Nipponese houses have thin walls because of the mild climate and overlapping and slightly curved roofs because of the fact that there is plenty of rain especially during early summer. Timber is the traditional building material. It makes them airy which is important during the humid summer months. The disadvantages are that earthquakes and fires can damage the houses easily.
Nipponese houses usually have one-story and have thatched roofs (especially if a villager’s house.) The walls are usually removable or can allow for air circulation. The floor of the house is divided into a part where outdoor footwear can be worn, often on an earthen floor, and parts where one must not wear outdoor footwear, often on a raised platform. During cold winters, animals might be brought inside to stay on the earthen floor. The back of the house might have a place to clean food with a bamboo pipe to carry water from a nearby stream. There is often an open fireplace on the earthen floor where most of the cooking is done. Any smoke produced from the fire escapes through the thatched roof. The living area has mats where the family members sit. At night mattresses about one inch thick are pulled out of a cabinet and placed on the floor. If the family isn’t poor, the heads of the family may have their own bedroom. In wealthier farming homes there might even be room for servants or hired farm workers. Some villages even have houses for young people where they might live in a communal life like a dormitory, sometimes with mixed sexes.
It is traditional for people to sit on the floor on a cushion and sleep on a thin mattress called a futon. This could be folded up and easily stored away. At mealtime Nipponese people eat off low tables while sitting on the floor.
Screens made of rice paper and set on wooden frames called shoji screens divide rooms in a Nipponese house. These screens, being semi-opaque, can slide from side to side and are useful to introduce light into a room. Richer people can afford folding screens and with works of art painted on them.
Makudo: In the eastern side of Yamanashi province lies the castle-city of Makudo, the residence of the Emperor himself. The very first settlers of Koshu came to this region and it is believed that Makudo was one of the first true settlements. Six centuries ago the emperor ruled Nippon from this city and had total control but ever since the rise of the shoguns the emperors have been under virtual house arrest in Makudo Palace. The emperor is still, however, a very important figurehead for the country and is obliged to give his blessing on the appointment of a new shogun.
Today, Makudo is a prosperous city and has, arguably, the finest centres of education in the whole of Nippon. The fortified mansions of the great lords lie perched upon steep hills where, it is said, that the occupants keep an eye on the citizens, for the Shogun's bakufu or government have residences here. The Imperial Palace of Makudo itself lies in a flat basin. Surrounding it are hills where garrisons of the Shogun's troops are stationed. The Emperor's palace is garrisoned mostly by the Shogun's troops but some of the Emperor's own household also help to guard its halls and picturesque garden paths.
Travellers usually come and go along the road from Kumano, the southern gate (a fortress in itself) or Emperor's Portal. They are always checked by gate-wardens along the route and any discrepancies, such as the absence of a sekisho (pass), are usually dealt with harshly. Once inside the city, the traveller is met by small patrols of doshin (police) and segregated town wards. At night the wards are closed off by gates and anyone walking around after dark is arrested and detained. During the day Makudo is quite pleasant with farmers selling their rice at the markets and artisans openly forging weapons in the streets. There is a strong otokodate presence in many of Makudo's wards, which is why the people here are seldom bothered too much by the doshin (police) although at night this changes quite starkly.
Hyudo: Located on the shores of Hyudo-Wan is the capital city of Nippon. However, it wasn't always thus. Less than six centuries ago Hyudo was nothing but a port-city but ever since the rise of the shogun, and being wealthier than all other cities in Nippon through maritime trade, it has grown in power and eminence. Now, through a series of long and bloody civil wars, Hyudo is the capital of Nippon and the seat of the Yoritomo Shogunate. From Hyudo the famous Three Roads branch out for hundreds of miles until they greet the city of Tokaido, to the west, Kumano, to the north (continuing to Makudo), and lastly Izumo, to the east. The road to the west travels through the Celestial Portal, the road to Kumano travels through the Wagtail Portal, and the road to Izumo travels through the Moon Portal.
