Distinct social classes are inflexibly enforced, travel is closely monitored, even religion is regulated by the state. Prosperity is concentrated among the ruling military, condemning a staggering number of commoners to lives of hardship and poverty.
Regardless of their social status, the citizens of Wa are united by their fierce national pride and deep distrust of foreigners. Contact with the rest of the world is limited, and few details of Wa are known outside its borders.
Bushi are warriors who fought proudly and bravely during Wa's bloody centuries of war, but in the current era of peace, they are more likely to be found working the rice fields or serving on the administrative boards of city government.
Bushi have had difficulty adjusting to modern Wa. Men of action are often disoriented in times of peace, but where the samurai have adapted by becoming governors and scholars, many bushi are adrift and useless.
A sharp rift divides the ranks of the bushi, pitting the young against the old. Young bushi, strangers to times of war, have contented themselves with administrative positions in castle towns. Preferring academics to military discipline, they are considered cowards by the old bushi.
With only military skills to offer, many of the old ranks have nothing to do but reminisce about past glories. While some have found work as laborers and guards, others have become mercenaries, vagabonds, and bandits, some even taking up with the ruthless yakuza gangs in the north. The assimilation of the old guard bushi into mainstream society is a problem that has yet to be adequately addressed by the nation's rulers. The possibility of a violent revolt by these sad, frustrated old soldiers should not be taken lightly.
Kabukimono are loosely organized fraternal groups of soldiers. Their colorful costumes and proud songs highlight the parades of many holidays.
The kabukimono groups typify the problems of having too many military men with too much time on their hands. At best, their juvenile needs for excitement are merely annoying; drunken kabukimono may throw stones through shop windows, but they usually pass out in the street before they can do any real damage. But at their worst, kabukimono can be dangerous. They have been known to assault women, set fire to eta residences, and engage in violent street fights which result in death for participants and bystanders alike.
Kabukimono are easily recognized by their gaudy costumes and long hair; bushy sidewhiskers are considered a symbol of masculinity. They carry absurdly long swords and prefer pretentious names such as Band of the Cods and Soldiers of Iron.
The machi-yakko are youth gangs whose members are the sons of shopkeepers and merchants. Originally organized for social functions, they are becoming increasingly involved in political activities. The machi-yakko were organized in response to the increasing reports of violence and terrorism from the kabukimono, but no major clashes have occurred. To complicate matters, the kabukimono are officially recognized and sanctioned by the government, but the machi-yakko are not.
The machi-yakko are convinced the government has no interest in protecting commoners from the kubukimono, and they have vowed to stand up to them. A serious altercation seems inevitable.
Ronin are displaced samurai who have no masters. Many have abandoned the military to become farmers and craftsmen.
The large number of ronin in Wa is due to the shogunate's decision to reduce the number of fiefs and reorganize the administration; too many strong rulers was thought to be a threat to the nation's stability.
With no master to serve, these former samurai warriors were faced with finding a place in a society that no longer had a use for them. Many drifted to the countryside where they quietly became farmers. The more ambitious became traders and merchants. Others, ashamed of their status, relocated to a different part of the country and became anonymous laborers.
Many ronin feel betrayed and forgotten. The shogunate is well aware of their discontent and is mindful of an uprising. In fact, there have been two organized ronin rebellions within the last century. The first occurred in 1755 when a group of militant ronin sided with a radical Chantea cult in their siege of Juzimura Castle. The siege was short-lived, and all of the rebels were executed. The second occurred in 1760 when a ronin plot to assassinate the shogun was uncovered in Iiso. The assassins were intercepted and executed, but the proximity of the attack prompted the shogunate to monitor the activities of the ronin more closely.
Still, ronin are generally respected by the common people of Wa for their integrity and sense of duty. The ronin character is illustrated by an incident which occurred in Uwaji about a century ago. A minor lord named Hayo Nuraiyi was visiting a superior officer on the grounds of Uwaji Castle. The officer insulted Hayo's parents and Hayo, rightfully offended, drew his sword and wounded him. Although the officer was clearly in the wrong, drawing a sword within the castle grounds is an offense punishable by death. The authorities seized Hayo's fief and ordered him to commit seppuku (suicide). Hayo's 33 retainers lost their status and became ronin.
The ronin waited patiently for four years, then broke into the home of the officer and killed him and all his samurai, thus avenging the honor of their former master, even though the action ensured their own deaths. The ronin gave themselves up to the officials and were sentenced to seppuku. Their selfless loyalty made them national heroes, and today, a small temple in their honor is one of the most revered memorials in Uwaji.
