Wa was an island nation in Kara-Tur.[3][4][5]

Geography[edit | edit source]

Wa and neighboring Kozakura occupied a chain of of islands that broke off from the mountainous peninsula east of the Ama Basin.[6] Wa was made up of several islands. The largest and most populated island was known as Tsukishima, composed of towering but extinct volcanoes and fertile lowlands. Uwaji, the capital, sat on the east coast. Shidekima, the second largest island, was dominated by vast dry plains, which was mostly unsuitable for farming. To the north of Tsukishima were the islands of Paikai and Machukara, which were little populated. Paikai comprised a cluster of islands covered with rugged mountains and stretches of gravel and volcanic ash. Machukara was a land of dense uncharted forests and was the northernmost region of Wa.[5]

The rest of Wa was known as the Outer Isles, comprising dozens of charted and hundreds of uncharted islands. Charted islands included 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.[5]

Climate[edit | edit source]

The ocean currents of the Celestial Sea were relatively warm, which led to mild temperatures on the islands of Wa.[6]

Government[edit | edit source]

Wa was a feudal military dictatorship with an honorary emperor who held little power. Real power was in the hands of the shogun, the supreme military leader, who ruled over a group of daimyo. Each daimyo, in turn, controlled a fiefdom, and they had ultimate control over the laws of their fiefs and over the people living there. The shogun had the power to give or remove land and the power to establish or expel daimyos from power but rarely became involved in such matters unless to protect the power of the shogun's family. In turn, the daimyos were sworn to provide soldiers for the shogun's army.[3]

The shogun of Wa was always chosen from the Hidetomi clan.[3][note 1]

The laws in the nation of Wa were far more rigid than those found in neighboring Kozakura,[3] and the social institutions were more complex.[4] Ethically and religiously, the two nations were very similar in outlook.[4]

Wa maintained a rigid borders and strictly controlled travel into and out of the country.[3]

Trade[edit | edit source]

In Wa Year 1790 (1372 DR), Wa exported spices that made their way all the way to Faerûn. The goods came first to Shou Lung and were then carried overland along the Golden Way, which crossed through the Endless Wastes, Rashemen, and Thesk to reach the Inner Sea at Telflamm.[2]

Society[edit | edit source]

Classes[edit | edit source]

The role of the samurai was greatly praised in the nation of Wa, more so than in many other Kara-Turran lands. Every daimyo possessed a house of loyal samurai who were paid in rice.[3]

Other social classes in Wa included the merchants, the craftsmen, and the peasants.[3][4] Members of different social classes did not mix and were even housed within different wards of Wa cities.[3]

Lords[edit | edit source]

The samurai and daimyo were members of the class of lords.[4][7] As would be expected, they were at the top of the social hierarchy. However, while this meant that they had the most privileges in society, it did not mean that they had the most freedom. With their great privilege came a great responsibility to follow society's restrictions.[7]

The lowest-ranking samurai were known as bushi and were in service to other samurai, who were in turn beholden to still higher-ranking samurai. Finally, all samurai held their daimyo as lord, and the daimyo all served the shogun at the top of the hierarchy.[7]

Each lord received a living stipend to match his rank, typically measured in a number of koku of rice. None of the feudal lords of Wa grew their own crops or crafted goods. This was for the lower classes to do.[7]

The stipend was essentially payment for military service. During long times of peace, a lord might never have to lead a group of warriors; nevertheless, the stipend was still paid. Idleness among the samurai often led to trouble, as some samurai made poor life decisions as an escape from boredom. Sometimes, such decisions would result in a class change to that of merchant. Such a move in status was not without cost, as it was looked upon as a shameful thing to do, and so it was almost unheard of for a samurai to choose to become a merchant voluntarily; it was a move made out of financial necessity more often than not.[7]

Peasants[edit | edit source]

Perhaps surprisingly, peasants, or farmers, were considered the second highest class of which to be a part. This was because of a societal understanding of the importance of food production. Farmers were highly respected in Wa, because they provided the rice, fish, and vegetables that kept everyone in the nation alive.[7]

Nevertheless, the respect given farmers did not show itself financially; farmers were the poorest of the "commoner classes". Farmers could trust, however, that their lords would protect them in preference to the other "lower" classes, both legally in matters of justice and with military might against banditry.[7]

