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The Meiji Era:  People and Characters


            Many books about Japan involve a Western foreigner coming to Japan and being amazed at all the odd things he (it's invariably a "he") doesn't understand about the people, the society and the culture. These are almost always the same things. If the book is written about Japanese characters, too often bits of the author's culture are imposed, without the author even being aware of doing so. Again, these are almost always the same sorts of things. Everybody wants to write about high-status people, people in power and people of position. I wanted to write, however imperfectly, something different.

            Ordinary people of all social classes, especially during the Meiji era, are much more interesting to me. They are the ones whose lives are upended regularly. They are the ones who have to decide how to cope with the sudden ending of their entire social order; how to find a new profession or enterprise since their old one no longer exists; they need to figure out how to survive in a world that really doesn't much care about them. Yet, that same world also trusts them to find a way to survive and prosper, to start new industries, to create new professions, to adjust themselves for the good of their communities as well as themselves. These are the interesting people. These are the people who change their world while remaining relentlessly Japanese.  These are the people—well, they're mostly people—who inhabit the world of Toki-Girl and the Sparrow-Boy, as we tell their tales of Meiji Era Japan.



Adrik — Of Gorunu Alfaysk, Prince, son of Irtysh and Varvara.

Agniya — Lady, Dragon, Western. Former consort of Irtysh, mother of Galina.

Aika — Miko. 

Amida — The famous central figure in Pure Land Buddhism; invoking Amida Buddha can result in the practitioner being reborn in the Western Paradise. This is different in concept from other forms of Buddhist practice, such as Nichrien and Zen. 

Anko  Daughter of the local Sheriff & liege lord, married to Toshio, twin children, Sara and Sora.

Akira  The Eagle-boy, a Steller's Sea Eagle from Hokkaido.

Azuk Girl who becomes a toki (Japanese Crested Ibis), sister of Shota.

Badger  Shape-changer, grouchy, curious and helpful, but not truly dual-natured.

Benjamin  American surveyor; working on mineral contracts.

Blackie   Samurai war stallion; helped Shota find Azuki.

Chizuyo  Brave woman, adopted human mother of Azuki and Shota.

Choshu Soldiers: Kuro, Takeshi, Botan, Yori.

Cloudy  Colt foal, by Blackie out of Red Wind; sometimes Storm Cloud, sometimes Flying Cloud, finally                          Thunder Cloud, but usually known as Cloudy.

Daiki  A shinobi working with Mitsu to carry a message to the Ryukyu Kingdom.

DaiTengu  Larger Tengu who adopt the form of a yamabushi to harass humans, especially religious.

Dragons, Earth and New Systems

                  Children of Rizantona, by the Slovene Timin, include the geographer, Verechelan, Irtysh's full brother; by Trentenvilu, from Chile, called Renten, the European sisters Calliope, Magerethe, Guivre, and Vibria, and by Ryuujin, King of the East, Renko and Susu.

                  From Africa: Apopris and Apep, of Egypt; Wedo, of Dahomy; Niki Naka, West Africa.

                  From the Americas: Miniwatu Lakota, from North America; Boitata, Brazil; Kukulkan, Mexico.

                  From Asia: Lixin, China; Samal Naga, India; Pakhangba, Philippines; Nagaratja (India, Otohime's mother), Kaliynaga (her current consort);

                  From Oceania: Ureia, New Zealand.

Egrets –- Beautiful birds with artistic license.

Eitaro and Satsuki  Anko’s parents, Lord and Lady, family name Yamada.

Endo  Farmhand and gardener.

Feng   Mistress, given name Meili; Noriko’s Chinese Shaolin Lao Shi and sifu, mother of Peng, talks to dragons.

Fox  Shape-changer, but not truly dual-natured.

Fuji Shoko  Friendly man Yuta meets on the train.

Fumie   Guardian of Records at Noriko’s former school.

Galina  of Vulkan Ichinski, Princess, daughter of Irtysh and Agniya.

Gemba  Midori’s disabled adult son.

Gengoro  Genmai’s brother; wants the fief and Azuki for himself.

Genmai  Late sheriff and liege lord of the area; wanted Azuki’s feathers for himself.

Hachibei  Kind man, adopted human father of Azuki and Shota.

