by Lillian Csernica on April 30, 2018
Zaibatsu means “financial clique.” When the Tokugawa Shogunate was in its last days, a few far-sighted samurai families positioned themselves to take the best advantage of the changing political and financial landscape.
With the help of key Western advisors such as Thomas Blake Glover, “the Scotsman who built Japan,” these families were the leaders in Japan’s Industrial Revolution. That some of these family names are familiar right now in the 21st Century is a testament to the success of their business strategies.
The zaibatsu form the backdrop against which my Kyoto Steampunk series take place. Just as fairies don’t like cold iron, the yokai of Japan resent the presence of steel and concrete. So much of the natural splendor of Japan has been destroyed thanks to the greed of industrialists.
Thank you for joining me during the A to Z Blog Challenge for 2018. I hope you’ve found every letter both informative and entertaining. There is so much to know about Japan, yokai, and all the historical factors at work during the Meiji Restoration. I can’t wait to write the next story!
Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, fantasy, Fiction, historical fiction, history, Japan, Kyoto, legend, Lillian Csernica, nature, steampunk, travel, Writing
by Lillian Csernica on April 28, 2018
The yokai of Japan are many and varied. They go from humorous to horrifying. Some arise from the animistic principle in Shinto. Others are born from the angry, vengeful passions of the human heart.
These are a few of the more unusual yokai.
Dodomeki, the spirit of the pickpocket or thief.
Oni-no-Nenbutsu, the Demon who chants Buddhist prayers
From Ancient Origins:
The baku, otherwise known as the ‘dream eater’, is a mythological being or spirit in Chinese and Japanese folklore which is said to devour nightmares. The baku cannot be summoned without caution, however, as ancient legends say that if the baku is not satisfied after consuming the nightmare, he may also devour one’s hopes and dreams.
This is the Kawataguruma, a tormented naked woman riding on the wheel of an ox cart that’s ablaze. If this reminds you of the wanyudo, you’re right. Apparently the Wheel Monk has a female counterpart who rolls around collecting impure souls and putting curses on people.
Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, cats, fantasy, Fiction, historical fiction, history, Japan, Kyoto, legend, Lillian Csernica, nature, steampunk, sword and sorcery, Uncategorized, Writing
by Lillian Csernica on April 27, 2018
Dr. Harrington is a member of the middle class. His father is a banker, and high finance is looked upon with great favor, but trade is still trade. The aristocrats of Great Britain are “to the manor born,” and everything about them signals that fact. In this they had a great deal in common with the strictly hierarchical society of Japan.
From Gentlemanly Capitalism and the Club by Darren L. Swanson:
Early editions of the Hiogo & Osaka News, Kobe’s first English language newspaper, often have a haughty tone about them, and it is easy to deduce that the paper saw itself as the voice of reason among the foreign community. Robert Young, the eventual owner of the paper’s successor and much superior, Kobe/Japan Chronicle, was responsible for inviting such scholarly mavericks as Lafcadio Hearn and Bertrand Russell to write for the Chronicle. He was also one of the founding members of the Kobe Regatta & Athletic Club, as well as senior member of the settlement’s International Committee.
This is the attitude I demonstrate through Dr. Harrington’s supervisor Alexander Thompson, Undersecretary for Technology Exchange. The sun never sets on the British Empire. Thompson comes off as a rather officious buffoon in the first few stories. In The Wheel of Misfortune (Some Time Later), he makes it very clear to Dr. Harrington just how short the official leash really is. This is not a pleasant discovery.
The United States pried open the oyster, but Great Britain seemed determined to take possession of the pearl.
Specialists in Anglo-Japanese relations, such as Ian Nash, have theorized that after the signing of an alliance with Japan in 1902, the British considered the Japanese a trusted ally rather than as part of the British informal empire.15 This theory, however, does evoke the opinion that before this agreement, Japan may have been tacitly viewed as falling within the informal empire sphere by the British.
Dr. Harrington is a good man. Diplomacy can become a euphemism for the enlightened self-interest practiced by one country while standing inside another country’s borders. The supernatural creatures of Japan are not impressed by Dr. Harrington’s British passport. He’s in their territory now and their House Rules are the ones he’d do well to respect.
Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, doctors, fantasy, Fiction, historical fiction, history, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, steampunk, sword and sorcery, tall ships, travel, Writing
by Lillian Csernica on April 26, 2018
William Henry Harrington was born in London to a well-to-do family living in Grosvenor Square. His father is a banker and his mother the type of woman who rules the social scene with an iron if genteel hand.
A solid education led him to Cambridge, and from there he became a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians. His mild, cheerful manner and sincere interest in his patients’ health quickly gained him a reputation as a reliable, reassuring, and competent physician.
Given a choice between law and medicine, Dr. Harrington chose medicine for two important reasons. First, he finds the human body a fascinating subject. Second, studying vast tomes of legal precedent and going through the complex ritual of the courtroom hold no appeal for him. Relieving the suffering of the sick is a more rewarding pursuit than dealing with abstract legal squabbles.
Dr. Harrington is not totally altruistic in his motivations. He accepted the position in Kyoto because he knew the Far East to have a long tradition of effective if peculiar remedies based largely on herbal preparations. In London during the 1800s cholera epidemics and the prevalence of tuberculosis make a trip abroad, even as far as Japan, highly attractive. Dr. Harrington will do anything to preserve the health and well-being of his wife and daughter, Constance and Madelaine.
by Lillian Csernica on April 25, 2018
The 1880s were an amazing time to be alive. All over the world scientific breakthroughs were changing life, from the wonders of the steam engine to the humble advantages of the first dish washing machine. Some major highlights included:
1880–1882: Development and commercial production of electric lighting was underway. Thomas Edison of Milan, Ohio, established Edison Illuminating Company on December 17, 1880. Based at New York City, it was the pioneer company of the electrical power industry.
1882–1883: John Hopkinson of Manchester, England patents the three-phase electric power system in 1882. In 1883 Hopkinson showed mathematically that it was possible to connect two alternating current dynamos in parallel — a problem that had long bedeviled electrical engineers.
1885: Galileo Ferraris of Livorno Piemonte, Kingdom of Italy reaches the concept of a rotating magnetic field. He applied it to a new motor. “Ferraris devised a motor using electromagnets at right angles and powered by alternating currents that were 90° out of phase, thus producing a revolving magnetic field. The motor, the direction of which could be reversed by reversing its polarity, proved the solution to the last remaining problem in alternating-current motors. The principle made possible the development of the asynchronous, self-starting electric motor that is still used today. Believing that the scientific and intellectual values of new developments far outstripped material values, Ferraris deliberately did not patent his invention; on the contrary, he demonstrated it freely in his own laboratory to all comers.” He published his findings in 1888. By then, Nikola Tesla had independently reached the same concept and was seeking a patent.
1886: Charles Martin Hall of Thompson Township, Geauga County, Ohio, and Paul Héroult of Thury-Harcourt, Normandy independently discover the same inexpensive method for producing aluminium, which became the first metal to attain widespread use since the prehistoric discovery of iron.
The literature of the time examined the benefits and disadvantages to all of these technological marvels.
Literature and arts
Two more notable events destined to have a lingering impact on the world:
In this time period the world was full of possibilities. Scientific breakthroughs were changing the way people perceive the universe and its daily workings. That had a significant impact on belief in the creatures of mythology, folklore, and so-called superstition.
Where better to dramatize this conflict than Japan, land of eight million gods?
Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, classics, doctors, fantasy, Fiction, historical fiction, history, Japan, Kyoto, legend, Lillian Csernica, science fiction, steampunk, sword and sorcery, travel, Writing
by Lillian Csernica on April 24, 2018
Here’s the question: Why can some of the characters in my Kyoto Steampunk series see the gods and monsters of Japan, while other characters can’t see a thing?
Nurse Danforth When she sets out to make a deal with the Devil that will save Madelaine’s life (In the Midnight Hour, Twelve Hours Later), she opens her own mind to the supernatural powers present in Japan. Whether or not that was a one-time experience remains to be seen.
Dr. Harrington Being appointed personal physician to the Abbot of Kyomizudera is a great honor. The position includes a few duties Dr. Harrington is not aware of at the start. He has become one of the guardians of the Abbot, and as such is now on the radar of all things supernatural in Japan.
Madelaine Children are often more capable of perceiving the supernatural. Madelaine has the added advantage of intense curiosity.
Constance A practical, down-to-earth woman, Constance has all the psychic sensitivity of a brick. She does see the terrible yokai that comes after Dr. Harrington in The Wheel of Misfortune (Some Time Later). Some monsters are so formidable they make their presence known regardless of whether or not humans have psychic gifts.