A productive lead farmer of a village was often promoted by a lord to become a lesser samurai, emphasizing the honor given to this class.[7]

Craftsmen[edit | edit source]

Craftsmen were the next class of society, granted less respect than farmers but more than merchants, since they produced useful and beautiful objects for society. The true status of a craftsmen depended on the skill and quality of the work. Particularly skilled artisans were "collected" by lords of influence and were supported by them financially and through favors, yet rarely were they ever promoted to another class, for to do so would result in the loss of one-of-a-kind art from uniquely skilled craftsmen. Like farmers, craftsmen and artisans swore fealty to a lord.[7]

Merchants[edit | edit source]

The lowest of the four classes were the merchants, because they did not produce anything for society directly; they only moved produce and items. Despite their low social standing, especially after the unification of Wa and the growth of the cities, the merchants, as a whole, began to grow more wealthy, and their role in society too became more important. Their wealth also permitted them to make loans to those of higher classes, providing a means for them to wield a form of power over even samurai and daimyo, who might me in their debt. Such a power play might backfire, however, for a samurai technically had the authority to refuse to pay a merchant. The merchant had no legal claim against such a dishonorable lord.[7]

Under extreme circumstances, a merchant sometimes grew so wealthy and powerful to be granted the title of a samurai.[7]

Outcasts[edit | edit source]

There was a remaining group of people in Wa so ignored as to not even be considered a true class—these were the eta, the outcasts. The eta received nothing but disdain from most people in Wa and were the poorest of the poor. The status of eta was passed down from parents to children.[7]

Eta performed the dirty and unwanted jobs in society, such roles as butchers, executioners, undertakers, or tanners. All of these examples were considered especially undesirable because blood and death were each considered unclean.[7]

One of the only means for an eta to improve status was to join a yakuza gang as a means of establishing a new "family". Some eta tried to move to a new province and create a false identity for themselves. Finally and rarely, an eta might find a means to become exceptionally wealthy and essentially buy higher status.[7]

Language[edit | edit source]

The people of Wa and Kozakura spoke essentially the same language but different dialects.[4] The dialect of Wa was known as Wa-an,[citation needed] and was about 65% comprehensible by speakers of the Kozakuran dialect.[4]

Architecture[edit | edit source]

Most buildings in Wa were constructed from clay or wood; stone was avoided because of the ever-present threat of earthquakes. Structures were erected atop wooden beams or posts, elevated off the ground, to avoid damage from flooding. Walls were usually very thin, sometimes even made of heavy paper. Wooden walls sometimes had intricately carved nooks called tokonoma for displaying artistic ornamentation. The floors were often covered with woven tatami mats. More expensive structures had tiled roofs with ridges that reached to the corners of the building. These were often supported by a central pole. Narrow elevated walkways often extended from buildings to connect to gardens or other structures.[8]

Peasants often lived in buildings called minka. These were single-story structures divided into multiple rooms. These houses often contained a non-elevated portion where the floor was simply the dirt below; this was called the doma. The rooms were typically placed around the doma and divided off with shoji screens. The shoji sometimes served as decorations, as did woodblock prints. The outside yards often included beautiful gardens.[8]

A typical multi-storied castle.

The castles of the lords were often as tall as six stories and were composed of separate structures. The central structure, or donjon, was usually surrounded by four smaller buildings, all of which were connected by corridors, called watariyagura, topped with turrets, called yagura. A series of high, stone, gated walls, moats, and compounds of further buildings surrounded the central part of the castle in layers, assuring that conquering the donjon was a near impossible feat.[8]

Wanese cities were similarly built in walled layers. The high walls divided the city into several districts. To cross from one ditrict into another, one had to pass through gaurded gates. The streets were typically narrow and crowded and packed with merchants selling their wares. Samurai mansions and compounds were found within the cities as well, but these complexes, while impressive in their own rights, were not as large nor as magnificent as the castles of the daimyos who ruled from province head cities.[8]

Inhabitants[edit | edit source]

The people living on Wa were ethnically distinct from those living on the mainland of Kara-Tur.[6]