Castle Hyudo lies atop a series of steep hills built in the traditional Nipponese way whereby if one part of the castle is lost it can be closed off relatively easily thereby keeping the invaders away from the rest of the castle. Even then, surrounding this area is a series of moats and trenches stretching some nine miles in length. The inner most moat is one and a half miles long, and their scarps are built up with colossal blocks of granite. Even the gardens within these walls, with all their sophisticated elegance, cannot conceal the military nature of the roads and paths leading to the central buildings. They constitute a labyrinth whose very pattern is a closely guarded secret, and they pass beneath bridges and are, in many places, lined with bastions in such a way as to expose any unwanted guests, regardless of their number, to a concentrated attack with bows and arrows, crossbows, or firearms. The Shogun's castle is more like a veritable city itself with mansions, to accommodate the daimyo, plus residences for the hatamoto and the gokenin, covering its 180 acres.
The port of Hyudo-Wan is a hive of activity, especially when a Black Ship comes (any merchant ship not of Nipponese or Cathayan origin), when there are boats to be unloaded of their cargo and then taken to the city.
Tokaido: This is another port-city similar to the country's capital of Hyudo some four-hundred or so miles to the east, where one of the Three Roads ends. It lies in Yoshida province at the top of the gulf of Tokaido-Wan. From the castle of Tokaido, rules the Exalted-daimyo Nara Yamayuki a distant cousin of Shogun Yoritomo Ieysau.
Travellers to Tokaido almost always enter through the east gate (known more commonly as the Shark Portal) although many, mainly fishermen - Tokaido has a thriving fishing community - will enter through Tokaido-Wan. Fishermen from Tokaido often fish in the warmer waters of Ishiguchi-Nada and bring back plentiful stocks of shark. Nothing is wasted as the fins and teeth are used as well as sharkskin, which is used for some items of footwear and armour. The island off the coast of Yoshida, Mikura-Jima, is a place of thriving fishing villages. However, it is not an independent province and is part of Yoshida itself.
Kumano: Closest to the Nippon capital is the city of Kumano. It lies in a horseshoe of hills and has an impressive landscape of mountains at its north-easterly point. Furthermore it lies close to a plain of volcano ash and the north Road passes directly through it. Many are the times one can see the sulphurous gases rising from the ash dunes. Kumano rose from a prospecting camp back in the midst of time. It has suffered many natural mishaps in the past, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, and has been rebuilt many times. So far, for a century and a half, the nearby volcano of Shirani-San has remained dormant, only reminding the inhabitants of Akita province of its power by minor eruptions every decade or so.
The ruler of Kumano and Akita province, of which the city lies in, is the Exalted-daimyo Nobunaga Kabuki. Some years ago Nobunaga was but a mere warlord of a castle in some desolate region of the province until he saved the Shogun's life in an assassination attempt. For his act of valour, courage and, above all, loyalty to the shogunate, Nobunaga was made an Exalted-daimyo and given Castle Kumano as a reward. This did not prove to be a problem for the present Exalted incumbent as he died seven days before the assassination attempt on the Shogun from a wasting disease contracted while on a hunt in Hill Country. Nobunaga accepted the reward and made the former servants of the late Exalted-daimyo Jiro Suki lords in their own right.
Kumano is a walled city and the old castle of Kumano itself can be seen rising from its centre. Travellers can only enter from the southern gate (the Phoenix Portal) and the northern gate (Dragon Portal) from Makudo.
Izumo: Lying on the delta of the River Ekawasaki is the city of Izumo, the realm of the Exalted-daimyo Otomo Iwamoto. The city thrives on trade from the other major ports of Nippon, including Hyudo itself and even faraway Okakama. The extensive mudflats here form several small islands. The farmers have exploited these in the form of dozens of rice paddies. Where the earth is firmer is the castle of Izumo itself, just a little way up the river and away from the extensive rice paddies of the Ekawasaki delta. The river passes through the town's wards and onwards to lake Kiri-Ko. It is possible for ocean-going vessels to traverse the waters of the delta, through Izumo, and then a little further up the River Ekawasaki. However, rarely do they travel more than fifty or so miles away from Izumo. Typically, goods are bought and sold at the city and the ships depart just as swiftly as they arrived. Then there is the danger of fog. In the winter and spring, at times, thick fog gathers enveloping the entire delta in pea soup making it next to impossible for anyone, who doesn't know the area well, to leave. Sometimes this fog moves until it threatens even the little island of Taran-Jima in the Izumo-Wan. Even without the fog, wrecks on this island are not uncommon, especially when there are dangerous reefs to avoid on the approach to the Izumo-Wan.
