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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.

            

 

Characters

Anko – Daughter of the local Sheriff & liege lord

Azuki – Girl who becomes a toki (Japanese Crested Ibis)

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

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

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

Egrets – Beautiful birds with artistic license

Eitaro and Satsuki – Anko’s parents, Lord and Lady

Endo – Farmhand and gardener

Feng – Mistress; Noriko’s Chinese sensei, 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

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

Hitoshi – Brother of Noriko

Hirata(s) – Weavers who befriended Azuki 

Kawabata, Yoji - Influential professor Yuta befriends in Tokyo

Kiku - Palomino mare

Kojiro – Tsuruko’s human husband

Kichiro – dual-natured infant, son of Tsuruko and Kojiro

Ikue – Noriko’s former teacher

Ine – Head housekeeper, Inn of the Golden Phoenix

Irtysh –  Dragon Prince, Rizantona's son, European

Junko –  Mill girl with a future

Lily –  Bay mare

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

Minoru – Master mariner, called Sencho or Captain, Shota’s teacher

Morimoto Toshio – Anko's fiancé, later, husband

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

Peng – Master; son of Mistress Feng, Noriko’s Chinese martial arts sensei

Phlox   –  Buckskin mare

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

Renko – Dragon Princess, friend of Azuki and Shota

Rizantona – Queen of the Western Dragons, Renko’s mother, European

Rumiko – Sister of Sayuri, niece of Fumie

Ryuujin – King of the Eastern Dragons, Renko’s father, Japanese

Sachiko – Activist friend of Noriko’s

Sawa – Maid at the Inn of the Golden Phoenix

Sayuri – Niece of Fumie

Shota  – Boy who becomes a Sparrow

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

Suoh-Sugaar – Child of Rizantona and Ryuujin, dual-natured infant dragon, known as Susu

Tanuki – Real animal with a mysterious ability

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

Toyoda – 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

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; Azuki and Shota’s adopted human uncle and guardian