The inscrutable Eastern empire known as Nippon is ruled by a reclusive semi-divine Emperor[4b], also known as the Divine Sun[9h], but real power lies in the hands of the many feudal warlords or 'Samurai'[4b], knights resplendent in brightly coloured armour made of lacquered wood that enforce a complex and rigid class system.[10a] These warrior nobles govern large domains and command retinues with which they frequently indulge in private wars among themselves. Nippon is an island realm and a notable sea power and it sometimes happens that a Samurai war fleet is dispersed by a typhoon, scattering the ships far and wide. Should an isolated war junk fetch up on a foreign shore the Samurai commander will gather his men and march straight for the nearest representative of authority to offer his service in return for food and shelter. Sometimes Samurai lords deliberately embark their followers into war junks and set sail towards the rising sun in search of adventure, especially if the other feudal clans back home in Nippon are cramping his style.[4b]
The Samurai classes dominate Nipponese society. Their land is so vast and so often inhospitable, the Samurai so strong and the Emperor so weak, that central control has all but disappeared. Society is normally run by the Samurai, who exchange their protection for control over the towns and cities, along with taxes and the right to levy militias. As the Samurai have grown in strength, so has each settlement's need for the Samurai. The Samurai's training, devotion and continual practice have turned them into awesome fighters.[3a]
Nippon abounds with diverse orders of monks, either martial or clerical. The Orders select their members at a very early age and the chosen ones devote their entire lives to philosophy, theology and the martial arts. A lifetime of gruelling study hones their bodies and minds to a very fine edge.[3a]
Nipponese are said to be intensely distrustful of outsiders -- they only permit foreigners to travel in their lands rarely, and so little else is known about Nippon, though doubtless if the rest of the world is anything to go by, it will be populated by its own unique and deadly monsters and perils.[10a]
Like many Orientals, Nipponese worship a common god called the Orange Simca, whose monks wear orange robes and spend most of their time in contemplation. Vimto is the martial version of Simcism.[2b]
The stone statues known as Temple Dogs can be found guarding temple entrances in the lands of Nippon. They resemble nothing so much as a cross between a giant pekinese and a lion. In times of war, the power of the temple gods is channeled into these statues to animate them. It is a great honour to mount this divine animal, indicating that the rider has found great favour with the gods.[4a]
Samurai are the warrior nobility of Nippon. Samurai lords lead bands of disciplined and utterly devoted followers. The Samurai martial code does not recognise failure and there can be no honour in defeat. The Samurai are much concerned with their personal reputation as warriors and always fight to the utmost of their ability.[4b]
In Nippon the Samurai have developed their skills to a level far above those of normal humans. Fatalism has reached such a peak in these warriors that some (up to 10% in any battle[2b]) regard it as a high honour to die in battle[3a] and become Kamikaze.[2b] These warriors are prepared to go into battle as human bombs, carrying either a cask of black powder or bandoliers loaded with separate explosive charges. Kamikaze warriors hide in other regiments, lighting the fuses on their explosive packs and rushing to meet the enemy as soon as it gets close to them.[3a] A Kamikaze not killed during a battle will slay himself, believing that his time has come and that to live on would affront Simca.[2b]
Even these warriors are outclassed by the Vimto monks. They do not need weapons but fight with their bare hands. They cannot wear armour or carry shields, but their agility is such that they can dodge and parry blows with their limbs alone.[2b]
Ninja Assassins are indispensable members of a Samurai lord's retinue[4b], dark agents of death who prey upon the unwary and slay them without mercy. They remain disguised within regiments of ordinary troops until it is time for them to spring. Once a regiment is engaged in hand-to-hand combat, the assassin throws off his disguise, leaps out of the regiment, and may attack any important figures in the enemy regiment. They can fight unarmed, or with a wide variety of weapons, such as the kusarigama (a sickle on a length of cord or light chain that can be thrown or used as a hand weapon), shuriken or throwing stars, and torinoko grenades (which can be loaded with explosives, blinding flash powder, or confusing firecrackers).[3a]
Nipponese peasants are extremely reluctant to fight for their Samurai overlords, however sometimes they have no choice.[3a] They form regiments of Ashigaru, highly disciplined warriors that follow the Samurai and obey them without question. They can be armed with hand weapons, spears, long bows or arquebuses.[4b]