Okakama: Located in the subtropical west, Okakama is one of the major towns in the region and lies within Wakakawa province of which it is its capital. The ruler is the Lord Takamichi Kawaharazuka. His castle lies three miles away from the coast and can only be reached by walking along the River Path, which is basically a pavement of stone slabs meandering this way and that until it reaches the gates of Castle Okakama itself. The River Path runs through a humid forest of evergreen trees which is inhabited by a large population of macaques. They are no threat to people but they have been known to steal food from unwary travellers.
The warm waters of Okakama-Wan are home to coral fish, turtles, sea snakes, dugong , black finless porpoise, horseshoe crabs, giant spider crab, and the frilled shark. It is a common sight to see peasants in small boats catching many of these aquatic creatures in their nets and taking them to market to trade. The town of Okakama itself is basically a collection of villages along the coast of Okakama-Wan. However, the town is still separated into wards with gate-keepers stationed at appropriately placed intersections.
Kiroshima: This is one of the major towns of Haikido and lies within Toyakita province. It is ruled by the daimyo Lord Yositaki Watanabe from Castle Kiroshima. The castle itself lies upon a mountain of pine forests and steep ravines. At the foot of one of these lies the town of Kiroshima. Like so many towns in Haikido, it is protected by a perimeter ditch filled with water and/or sharp stakes. The reason being is that there are more mutants and beastmen in Haikido than can be found in most of the dangerous parts of the main island of Koshu. Perhaps it is because of Haikido's cold climate that so many beastmen lurk in its pine forests, safe in the fact that the sparse Human population will not venture far from their settlements because of the inclement, cold weather? It is because of the beastmen that the Ainu people are mistreated and, sometimes, openly scorned. Ignorant peasants have been known to hunt the hairier Ainu in the past and because of this they only rarely enter the villages and towns of Haikido.
Such a multitude of their inmates were to be met striding along, a pair of razor-edged swords in their girdles and the pride of arms in their mien, that for all the pretty parks and dainty mansions of the nobles, for all the disguise of soft sward and tender-sprayed pines that overlay the grimness of the central castle's battlements, Hyudo could never be mistaken for what it was, the citadel of a military system embracing all the warlike resources of a battle-loving nation.
-Esteban Fuitez, Magrittan merchant
The landscape of Nippon is dotted with castles and fortifications of every possible size and style, which the provincial warlords have erected wherever it is feasible to station garrisons of warriors. Every strategic site, which affords a superior defence against armed attack and an optimum position for controlling the movements of people and goods, have been well fortified. Castles have been erected at the top of a small mountain, or on the hill between a mountain and a plain, as well as the plain itself. Military clans have constructed castles and established garrisons in major towns, near important temples and shrines, at highway intersections and markets, near ports and sea inlets, etc., thus forming that typical balance between military protection and exploitation on one side and commercial productivity on the other, which is the salient characteristic of the medieval Nipponese castle-towns which actually sprung up around a feudal lord's manor.
In structure, the Nipponese castle has evolved into a sophisticated and practically impregnable fortress. It was generally designed as a series of concentric compounds isolated from each other by ramparts, moats, or walls and comprised such an intricate network of courts and passages that if one compound were lost to an invader, it could be recaptured from either side or totally cut off without substantially weakening the defensive strengths of the other compounds. The approaches to its fortified perimeters are protected by excavations filled with water, by ditches, by swamps, or by a combination of all three. Water-filled moats are considered to be the best form of protection. Earthen walls or stone walls rise massively from the first defensive line, offering only two major openings - the heavily fortified main gate and the equally strong but smaller rear gate, both usually constructed of large timbers, plated with copper or iron, and densely studded with large nails. The passages within, linking one courtyard to another and each compound to the next, are usually designed in such fashion as to lead through cleverly arranged double gates in which one gate is set at right angles to the second, allowing room enough between them to contain (and control from the sides and from above) only a certain number of people - which is usually considered to be a maximum of 240 warriors or 40 cavalrymen, and never more.
