istock_000042837530mediumFujiwara no Kata is a fictional character based on a number of real people who lived in Kyoto during the 10th Century. Kata is a member of the Fujiwara clan, but clearly disagrees with the political aspirations of some of the clan leaders. This was true of a number of important people in the Fujiwara clan. He is also a gifted poet and player of the biwa (the instrument in the picture above). During the Heian era in Japan, especially in the 10th Century, artistic talent was highly valued.

Kata is exceptionally wise. Although he is narrow-minded at first toward Bar Asher, he sees the situation in Japan in a much broader way than most of his noble contemporaries. Therefore, in creating his name I combined the Japanese Kanji characters for “broad-minded” (闊達 pronounced Kattatsu) and “wise man” (賢者 pronounced Kenja), and came up with the name Kata. In Japanese the family name goes first. So Fujiwara (his family name) goes before Kata. The term “no” that you see connecting many of the names in the book is called a particle. During much of Japanese history “no” was used to connect family and given names. Therefore, in English, Fujiwara no Kata means: Kata of the Fujiwara family.

Today, the “no” is dropped from Japanese names, but the family name still comes first in most contexts. For example, the famous baseball player Ichiro’s full name in Japanese is Suzuki Ichiro. Suzuki is his family name and Ichiro his given name.

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