Beginning with this Fact or Fiction, #20 I will periodically introduce characters from the sequel to The Accidental Samurai. The sequel is called The Shison (Shison is Japanese for descendants). The Shison will be book #2 in the Generations series, and I plan to have it completed in June. The Shison, like The Accidental Samurai is based on historical figures as well as fictional characters. Every week on Monday I will post the name of a character and readers can guess whether the character is an actual person who lived in the Tenth Century or a fictional character. Each Friday I will post the answer. This weeks character is from The Shison:
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.
The Accidental Samurai is based on historical figures as well as fictional characters. Every week on Monday I will post the name of a character and readers can guess whether the character is an actual person who lived in the Tenth Century or a fictional character. Each Friday I will post the answer. This weeks character:
Li Cheng is a fictional character based on a successful member of the Merchant Class, one of the four classes in Ancient Chinese society. During that era any foreign trader operating in Japan would have had to be careful and have powerful connections in order to remain in Japan as a foreigner. Trading and diplomatic ships were generally routed through Hakata (near modern day Fukouka) during the Heian era, but that does not mean there were no foreign traders that came by other routes. In The Accidental Samurai Li Cheng was trading in Southern Honshu and had been to Heian-Kyo. He had been in Japan for many years. Someone like Li Cheng could have come on a route that landed in Southern Honshu surreptitiously or could have come through Hakata and stayed in Japan if he became a subject of Japan. It is also possible that he landed in a small trading vessel with the support of powerful local or national connections.
Sakanoue no Yuka is a fictional character based on a person who was likely real, but whose name is not known. In The Accidental Samurai she is the sister of Sakanoue no Mochiki, who was a real person. The names of Mochiki’s siblings, assuming he had any, are unknown. Yuka is a kind and smart person who values great art for art’s sake. If Mochiki had siblings this would likely have been true of them given his standing as a poet and the nature of Heian Era Aristocracy.