Times and Places

If you don’t know much about Japanese geography or history, I went and looked up some background information about the places and events in Katanagatari. And some pictures of scenery.

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Geography

Japan is currently divided into 47 regions called prefectures. These prefectures replaced the old provinces of Japan in the late 1800s.

A map of the provinces visited in Katanagatari

Here’s some miscellaneous information about the places in Katanagatari:

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Cliffs in Kyotango [source]

1. Tango is now the northern part of Kyoto Prefecture. It’s still some distance away from the city of Kyoto.

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Tottori Sand Dunes [source]

2. Inaba is now eastern Tottori Prefecture, which was one of the first places in Japan to be settled. But now now it’s the least populous prefecture. It actually does have some sand dunes too.

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Izumo Taisha [source]

3. Izumo is now part of Shimane Prefecture. It’s religiously important, with most of the Japanese creation myth taking place in or around Izumo. Also, Izumo Grand Shrine is said to be the oldest Shinto shrine.

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Kintai Bridge in Iwakuni [source]

4. Suou is now eastern Yamaguchi Prefecture. There’s a relatively high number of politicians from the prefecture, like the family of the current prime minister, Abe.

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Sengan-en, a former residence of the Shimazu clan [source]

5. Satsuma is now the western half of Kagoshima Prefecture, the more  populated half. The climate is warm and there’s a space center on the nearby island of Tanegashima.

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Asahidake, the tallest mountain in Hokkaido [source]

6. Ezo is the old name for Hokkaido, a big island in the north that Japan only developed relatively recently. Before then, Ainu people lived there. The weather is cooler and the wildlife is different.

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Mount Koya, a temple settlement [source]

7. Tosa is on another island called Shikoku. There’s a 1200 km long pilgrimage in Shikoku that visits 88 Buddhist temples associated with a monk called Kuukai.

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Shinjuku Gyoen [source]

8. Edo is now Tokyo, a very big city you’ve probably heard of.

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A random town in Yamagata [source]

9. Dewa got split into Yamagata and Akita Prefecture, which are mainly known for agriculture. There’s an actual town called Tendou that makes shogi pieces.

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Lake Towada [source]

10. Mutsu, also known as Oushuu, was a fairly big province that’s been split into a few prefectures. The whole area was hit by the 2011 Tohoku earthquake, which caused a lot of damage.

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Iga Ueno Castle [source]

11. Iga is now part of Mie prefecture. It’s mountainous and known for having ninja.

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Nagoya Castle [source]

12. Nagoya, Japan’s third biggest city is in Aichi Prefecture, which contains Owari Province. It’s where the three warlords who unified Japan in the Sengoku Period: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu were based in. Now it’s known mostly for industry.

History

Katanagatari’s alternate history is pretty similar to Japan’s actual history. For most of its history, Japan had a feudal system where the emperor is technically at the top, but the actual power is held by the shogun, a military leader. There are also lords called daimyo who rule over each province and are loyal to the shogun. All of these positions are hereditary.

Timeline

  • (1467-1603) The Sengoku (Warring States) Period– various daimyo fight for control over the country.
  • (1590) Toyotomi’s rule- Near the end of the Sengoku Period, Toyotomi Hideyoshi gains control over the country (ruling as a regent instead of a shogun).
  • (1588) Sword Hunt (katanagari)– Toyotomi forbids commoners from owning weapons and orders their confiscation.
  • (1598) Toyotomi dies. (But not before trying to invade Korea as part of a plan to conquer China.)
  • (1600-1868) Tokugawa/Edo period- Tokugawa Ieyasu seizes power and becomes shogun, moving the capital to Edo (now Tokyo). The country is very peaceful and isolationist.
  • (1800-1817) Tadataka Inou travels across the country to make the first modern map of Japan. (He died partway, but his team completed it.)
  • (1853) Black Ships- U.S. Commodore Matthew Perry arrives with gunships and forces Japan to open itself to Western trade.
  • (1868-1912) Meiji Period- After dissatisfied nobles start a civil war, Japan becomes a constitutional monarchy centered around the emperor, and goes through reforms to become more Western and industrialized.

Katanagatari has similar events in its history, but there’s Shogun Kyuu instead of Toyotomi, Shogun Yanari instead of Shogun Tokugawa, and a capitol in Owari instead of Edo. Assuming its historical events happened with the same timing, Katanagatari takes place in the mid 1700s.

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