Kiryoku is the only character in the story that is partly fact and partly fiction. As you have probably realized by now, many of the characters in the story were real people (although as in any novel the real people may not have shared every trait depicted in the novel), and some are fictional. So why is Kiryoku part fact and part fiction?
The answer is fun and interesting, but also a bit complex. Here, I will give a basic answer. Anyone who wants more information on how I developed Kiryoku’s character should feel free to e-mail me. In The Accidental Samurai, Kiryoku is an important Abbott at Ninna-Ji. Ninna-Ji is a famous temple in Kyoto that still exists today (although it has been rebuilt several times after fires). Most Buddhist temples at that time, as many do today, had a Head Abbott and several other important Abbotts. This is important because by the time the events in The Accidental Samurai occurred, Ninna-Ji had been linked for some time to the throne. Retiring Emperors and other members of the Imperial Family had held the Head Abbott’s position since at least the time of Emperor Murakami’s grandfather. Thus, it is not surprising that the Temple was more favorable toward the Imperial Family than some other Temples might have been at that time.
In this way, Kiryoku’s character is probably quite similar to the important Abbotts at Ninna-Ji in the Tenth Century. Additionally, Ninna-Ji was linked to Kukai, an important Buddhist monk who studied in China and brought Shingon Esoteric Buddhism back to Japan in the early Ninth Century. The Accidental Samurai explains this, and the fact that the monks, including Kiryoku, spent a lot of time studying the Mandalas of the Two Realms: the Diamond Realm and the Womb Realm. This is part of the teachings of Kukai who taught that deep study and focus on the Mandalas would help people reach enlightenment.
So what is fictional about Kiryoku? First of all, his name. I was unable to find the names of high ranking Abbotts at Ninna-Ji around 964 (other than the Head Abbott, who would not likely have greeted Bar Asher when he first arrived at Ninna-Ji), so I needed to come up with a name that captured the character’s brilliant, humble, and brave nature. I struggled with this for some time until I realized that for such a character simplicity would be a compliment. Therefore, I chose 気力 (Kiryoku) which means energy and vitality.
Second, in The Accidental Samurai Kiryoku is linked to the Men of the Pear Chamber. It is unclear what relationship an important Abbott at Ninna-Ji would have had with the famous poets. Of course, it is possible there were connections there, but we do not know for sure.