Factor or Fiction #19: Answer

song-dynasty-commoner-robe Kenji is one of the few completely fictional characters in The Accidental Samurai. As you have read, most of the characters were real people or based on similar people who were real. Sadly, not much is known about the lives of villagers from distant provinces during the Heian era. Kenji is from the village near Izumo where Bar Asher lands and he and the villagers are kind to Bar Asher and the crew of the Hui. Thanks to Li Cheng they have experience with foreigners. One of the things we do know about farmers and villagers at that time is that they were subject to high taxes paid mostly in rice and also had to earn enough or grow enough to sustain themselves and their families. Therefore, when Kenji, his two friends, and Bar Asher set out for Heian-Kyo to trade items from the village, success could literally mean life or death for some of Kenji’s fellow villagers.

Yet, Kenji and his friends are kind to Bar Asher and grateful for his help, both in protecting them and helping them transport the items to be traded on behalf of the village. Kenji is a gentle soul, but thinks quickly and helps Bar Asher when needed. People needed to get along to survive and Kenji reflects that spirit, A spirit that lives on today in Japan through the culture of Wa (harmony). Of course, sometimes Wa is reflected through tatamae (outward appearances so everyone can get along) and sometimes through hon’ne (the inner self), or both tatamae and hon’ne. In Kenji’s case it is clear his warmth and strength are truly from inside (hon’ne). Like Sakanoe no Yuka, Kenji seems the sort of person we would all value as a friend. Bar-Asher certainly values him as a friend.

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