Nipponese armies know how to use black powder weapons, such as crude muzzle-loaded arquebuses, simple firelock pistols (favoured by mounted Samurai, alongside bows and crossbows), cannons and very precise, 6 to 9 feet long war rockets filled with a mixture of fireworks that are designed to frighten, disorganise and distract the survivors of a hit. While no Samurai would lower himself to work so closely with the lower orders and operate fundamentally 'cowardly' weapons, the profession of bombardier is regarded with great esteem amongst the lower military orders.[3a]
- Sanyo Kawasaki - The tale of Sanyo Kawasaki is typical of those stories honoured so much by the Samurai cast of Nippon. Kawasaki was bitterly opposed to the government of his country, which he regarded as weak and liberal. Matters were brought to a head when a foreign ship was seen off the western coast, and the lazy authorities made no attempt to sink it. Such a lost opportunity to cause mayhem and destruction was anathema to the true Samurai, and caused widespread disgust. Sanyo Kawasaki assembled an army and laid siege to the capital. The siege was not a success, however, and Kawasaki committed ritual suicide as a gesture of disdain. This he achieved by the celebrated manner of standing on his head in a bucket of cold water. Sanyo wore plate armour and fought with the magic sword Toyota.[1a]
- Nissan - Sanyo Kawasaki's most trusted rice-bowl bearer. During the siege of the Nipponese capital, he led 9 Samurai with plate armour, swords and long bows.[1a]
- Fujima - Sanyo Kawasaki's most pre-eminent tea-strainer. During the siege of the Nipponese capital, he led 7 Kamikaze with plate armour and swords.[1a]
- Nagajima - A minor Samurai retainer of Sanyo Kawasaki. During the siege of the Nipponese capital, he led his Ashigaru spearmen.[1a]
- Atachi - Another Samurai retainer of Sanyo Kawasaki. During the siege of the Nipponese capital, he led ten Samurai that rode barded horses into battle and fought with bows as well as their swords.[1a]
- Honda Susuki - Another companion of Sanyo Kawasaki during his siege of the Nipponese capital, he was a mighty hero who freed the Vimto monks of Asigawa from the domination of their repressive lord. Those 15 Vimtoists now followed him in his travels, offering him mystic advice and religious solace and beating up anyone who didn't show him the proper respect. He had plate armour and a magic sword.[1a]
- Sansui Lee - He was a devout Vimtoist and a sworn follower of Honda. He fought with no weapons.[1a]
- Nitto - He was an aged but wise Vimto Mage who did not need weapons to defend himself. He was accompanied by his pupil, Akai, who carried a bo-stick and various other concealed weapons including knives and axes.[1a]
- Toko - A Ninja assassin in the service of Venk Kataswaran, owner of the Golden Lotus in Marienburg.[9e]
- Masahito - A hulking, silent bouncer in the service of Venk Kataswaran.[9e]
Contacts with other races and nations
In -238 IC, the great Dark Elf Shade Kaledor Maglen discovered and explored the Black Way, a route through the water-filled caverns of the Underworld Sea that allows Druchii Black Arks to pass below the Black Spine Mountains to the Broken Lands and the Boiling Sea on the west coast of the New World. Although evidence has been found pointing to the existence of some lost race living there underground, the Naggarothi care little about them, and instead are happy to use the Underworld Sea to gain access to the lands of Nippon and Cathay which lie beyond the Far Sea.[5a][5b][8d]
Although Black Arks started crossing the Boiling Sea and raiding the oriental lands of the farthest east in -87 IC, for the Dark Elves these were uncharted territories and for each fleet that returned with prizes and slaves, half a dozen came back to Naggaroth in failure.[5b][8a]
The most notable successes were by Laithikir Fellheart, latest in a long line of Black Ark commanders and as cunning a she-Elf as was ever born. By 1103 IC, Laithikir had learnt to follow the High Elf ships, her Black Ark swathed in shadow and storm, tracking their ever-increasing journeys to the lands of the orient. By shadowing the fleets of Ulthuan, she was able to raid the busy seaports and convoys that traded with the High Elves in Ind and Cathay. As word of her success grew, Laithikir sold her charts to other captains, and within a decade dozens of Dark Elf fleets were attacking the settlements of the mysterious Far East and bringing back tens of thousands of slaves and holds full of exotic wares such as witch jade, ivory, tigerfire, silk and spices. Ever-eager to show off their wealth and power, the Dark Elves prized these stolen wares highly and their value soared. Competition for the Witch King's permission to raid these lands fuelled a period of infighting and politicking that saw Malekith's coffers swell with gold and silver.[8a][8c]