Alexander Thompson The Undersecretary for Technology Exchange is a dedicated civil servant with very little imagination. This is a mercy, sparing him from sights that would surely bring on what the Victorians referred to as “brain fever.”
Fujita-san When Amatsu Mikaboshi confronts Dr. Harrington, Fujita-san can’t see him. I suspect Fujita-san may have more talents than I’ve discovered so far. His close working relationship with the monks of Kiyomizudera makes me wonder if Fujita-san knows more than he’s telling.
The Abbot and monks of Kiyomizudera One would expect ascetics pursuing a spiritual discipline to be familiar with the supernatural realm and the beings who inhabit it. This proves true in A Demon in the Noonday Sun (Twelve Hours Later) when Dr. Harrington’s call for help is answered.
Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, charity, doctors, Family, fantasy, Fiction, historical fiction, history, Horror, Japan, Kyoto, legend, Lillian Csernica, nature, steampunk, sword and sorcery, travel, Writing
by Lillian Csernica on April 23, 2018
From Cha’s Tea Blog; The Story of Tea:
In the early 600s AD, tea was introduced to Japan through contact between Zen priests and Chinese Buddhist monks. The Japanese Zen priest, Saichō returned to Japan in 815 after many years spent in China. He brought with him compressed tea bricks and tea seeds, which he presented to the reigning Emperor Saga. Interest in tea remained guarded and centered solely around the court and its high-ranking officials for several centuries, until the Japanese Heian era of 794-1185.
During this time, the Japanese Samurai class rose to power, along with a flourishing of the arts and intellectual pursuits, tea drinking among them. The Zen priest, Myoan Eisai introduced Chinese tea seeds and bushes to the island of Kyushu, and they were then transported to the outskirts of modern day Kyoto, where some of Japan’s finest teas are produced to this day. After many subsequent visits to China and a deep immersion in the tea culture, Eisai wrote, Kissa Yōjōki, translated as, “Drinking Tea for Health,” lauding the medicinal and health benefits of the ancient beverage. Many other writers poetically connected tea to the changing seasons and landscape.
From Britain Express:
Curiously, it was the London coffee houses that were responsible for introducing tea to England. One of the first coffee house merchants to offer tea was Thomas Garway, who owned an establishment in Exchange Alley. He sold both liquid and dry tea to the public as early as 1657. Three years later he issued a broadsheet advertising tea at six and ten pounds per pound (ouch!), touting its virtues at “making the body active and lusty”, and “preserving perfect health until extreme old age”.
Tea gained popularity quickly in the coffee houses, and by 1700 over 500 coffee houses sold it. This distressed the tavern owners, as tea cut their sales of ale and gin, and it was bad news for the government, who depended upon a steady stream of revenue from taxes on liquor sales. By 1750 tea had become the favoured drink of Britain’s lower classes.
Ironic, isn’t it? What first began as the ceremonial beverage of the upper class traveled around the world to become the daily drink of the common people. I love history!
Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, Food, historical fiction, history, Japan, Kyoto, Lillian Csernica, nature, steampunk, travel, Writing
by Lillian Csernica on April 21, 2018
Until 1945, the national religion of Japan was Shinto. Japan is a very high context culture. People went about their daily business knowing they were surrounded day and night by all kinds of gods, monsters, and other spirits.
Dr. Harrington comes into this situation knowing that his native Christianity has not had a long or happy history in the Land of the Rising Sun. He also knows that Kiyomizudera is a Buddhist temple. What he does not know is the animistic nature of Shinto, which permeates every aspect of life.
In contrast to many monotheistic religions, there are no absolutes in Shinto. There is no absolute right and wrong, and nobody is perfect. Shinto is an optimistic faith, as humans are thought to be fundamentally good, and evil is believed to be caused by evil spirits. Consequently, the purpose of most Shinto rituals is to keep away evil spirits by purification, prayers and offerings to the kami.
This is why I keep talking about the ofuda. When I visited Kyoto, I stood on the cypress veranda at Kiyomizudera. Believe me, that’s an experience that should be on everybody’s Bucket List. Seeing the gorgeous view from there, and visiting all of the shrines within the temple’s grounds really shows you why Japan is known as yaoyorozu no kami (八百万の神), an expression literally meaning “eight million gods.”
