My journey through the world of writing and everything that lies in between…

Posts tagged ‘setting’

Someday…

I’m in one of those dreamer-type moods. Maybe it’s because it’s past midnight. Anyway…

Someday…someday I’d like to travel here.

Kakunodate, Akita, Tohoku region

This is the small village that my MC Naomi is taken to in The Scarlet Daughter. I’m not sure if the river was lined with the cherry trees back in 1890, but it definitely had the cherry blossom line streets like this picture below shows:

Cherry blossoms in the former samurai district

The trees are a few hundred years old and the streets are set up in the former samurai quarter as they would’ve been when Naomi arrived. Of course it probably wasn’t paved and there probably weren’t as many people as this was a remote village, but it would’ve looked very similar.

And the houses of course, which would be similar to the one she was brought to:

Since I can’t make it there any time soon, I’ll have to console myself with pictures online. Ah, the wonders of the internet!

Of course I can’t forget the village I’ve used as inspiration for Miyuki’s home in Lady of the Snow.

The villages of Shirakawa-go in Gifu prefecture are still very remote today. Back in the 18th century, in the winter, they would’ve been cut off from the world until spring.

Seeing this picture below, it’s no wonder:

It’s pretty easy to picture her living in a village like this, with the steep roofs that are said to resemble praying hands. The roof style is unique to the area because of the amount of snow; villagers quickly learned the necessity of making a house like that.

Even in the springtime the character of the old village isn’t lost:

Someday…someday I’ll visit both these places. The inspiration for my book’s settings.

Now I’ll just have to dream about being there 🙂

This is why I could never come up with a fantasy world–there are too many places in the real world that are more beautiful than I could imagine.

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Research Time: Round 1

Since I have the bulk of my summary done and all my character bios completed well ahead of my self-imposed deadline, I decided in the two months before NaNo, I’ll do as much research as possible. I won’t get it all done–not even close–but at least I can do basic research about the culture, at least the everyday life of a farmer.

So far, I’ve done some research on the area where I’m setting the story. The village is going to be based after Shirakawa-go and Gokayama, remote villages in Gifu and Toyama prefectures. The area is very unique among Japan, most renown for their gassho-zurkuri type houses (named such because the steep angle of the roof is similar to praying hands). The houses were large and often held extended families up to 30 or 40 people. (For the purpose of my story though, there will only be around 9 or 10 in the house and they’ll be minor characters).

The culture of the area is unique too because the villages were so remote and often cut off from the world because of the heavy snowfall during the winter. It was this way even up to the 1970s when the main roads were developed. It’s often said this is one of the last remaining places in Japan to go “undiscovered”.

Perfect setting then for my book. A place cut off from the rest of the world and a place where winter is especially brutal. What better place for my Yuki-onna to live? 🙂

Here’s a picture of the types of houses that are in the area:

Gokayama_Japanese_Old_Village_001

There used to be hundreds of these scattered throughout the Shogawa river valley. Unfortunately many succumbed to old age and modern progression, especially when the dam and man-made lake Miboro were developed. I’ve read that some of the houses were dismantled and moved in order to prevent their destruction. Thank goodness for that!

There’s still a good number of these houses in the area, and quite a few allow visitors to spend a night. There’s also a few houses turned museums too. Ah, to travel there…that would be a dream!

Here’s a panoramic view of the village of Shirakawa-go:

SHIRAKAWA_GOU

I’ve even found videos on YouTube of tourists traveling here as well as a few good ones of the house interiors (one is in Japanese and I can’t understand it, but the visuals are great).

Sometimes I just love research 🙂

Lady of the Snow: The Setting

I finally narrowed down the actual town setting of Lady of the Snow. After hours of searching through various places in Japan (literally, I lost track–it had to be 8-10 over the past two weeks), I decided to set it in the picturesque Nikko.

It was the place that I instantly felt was right for the setting. I had a few other possibilities but none resonated with me like Nikko. Why did I choose the city? A number of factors:

  • The town existed when my book starts (Muromachi period, circa 1350s or so) and already was a well-established village (founded sometime in the 700s)
  • The climate. The town had to be in a pretty mountainous area (which isn’t hard to find in Japan). What cinched it though was the fact that Nikko is known for having a climate similar to the chilly region of Hokkaido because of its elevation. This means that this is a great place for a lady of the winter since winter is longer here than in other areas.
  • The temples, specifically Futarasan Shrine, which enshrines Ōkuninushi, the ruler of the unseen world of spirits. Not sure how much it will play a part in the book, if any, but it seemed like something I may be able to use 🙂 (Also, if you look at the Wiki page about the shrine, the bridge that leads to the shrine, called the Sacred Bridge, was once the header of my blog)
  • The picturesque scenery 🙂

I know that the most well known version of the legend (and the one I’m basing parts of my story off of) has it in an unnamed village in the old Musashi province (modern day Tokyo Prefecture, Saitama Prefecture and part of Kanagawa Prefecture) but I couldn’t seem to find a place to set it that I liked. I hesitated at first but realized it’s my book and I can set it anywhere in Japan I want 😛

Now to figure out other characters besides Yuki-onna and the two love interests. 😛 And I also need to figure out a name for her from her human life…then it’s time to plot the out the book.

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