The first Skaven to arrive to the Far East belonged to Clan Eshin. This clan had been led eastwards through the Dark Lands by Lord Visktrin, who died around -1400 IC after battling against a Dragon in the Mountains of Mourn and charged his successor with establishing a stronghold further east, and so passed beyond the knowledge of the rest of the Under-Empire and reached Cathay.[6a][6b] When its members returned to Skavenblight they were changed. During that long period in contact with the mysterious human cultures of Ind, Cathay and Nippon, the Skaven had learned much, specially about the arts of stealth and assassination.[7a] One product of this copying of craftsmanship techniques was the Smoke Bomb - a small fragile grenade filled with an explosive powder that detonates with a flash on impact.[11b]
Nowadays, thanks to the fact that the Great Maze of tunnels connecting the whole Under-Empire spans the whole world, Eshin agents can cross from Nippon to the Old World in less than six months.[11a]
Traders from Marienburg in the Old World have reached Nippon since at least 2475 IC[9a]. This has led to the establishment of a large Nipponese community[9c] in Nipponstaad, between the Paleisbuurt and the Handelaarmarkt, and next to the Cathayans of Zijdemarkt. They are mostly labourers and fishermen, and often work for Elves as house staff.[9d] In fact, the mansions of the Ten are staffed to the rafters with liveried servants, many drawn from the Cathayan, Nipponese, Indie and Kislevan ghettos under Goudberg's jurisdiction.[9g]
The Divine Sun of Nippon has recently opened formal relations with Marienburg, establishing an embassy along the Vreemdelingsvaart, though their strange customs and impenetrable language make it hard for Marienburgers to divine their intentions.[9h]
House den Euwe is known to be heavily influenced by their trade with Nippon, their symbol being a jade oval decorated with the white Nipponese character for prosperity. The family's mansion is based in Handelaarmarkt, across the Green Moon bridge from the Nipponese quarter, and is decorated in Oriental fashion, with its private lagoon overhung by willow and cherry blossom trees, and small statues of Nipponese and Cathayan gods standing guard from their perches atop the mooring posts. The den Euwes' leader, Karl, is married with a Nipponese lady called Katsi Okumoto, and their son, Egmond, has recently sailed around the Southlands to Nippon and Cathay.[9b]
Almost nothing is known about the presence of Chaos in Nippon or how it is viewed by its rulers. However, Egmond den Euwe, the young heir to House den Euwe of Marienburg, was secretly converted to the worship of Lord Tsien-Tsin, known in the Old World as Tzeentch, as he made his first trading trip to Nippon.[9b]
Nippon is based on real-world, feudal era Japan. "Nippon" is the Japanese word (日本) for Japan. Nippon, or alternatively Nihon, literally means "the sun's origin," and is often translated as the Land of the Rising Sun. This nomenclature comes from Imperial correspondence with the Chinese Sui Dynasty and refers to Japan's eastern position relative to China.
Up to the 3rd Edition of Warhammer Fantasy Battles, the background had a stronger parodical streak, and since most of the background information on Nippon comes from those early times, one can find puns almost everywhere:
- Almost all the names in the Tale of Sanyo Kawasaki, the first apparition of Nippon in the background, refer to Japanese brands: Sanyo Electric Co., Toyota Motor Corporation, Kawasaki Heavy Industries, Nissan Motor Company Ltd., Honda Motor Company Ltd., Suzuki Motor Corporation, Sansui Electric, Nitto Tire & Rubber Co., Ltd., and Akai Electric Co., Ltd.
- Vimto is a British carbonated drink.
- Also Masahito, Venk Kataswaran's bouncer at the Golden Lotus, may have been named after Prince Hitachi of Japan.
According to Graeme Davis:
- The East was never officially opened up by GW. They stuck a toe in the water – after Kagemusha, the Shogun miniseries and the 80s fashion for Japanese characters on T-shirts, there was a lot of interest in feudal Japan among 80s geeks. There was the short-lived Oriental Heroes range, and the Perrys did a few ninja minis, but almost nothing in the way of text. I proposed an Oriental Heroes vs. hobgoblins battle box (working title: Bakemono’s Revenge) but the battle boxes were dropped after McDeath. What Mark found is the mortal remains of the Tetsubo project. Dave Morris and Oliver Johnson, authors of the “Way of the Tiger” gamebooks, were commissioned to create a Nippon supplement for WFRP1. I was one of the people who looked over the original [manuscripts] when they turned it in, and everyone agreed it didn’t nail the WFRP tone. It was more like an adaptation of FGU’s Bushido to use WFRP1 rules. It languished in a “to be developed” pile for a long time, but nothing happened with it. As time went on it was getting harder and harder to get a green light for a new Enemy Within adventure, let alone opening up a whole new region. Then the fashion for Japanese stuff faded and that was that.
- 9 Warhammer RPG 1st Ed.: Marienburg - Sold Down the River