Hanako   Formerly outcast, now the housekeeper.

Hanoka   South dockmaster at Ibusuki

Hitoshi  Brother of Noriko.

Hira  Lady Anko's maid.

Hirata(s)   Mitsuyo and Jisei, weavers and merchants who befriend Azuki. 

Kawabata, Yoji  Influential professor Yuta befriends in Tokyo.

Kiku  Palomino mare.

Kojiro Tsuruko’s human husband; their family name became Hamasaki.

Kichiro  dual-natured infant, son of Crane-woman Tsuruko and Kojiro.

Kukanko  An Oni child.

Ikue  Noriko’s former teacher.

Ine  Head housekeeper, Inn of the Golden Phoenix.

Irtysh  Dragon Prince, Rizantona's son by her first consort, Timin, European.

Junko  Mill girl with a future.

Lily  Bay mare.

Manami and Yukio  Students at Yuta's secondary school.

Masa  Errand boy/porter at the Inn of the Golden Phoenix.

Midori  Formerly outcast, now runs the local bathhouse.

Mifune(s)   Father and son, priests of the local Shrine; mother, a fujo or Shinto shaman, and daughter, who                 aspires to follow her mother.

Minoru  Master mariner, called Sencho or Captain, Shota’s teacher, his family name became Kaito.

Mitsu  A kunoichi of Noriko's school, on a mission.

Miyuki  Mill worker of unhappy background and unknown future.

Morimoto Toshio – Anko's fiancé, later, husband, took name Yamada on their marriage.

Nitabo  the professional name of Akimoto Nitaro, the real-life developer of Tsurugu Shamisen music; for                    more detail, see note in The Oni's Shamisen.

Noe  Displaced woman, Noriko’s replacement.

Noriko  She keeps the Inn of the Golden Phoenix – and secrets;

          a soke martial arts master, she is now married to Yuta.

Otohime  Famous daughter of the Dragon King, Princess and O-kami. Her mother, Nagaratja, decorates the             roof of the world with her snows.

Peng  Master; son of Mistress Feng, Noriko’s Chinese martial arts sensei or sifu. Lao Shi of the Tokyo Shaolin dojo. 

Phlox  Buckskin mare.

Red Wind  Samurai war mare; Blackie’s friend, the fastest one.

Renko  Dragon Princess, daughter of Rizantona and her third consort, Ryuujin, friend of Azuki and Shota

Rizantona  Queen of the Western Dragons, mother of eight by three consorts, European.

Rumiko  Sister of Sayuri, niece of Fumie.

Ryuujin  King of the Eastern Dragons, father of Otohoime, Renko and Susu among the dual-natured, and many more pure dragons, Japanese.

Sachiko  Activist friend of Noriko’s.

Sato  Priest of the local Buddhist temple.

Sawa  Maid at the Inn of the Golden Phoenix.

Sayuri  Niece of Fumie.

Shota  Boy who becomes a Sparrow, Azuki's brother.

Suezo  Yuta’s friend from his monastery days, now in Tokyo

Suoh-Sugaar  Dual-natured child of Rizantona and Ryuujin, infant Dragon Prince, known as Susu.

Tanuki  Real animal with mysterious abilities.

Tengu  Evil being who can change from a kite or crow to a human-like form to harass humans.

Toyod  Owner of the Inn of the Golden Phoenix

Tsuruko  Fabled Crane-woman, married to a human, Kojiro

Umi-bozu   Genuine sea monster with many children

Valeira  Of Gora Ledyanayya, Princess, daughter of Irtysh and Varvara, twin of Vassilli

Vassillii  Of Goru Pobeda, Prince, son of Irtysh and Varvara, twin of Valeria

Varvara — Lady, Dragon, Western. Former consort of Irtysh, vanished before the twins hatched, skilled with the          ways of water and stone.

Yae  Mill worker of unknown origins and uncertain future.

Yamabushi  Mountain ascetic, practitioner of Shugendo, a kind of combination of martial arts,                                       Buddhism and ancient mountain worship, one is in the service of Ikue.

Yuta  Former monk turned schoolmaster, now prominent in education; Azuki and Shota’s adopted human uncle and guardian. Their family name is Maeda, very old but seldom used until it became necessary to use it.

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