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Old 02-13-2013, 08:59 PM   #1
Samantha Lane
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Setting a story in 1760 - 1778 Japan

I've written a story about a Guardian angel who goes through three charges. I would like to change the setting of one of the human beings from England to Japan. My character will be born in 1760 and die in 1778. I've done some research and will continue to do more, but I would like to get some feedback on whether this storyline will work in the new setting and under what conditions. I would like to keep as much of the background & plot as I can, but most of it can be molded to fit the culture. I've **'ed where specific plot points cannot be changed. I will change the names once I determine if this is feasible.

Current plot, set in England:
- Tabitha is born the fifth daughter of a poor minor lord & lady. Her mother is a harsh woman who makes it clear that Tabitha is a burden.
- When Tabitha is 14, the family attends a wedding reception for a Baron's first-born son.
- Tabitha sneaks out into the garden for some fresh air and **is accosted and raped** by the Baron's second-born son.
- Tabitha hides the rape, but **she's pregnant**.
- When her mother finds out, she decides that Tabitha has shamed the family.
- She sends Tabitha to work as a servant at her sister's country estate. Her sister married into money, so the estate is a large enterprise with a lot of people.
- Tabitha settles into her life as a servant and has her son Nathan. She is expected to work, but the woman who oversees the servants is kind and **finds childcare for him** when he starts walking so that Tabitha can continue her duties.
- While having a day off, Tabitha meets a friend near the horse stables and dog kennel. She's distracted and Nathan wanders off, nearly being attacked by a vicious dog. (**Something has to put Nathan's life in danger.**)
- Tabitha is upset and worries about him. As time goes on, she starts to feel better; however, it is short-lived. While out with the governess and other children, he's kicked in the head by a horse **and dies**.

I'm trying to figure out what can be transported. Based on what I understand of the Edo period, I've answered the questions below. I would like confirmation on my answers and help where I'm struggling:

Who is Tabitha's family?
Her father is a samurai who has taken out too many loans. He's unable to pull together a dowry for his daughters. His wife is ashamed to not have produced a son.

What religion would everyone be?
Tabitha's family would follow the Bushido. Tabitha follows Buddhism. The family that she moves to could follow Confucious, Buddhism, or Zen teachings, but I'd probably make them Buddhist so she feels more comfortable.

What family holds the wedding and what does Tabitha's family get out of being there?
Her father is a samurai to a daimyo. It's expected for them to attend the wedding of the daimyo's first born son. [Edited 2/14 for clarification]

Are there dogs and horses in this time period in Japan?
Yes. None of that part of the story would need to be changed.

Where would Tabitha's mother send her?
This is where I'm stuck. Would she be sent to a merchant to work in the rice paddies? Would she be sent to work in a daimyo household? I'd rather she gets sent somewhere as analogous to the country estate in England as possible. In the current version, she has her own tiny room, which opens onto a servants' common room.

Who takes care of Nathan while Tabitha works?
This is also where I'm stuck. It depends on the answer to the above question. Does a daimyo employ a governess? Where do the other servants have their children taken care of?

Tabitha considers killing herself after Nathan dies. How would she do it?
In the current version, she thinks about drowning herself. For other reasons, I'd like to change this. Do women kill themselves with a sword in this time period? Slit their wrists? Poison themselves? (Where would she get the poison?)

Also, any links to research on day-to-day living where my story is set would be immensely helpful. There's a lot of information on the history and social structure, but the every day details are harder to find.
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Last edited by Samantha Lane; 02-14-2013 at 10:26 PM.
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Old 02-14-2013, 09:07 PM   #2
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Hi,

I can't quite understand. Is her father a daimyo or just a common samurai? There would be a world of difference between them. If her father is a daimyo, he would surely be able to obtain sufficient dowry for her. Daimyo is not exactly the same as a lord in feudal England. There were only about 200 daimyos in Japan, and they were sometimes ruling over vast domains where their word was law. They could borrow money from merchants and then annul their own debts. So I'm not sure how the rape situation could be possible. It's like raping a king's daughter - who exactly would be able to do that, and how? A daimyo's daughter would never be alone. She would not be allowed to even see men outside her immediate family (except for the servants).