The castle compounds are generally composed of three units: the main section in the centre, surrounded by the second section, and then the third section of fortifications, containing respectively the main tower and residences of the warlords, the storerooms, and the living quarters of the garrison. All of these are elongated structures integrated into massive walls, with doors and passageways on the inner side and openings on the outer. The openings are of different sizes and angles according to the weapons employed to repel an invader at that point. Rectangular openings for arrows, circular, triangular, or square for guns, and, for those that have them, for cannons, among other chute-like ducts, trapdoors which open wide to send huge stones crashing down upon the heads of foes beneath.
Towers rise from these compounds. They consist of structures containing three or more levels, heavily fortified, with the uppermost functioning primarily as an observation post, or, in times of peace, as a spot for contemplating the moon or performing ritual suicide, depending on the circumstances. These towers are located at the most strategic point: on the outer compounds, towards the northern and the western sides of the horizon; at the corners of the compounds; in the centre, where they are given poetic names of "guardian of the sky", or, more prosaically, the "keep", because this point represents the final defensive position against invading forces.
Some of the mightiest clans maintain a vast network of supporting fortress, smaller outposts or auxiliary castles. These are constructed to form a wide, defensive line that encircles and protects the boundary line of a provincial domain and its base castle. These auxiliary castles can be found in the most unexpected of places and are generally identified by their primary purpose, such as boundary surveillance, watchpost, communication, and attack. Encased in this vast network of fortifications, lorded over by fiercely independent clans of warriors, the larger masses of commoners are, for all intents and purposes, effectively imprisoned.
Auxiliary castles, being nothing but small military outposts, are not immune to attack. Many times have they been destroyed by goblinoid or Chaos warbands, or rival clans who have then subsequently taken the outpost for themselves and absorbed it into their territory. The most vulnerable outposts are those constructed in the mountains where they sometimes come under attack from goblinoids and Chaos beastmen.
CITIES & TOWNS
The towns and cities are sited close to the Shogun's own province. The further one goes away from the capital the more scattered the towns are, as wealth concentrates in and around the Shogun's province and the provinces of the Exalted Families. Riots and dissent are not wholly uncommon in town and city streets, though they are ruthlessly repressed.
In the cities, and large towns, the civilian population has developed several professional classes which consists primarily of a number of ruling landlords, wealthy wholesalers, and moneylenders, who lord over the various guilds and corporations of merchants, craftsmen, tenant-farmers, and servants in near-slavery. At the bottom of this social stratification are the entertainers, porters, foreigners, the destitute, and, below even these groups and outside society, the unmentionable outcasts.
Towns and cities are divided into wards. Each ward is larger than two streets and is surrounded by canals, walls or fences and is 'closed in' by gates. Guarding these gates are people called 'gate-wardens'. These are people that authorize the passage of anyone wishing to move from ward to ward after dark. If a person does not possess a pass, and wishes to enter another ward after dark, this person will be fined, tattooed, beaten, publicly exposed or even executed. In keeping with the tradition of 'collective responsibility' a person's family may be involved with any of these punishments. Usually a person will be beaten or publicly exposed. A person will only be fined if it looks like he can afford it, such as a merchant or artisan for example. Warriors, surprisingly, are harshly dealt with because they are ones who represent the system that they should be defending.
The wards are primarily used not only for surveillance, keeping an eye on the population, but also to seal in riots, fires and diseases. A ward falls under the supervision of a monitor, who lives in the street, and the monitors themselves are subservient to the ward officer and his assistants. Aiding the monitors are local officials, such as the secretary in charge of registers concerning such matters as family compositions, residences, and taxes. There is also a fire chief, with a team of fire fighters.
Householders in each street are grouped together into fives, one of them being accountable to the others, and all acting as spies and checks upon each other. Under this system it is usually quite easy to fix the responsibility of the origin of conflagration, theft, riot, etc., upon the real offender. However, sometimes this system does not work and its effective use tends to vary from town to town, especially if there is a strongkyokaku ("host of heroism") and otokodate presence. These groups fight for the common man and the latter of the two, the otokodate, is very powerful in some towns and cities.