History[edit | edit source]

Much of the history of the nation of Wa was shared with Kozakura.[4]

The people of Wa used their own calendar, which officially began with the ascension of the first Goshukara emperor in Year of Harbor's Lights, −417 DR. Years and history before that time were recorded by numbered years within eras. Only a few of the names of the these eras have been recorded by scholars of Wa history, including the eras of Chisho, Koyo, and Kuni.[9]

Mythological Eras[edit | edit source]

The history of Wa was said to have begun in the first year of Chisho with the presentation of the Sacred Wand and the Moonlight Arrow to Kochi, Master of the Peach Tree, the first emperor of Wa, from the Spirit of Wa. These sacred items became the emblems of the nation and allowed Kochi to rule over the entire island.[9]

Emperor Kochi supposedly lived and reigned until this 412th year as ruler. Upon his death, a great war erupted, called the War of the Spirits, a civil war. The spirits of the land fought against the humans. The spirit folk of Wa were split; half of them joined with the spirits of the land, while the other half allied with the humans. The korobokuru began the war as a neutral party but later turned to join the spirits. Hengeyokai happily fought for both sides of the epic conflict. The War of the Spirits divided the island once unified under Kochi into numerous warring, petty clans.[9]

The era of Koyo was started with the ascension of Emperor Kasada to finally unite the nation again. Kasada obtained the Moonlight Arrow from the Spirit of Yakamashi Mountain and was supported by the korobokuru of the south against those of the north. The second emperor of Wa refused to name the era after himself out of superstitious fear, calling it the era of Koyo instead.[9]

The final named era of the time predating the Goshukaras was called the era of Kuni. It was perhaps most known as the time of the legendary wandering shukenja Samon, who was remembered for having accidentally married a great serpent in the era's 23rd year, during the reign of Emperor Nagazane. Wa was still ruled by the Kasada dynasty of Koyo during this time.[9][note 2]

Appendix[edit | edit source]

Background[edit | edit source]

Like Kozakura, Wa is modeled after Japan, but during the Tokugawa Period.[4][10] Additionally, "Wa" is the oldest recorded name for Japan.

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. Oriental Adventures, the sourcebook that introduced Wa, claimed that the shogun was always chosen from the Hidetomi clan. However, all other sourcebooks about Wa go into detail about the shogun coming from the Matasuuri clan, whose founder unified the nation. Perhaps the Hidetomi clan was the family of the shogun before the time of unification or perhaps this is simply an oversight or a retcon.
  2. The events of Samon's unfortunate marriage are said in Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms to have occurred nearly 2,000 years before the current time. The current time for that sourcebook is Wa year 1777, placing the era of Kuni roughly two centuries before the beginning of the Wa calendar.

Appearances[edit | edit source]

Map Gallery[edit | edit source]

Further Reading[edit | edit source]

External Links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), pp. 161–162. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 230. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 Gary Gygax, David Cook, and François Marcela-Froideval (1985). Oriental Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 137. ISBN 0-8803-8099-3.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 David "Zeb" Cook (1987). Blood of the Yakuza. (TSR, Inc), p. 2. ISBN 0-88038-401-8.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), pp. 157–158. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Gary Gygax, David Cook, and François Marcela-Froideval (1985). Oriental Adventures. (TSR, Inc), p. 136. ISBN 0-8803-8099-3.
  7. 7.00 7.01 7.02 7.03 7.04 7.05 7.06 7.07 7.08 7.09 7.10 7.11 7.12 7.13 David "Zeb" Cook (1987). Blood of the Yakuza. (TSR, Inc), p. 3. ISBN 0-88038-401-8.
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 8.3 Mike Pondsmith, Jay Batista, Rick Swan, John Nephew, Deborah Christian (1988). Kara-Tur: The Eastern Realms (Volume II). (TSR, Inc), p. 176. ISBN 0-88038-608-8.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 David "Zeb" Cook (1987). Blood of the Yakuza. (TSR, Inc), pp. 4–6. ISBN 0-88038-401-8.
  10. Jim Bambra (June 1988). “Role-playing Reviews”. In Roger E. Moore ed. Dragon #134 (TSR, Inc.), p. 77.
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