With that in mind, I highly recommend Wen Spencer’s novel Eight Million Gods. That will give you a modern taste of what Dr. Harrington is up against!
Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, doctors, fantasy, Fiction, historical fiction, history, Japan, Kyoto, legend, Lillian Csernica, nature, steampunk, sword and sorcery, travel, Writing
by Lillian Csernica on April 20, 2018
Rokurokubi. How’s that for a mouthful? It is a type of yokai that manifests only through women. This is unfortunate as well as being unfair. In many of the stories the men have committed whatever evil deed brings on the curse that transforms the unlucky woman into the creature whose neck extends to impossible lengths, allowing the head to cause all kinds of trouble.
The rokurokubi is born of jealousy that poisons the spirit. This goes a long way toward explaining why rokurokubi are often found in brothels.
In the late Edo period yomihon (illustrated novel), Rekkoku Kaidan Kikigaki Zōshi (列国怪談聞書帖) by Jippensha Ikku the author suggests the elongated necks of rokurokubi originate in the spiritual principle, karma. In Ikku’s work, Kaishin, a monk from Enshū and a woman called Oyotsu elope together. However, when Oyatsu collapsed from an illness, they ran out of money, so he killed her. When Kaishin eventually returned to secular life, he slept with a girl he met at an inn. When they sleep together, the girl’s neck stretched and her face becomes that of Oyotsu, who then told him about her resentment. Kaishin felt regretful his actions and proceeded to tell Oyatsu’s father everything. The girl’s father then told Kaishin that he has also killed a woman before. He stole her money and with it, he opened his inn. He had a daughter was born soon after who, due to karma, became a rokurokubi. Kaishin then reentered the priesthood. He built a grave for Oyotsu, said to be the Rokurokubi no Tsuka (Rokurokubi Mound), which told the story to future generations.
How could such a yokai enter the life of Dr. Harrington and his family? There are a lot of females in and around the household. Constance, Madelaine, Nurse Danforth, Julie Rose, and the housekeeper, Mrs. Rogers. There might be another woman or young lady among the expatriate community who finds herself caught in the eternal struggle of duty vs. emotion. Time will tell how the rokurokubi will find its way to Dr. Harrington’s door!
Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, cats, doctors, Family, fantasy, Fiction, historical fiction, history, Horror, housework, Japan, Kyoto, legend, Lillian Csernica, love, romance, steampunk, sword and sorcery, travel, Writing
by Lillian Csernica on April 19, 2018
The Quack Doctor by Charles Green
Dr. Harrington has begun to realize that by bringing Western medicine to the Far East, he also has an opportunity to learn how the Far East has been keeping people alive and healthy for several thousand years.
At this time in Victorian England, some impressive strides were being made regarding the causes of cholera epidemics and tuberculosis. However, general medical care had yet to fully embrace Pasteur’s discoveries regarding germs and the spread of disease. The wealthy could afford what passed for good health care. The poor, living in overcrowded conditions with poor sanitation, had little if any recourse to serious medical care.
Enter the quack, who promised this or that powder, pill, or colored syrup would bring the miracle cure everyone needed.
From The Online Etymology Dictionary:
“medical charlatan,” 1630s, short for quacksalver (1570s), from obsolete Dutch quacksalver (modern kwakzalver), literally “hawker of salve,” from Middle Dutch quacken “to brag, boast,” literally “to croak” (see quack (v.)) + salf “salve,” salven “to rub with ointment” (see salve (v.)). As an adjective from 1650s. The oldest attested form of the word in this sense in English is as a verb, “to play the quack” (1620s). The Dutch word also is the source of German Quacksalber, Danish kvaksalver, Swedish kvacksalvare.
Were there quacks in Kyoto? Probably. The world was changing very quickly. Japanese people were eager to try the wonders from the West. Some of those wonders could be truly mind-boggling in their defiance of all reason and sense.
Anatomical head. Edo period. Wax. 19thc-artworldwide.org
If you’d like to know more about medical quackery in this time period, I recommend The Quack Doctor, a site created by Caroline Rance. There you will find much that will both shock and amuse you.
Filed under #atozchallenge, Blog challenges, doctors, fantasy, Fiction, historical fiction, history, hospital, Japan, Kyoto, legend, Lillian Csernica, research, steampunk, therapy, travel, Writing