Bushido is not a religion, it's a moral code. Confucianism in Japan was more of a moral/philosophical influence as well. Zen is a part of Buddhism. If Tabitha's family is samurai, they would probably belong to Rinzai Zen sect of Buddhism.

Weddings were much more private affairs back then. If you were not a part of the family/clan, you wouldn't participate.

If the girl was found to be pregnant, the pregnancy would be terminated OR the child would be given out for adoption. If the girl had already proven herself to be a nuisance/shame for the family, she could have been disowned or killed. Either way, the whole affair would be hushed up. But as I said, I'm not sure who exactly Tabitha's family are.

It would be quite easy for her to kill herself. She could hang herself or use a knife.
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Last edited by Tocotin; 02-14-2013 at 09:52 PM. Reason: more details, please
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Old 02-14-2013, 10:25 PM   #3
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I realized that one of my questions / answers wasn't clear, so I've made an edit.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tocotin View Post
Is her father a daimyo or just a common samurai?
In the scenario I'm attempting to create, Tabitha's father is a common samurai. As I understand it, many samurai in the 1700's were restricted from being merchants, but they could take out loans. So many of them borrowed too much money and ended up impoverished. So having too many daughters would be a further burden on him because he wouldn't be able to bring together the dowry to attract suitors.

Quote:
So I'm not sure how the rape situation could be possible. It's like raping a king's daughter - who exactly would be able to do that, and how? A daimyo's daughter would never be alone. She would not be allowed to even see men outside her immediate family (except for the servants).
So in my proposed scenario, Tabitha is a samurai's daughter. She sneaks out of the wedding dinner, something she's not supposed to have done, so she covers it up when she is raped because she knows she did something forbidden. Plus, in my scenario, the daimyo's son (like a prince, right?) raped her. So he would have no consequences, even if she told on him, which she knows and which gives her another reason not to disclose the rape.

Quote:
Bushido is not a religion, it's a moral code. Confucianism in Japan was more of a moral/philosophical influence as well. Zen is a part of Buddhism. If Tabitha's family is samurai, they would probably belong to Rinzai Zen sect of Buddhism.
That helps, thanks. I will look into it further.

Quote:
Weddings were much more private affairs back then. If you were not a part of the family/clan, you wouldn't participate.
Does it make sense for the daimyo to invite his samurai?

Quote:
If the girl was found to be pregnant, the pregnancy would be terminated OR the child would be given out for adoption. If the girl had already proven herself to be a nuisance/shame for the family, she could have been disowned or killed. Either way, the whole affair would be hushed up.
In my scenario, she would be disowned. I want to have her mother ship her off somewhere, rather than putting her out on the street, if that makes sense. I'm not sure where to have her shipped off to, though.

Quote:
It would be quite easy for her to kill herself. She could hang herself or use a knife.
OK, thank you.
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Old 02-15-2013, 03:12 AM   #4
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The only novel I know of that goes into Japanese culture is Shogun, by James Clavell. I have no idea how accurate it is. The novel takes place in the 1500's, not the 1700's, but I would guess that many cultural mores might not have changed much in the intervening years.
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Old 02-15-2013, 06:41 AM   #5
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You might want to look into the work of Lafcadio Hearn. He was a great literary japanophile, and I believe much, if not all, of his stuff is out of copyright and available on-line.

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Old 02-15-2013, 08:36 PM   #6
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So I've thought and thought about this, and I decided to abandon this idea.

I was reading some teachings on the Bushido yesterday when I realized that I'm too much of a Westerner to be able to write a story set in this time period in Japan. It's actually because I've come to admire and love this culture so much in a short period of time that I made the decision not to do this. If I tried, my character would come off as a Westerner in a Japanese body, which doesn't do the society justice. The struggles that she has would be different than the ones that I envisioned or even that I can understand.

Thank you to everyone who responded.
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Old 02-15-2013, 08:45 PM   #7
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If I remember right, Japan was exiting the feudal age and entering the industrial age. Samuri were disappearing as modern weapons were introduced to Japan.

Think of the movie, The Last Samuri...
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