As explained in Oriental Adventures, ronin are treated as samurai in all respects except those relating to property and attracting fighting men. Many of the ronin of Wa, however, have suffered their loss in status through no fault of their own. Rather than a result of dishonorable acts, these ronin are merely victims of administrative reorganization. All ronin, regardless of how their status was achieved, may regain full samurai status by the decree of a daimyo.
These noble warriors comprise the ruling class of Wa. In this new era of peace, the samurai have put the ways of war behind them to concentrate on learning and lawmaking.
The samurai of Wa have undergone a profound change in the last few centuries. Once fierce, uncultured men of action, they have become polished, educated administrators. Samurai formerly concentrated on military training to the exclusion of everything else. They now divide their training between military studies and academic subjects.
One aspect of the samurai personality that has not changed is their devotion to honor. Samurai cherish honor above all else, including their own lives. Disgraced samurai will voluntarily forfeit their status to become ronin. Especially dedicated samurai may respond to extreme disgrace with seppuku.
From the most powerful samurai to the lowliest laborer, the people of Wa are convinced that they are the favorites of the gods and are hence superior to the people of all other nations. To a large extent, this attitude is justified. No other country can boast Wa's long record of peace. Nowhere do citizens hold education and culture in higher regard. And nowhere, of course, are the citizens more arrogant...
The people of Wa are unerringly polite, but they have a deep mistrust of strangers. As it has been ingrained from an early age that outsiders were responsible for the black eras of Wa history, they are especially suspicious of foreigners, sometimes outright hostile. Strangers in Wa, particularly those who obviously look it, would do well to keep to themselves.
If an outsider happens to make friends with a Wa citizen, he will likely find the friendship to be a frustrating one. The people of Wa are notoriously reluctant to express their feelings; a soldier impaled on a spear will resist displaying his agony to his dying breath. They reserve their deepest feelings for their families, and their love of children is especially profound. A father may allow a smile to crease his face and even laugh out loud when playing with his baby. They are meticulous about their hygiene, sometimes obsessively so. Visitors to Wa have joked that the residents wash themselves before entering a stream to bathe. Families of all classes take great pride in their possessions and homes; it is rare to find so much as a horse stable that isn't spotless.
Social Order Edit
The class system of Wa is rigid and strictly observed. Although the system is not specifically enforced by law, each group enjoys privileges and greater status than those below it. Since successive generations of the same family are generally locked into the same class, a child's status is determined at birth. A village may have as many as 100. It is rare for a citizen to achieve a status higher than the one he had at birth, but it is not unheard of, especially for those who find favor with the ruling class.
These are the members of the ruling class who exert total control over the rest of the populace. The absolute monarch is theoretically the emperor, but in practice is the shogun, with the emperor relegated to ceremonial duties and having no real power. The daimyo are samurai with authority over specific regions or provinces. Other members of this class include the counselors and administrators of the shogunate along with other principal officers of the realm.
These are the soldiers and warriors who answer directly to members of the ruling class. In the military state of Wa, shi is the highest rank a citizen of the lower classes can ever reasonably hope to attain.
Since agriculture is the backbone of the Wa economy, farmers are the highest class of workers and business-people. Fishermen are also included in this class. Interestingly, farmers are often less affluent than the merchant and artisan classes below them. However, their higher status assures them of access to military protection and preferential treatment in certain legal matters. Wealthy farmers have the highest status within this class, and day laborers have the lowest.
These are the artisans and craftsmen, including painters, woodworkers, weavers, authors, performers, shipbuilders, and carpenters. Preferential treatment is given to artisans who demonstrate exceptional talent in their area, but the highest status is reserved for those whose skills are military-related.
These are the merchants and shopkeepers. Their relatively low status reflects society's modest opinion of citizens who neither risk their lives for the protection of others, farm the land, nor create useful items. The most successful merchants have accumulated wealth exceeding the classes above them, sometimes including the ruling class. This inequity fuels resentment and unease, particularly with the samurai who often grudgingly turn to the merchant moneylenders when in need of a loan. Wealth determines status within this class, with the rich businessmen at the top and the poor street peddlers at the bottom.
These are Wa's outcasts, the poorest and least connected members of society. Hated and scorned by all higher classes, theirs is an existence of misery and destitution. The eta are gravediggers, fish cleaners, and animal renderers, responsible for the work no one else wants to do. Many become criminals. If an eta demonstrates exceptional skill or courage, it is possible he may rise to higher status.
Since the principal industry of Wa is farming, most of the populace is organized into farming towns and villages. A province may have hundreds of these villages, all directly answering to a daimyo who is usually headquartered in the province's largest city.