Householders and ward officials are responsible to three town elders. The town elders are not of the buke class but their titles are hereditary and may be passed on to their heirs. In turn, the town elders are directly answerable to two magistrates of the military class.
The leaders of the loyal military cohorts of the Shogun live in splendid, fortified mansions within the city proper and scattered throughout the countryside surrounding it. All daimyo must maintain mansions in the Shogun's province, where they are required to remain in residence in alternate years and where the members of their immediate families have to remain whenever the governor visits their fiefs. These mansions were generally built in accordance with the ancient military design of the encampment - with the general's tent in the middle, surrounded by those of his officers, and, at the outer limits, those of the warriors. The provincial castles also followed this basic blueprint, with the stronghold in the middle and the warriors' barracks surrounding it placed near the outer walls.
In the wealthiest provinces, the private mansions consist of a modified version of that design, with a long, uninterrupted building (nagaya) so constructed as to enclose the garden and the central palace of the feudal lord. That building, with strong walls on the side facing the street and rows of fortified windows, contains the retainers' barracks and their armouries. Facing the main street is the central gate, whose huge, armoured portals open wide only on special occasions. Normal traffic is handled through smaller side-doors, the back gate, and the smaller posterns, all of which open into a yard lined with guard-rooms, which are ornamented with bows and arrows, lances, firearms, and staves with iron-heads studded with spikes, serving as grappling irons wherewith to seize and disarm any unwelcome intruder. Whenever a retainer passes out, he hangs up in the guard-room the wooden ticket, inscribed with his name, which he always carries at his girdle; on his return this ticket is restored to him. By this means the porters can tell at a glance how many retainers are absent on leave at any time.
The nagaya surrounds the inner barracks which shelters other troops and includes storehouses, as well as buildings assigned to those higher officials who manage the clan's affairs for their lord. These inner-houses contain the residences of the councilors, the commercial agent, the representative of the lord during his absence, the financial officer, the building officer, and the doctor. In the great clans, the number of these officers is considerable.
A paved way leads from the main gate to the entrance of the main building, the residence of the lord, which selected retainers keep under surveillance night and day. These retainers are the only vassals, save for a few pages, who are permitted to pass the night in the residence. All others, including even the cooks and the scullions, have quarters allotted to them in the nagaya, and come over early in the morning to resume their duties.
Villages predominate Nippon as the majority of the heimin live outside towns and cities. They are clansmen, in a way that most Nipponese are, with the exception of the outcasts and ronin. When there is war the provincial daimyo will muster his forces from his villages.
Villages are very important to the ruling clans because they invariably grow rice and in Nippon he who controls rice will wield power; rice is still often used as money. So a province with many, many rice fields within its boundaries is in an advantageous position because the whole of the Nippon economy rests upon the production and distribution of rice.
Heading a village will be a district elder or village elder, exactly as in the Old World. They are comparative in rank to the lower ranks of the buke and their heirs are even allowed an education, which most of the heimin are denied, and are permitted to carry swords. A typical village has a population of 10D10 inhabitants and will also have a mix of artisans and traders, though the latter will almost always be found in towns or cities.
The main land routes linking the cities of the Exalted Families with Hyudo are known as the 'Three Roads'. These are highways, together with some of the most important roads that lead to city-ports, which are under particular surveillance and inspection. Strategically placed along these routes are minor outposts where special inspectors, with the protection of many warriors, check every traveller. The traveller must be able to produce his or her pass called a sekisho, which is issued by their superiors in the clan. The sekisho is basically a piece of paper that gives the character's position in society, i.e. a craftsman, merchant etc., and his or her physical description. If they match the character in question then he or she can continue with their journey. If there are any discrepancies then the character will be detained until the character can explain himself satisfactorily to the local authorities. The Shogun's province, Kumayama, and the provinces of the Exalted Families, use this method of strict surveillance to keep movement in their territories regulated. The outer daimyo may or may not employ these methods, as it is impossible for even the Shogun to know, even with his complex network of spies, what the outer daimyo are doing within their territories.