A village is comprised of a number of holdings of varying size. A village may have as many as 100 holdings or as few as 10, but a typical range is 20-50.
Here's how the holdings break down in Ishakura, an average farming village of the Juzimura province:
Holdings under 5 koku: 12 Holdings of 5-10 koku: 5 Holdings of 10-20 koku: 2 Holdings of 20 or more koku: 1 Total holdings of Ishakura: 20
Note that Ishakura has many more small holdings than large ones. This is typical of most farming villages in Wa. The holdings under 5 koku were actually quite small, seldom more than 1 or 2 tan. After taxes, there were not enough crops to live on, forcing these farmers and their families to work for larger landholders.
The ruling class has an intentional policy of tying the majority of farmers to small farms to lock them into their status. Rice, the primary crop of Wa, requires a lot of effort to grow. New plants must first be raised in special seedling beds, then planted one by one in long rows. Weeding and hoeing must be done every day until harvest time. A holding of 10 koku takes the full-time labor of four or five men, a 20 koku holding takes the labor of 10 men. Since this is more labor than a family can furnish, communities count heavily on the cooperation of neighbors to get the work done. Family members from other villages are often brought into help. Many farms employ indentured servants called genin who live in crude shacks next to the family house. In hard times, as many as 10 percent of the village population are genin.
The administrators of a village are the shoya (headmen) and the kimori (agents of the daimyo). The shoya may also have several kumigashira (headmen assistants) if appropriate to the size of the territory. Five Man Groups (also called gonin-gumi supervise the activities of five households. Only landholders can become members of five-man groups or participate in village meetings, Large landholders are referred to as hon-byakusho while smaller ones are called kosakunin. Here's how the population of Ishakura breaks down:
Shoya: 2 Kimori: 1 Farmers (also called hayakusho: 20 Parents and grandparents: 18 Boys under 15 years old: 24 Boys over 15 years old: 13 Farm workers (also called nago): 28 Genin: 11 Servants: 3 Total males: 120
Additionally, there are 108 females, including daughters, wives, and grandparents. Ishakura also has 44 horses, 21 oxen, and 178 buildings, including storehouses and stables. Goning-Gumi
Also known as the five-man group, these are representatives of five households in a village with jurisdiction over the actions of their five families. Approving marriages, seeing that taxes are collected, and preserving order are among their responsibilities.
In spite of its pretenses, the five-man group has little real power. Their elaborate plans and frequent meetings result in nothing more substantial than rules for tying up dogs and keeping the ditches clean.
In reality, the five-man group is a surveillance organization in service of the government. Since this is common knowledge, the five-man group seldom learns anything of consequence from the families it presumes to represent.
The family is the basic social unit in the villages of Wa. In addition to the nuclear members (husband, wife, and children), a village family includes relatives, workers, and servants among its members.
Here are the members of the Kamano Muiji family. Muiji is one of the headmen in the village of Utumoi in the province of Fochu.
1 headman 1 wife of headman 2 sons 2 daughters 1 wife of son 1 female servant 1 male servant 2 workers 2 wives of workers 2 daughters of workers 1 father of wife 1 mother of wife
The family also has two oxen and three horses. Their farm is valued at 50 koku.
Like the other social orders of Wa, family status is explicit and inflexible. The man of the house (the headman in the example above) is the absolute authority and requires complete submission from the rest of the household. Just below him is the oldest son.
After him, status falls off rapidly, with all other males clustered near the bottom, barely above the female family members. The sole exception is the head of the family's father-in-law, who may occasionally be consulted in matters specifically pertaining to him.
Younger siblings of the oldest son can find life to be harsh. In difficult times, these children may be forced to accept substandard food and clothing rather than deny the eldest son. Because of their extravagant lifestyles, samurai have an especially difficult time providing for extra children. Many samurai children suffer poverty within the walls of a lavish home. Some are adopted out. Others are turned into the streets to make their own way.
Women are expected to submit to their husbands and to males in general. A wife's primary function is to bear children, her secondary functions are to attend to her husband, children, and home. Wives are rarely able to initiate divorce, but husbands have no difficulty. Barrenness, disease, and laziness are sufficient grounds for divorce. If his status is sufficiently high, a husband can announce mikudari-han, a public declaration that he no longer wishes to be married. In this case, his divorce is effective immediately. In spite of their second class status, a woman's life is not necessarily one of misery. Males are taught from childhood the necessity of respecting women, and allowing harm to befall one's wife or daughter is a grave assault to the family honor. A husband who mistreats his wife may find himself the victim of her vengeful brothers.