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When and Where?

General discussion about Usagi Yojimbo, the comics, the stories, the characters, collectibles, TV appearances, Stan Sakai, Space Usagi, Nilson & Hermy, and all other related topics.

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When and Where?

Postby maichan » Sat Nov 16, 2019 12:05 +0000

So I've been catching up on my Usagi Yojimbo reading and have been going through the hardcovers (Special Edition and Saga books). I'm currently finishing up Saga book 4. I've always been curious about where and when the stories take place, and I've always wished there was a timeline of events and maps of Usagi's travels. With that in mind, I've begun to compile my own timeline... but I waited until Saga Book 4 to do it, so I'll need to go back and research the previous volumes again. :roll:

So far, for Saga Book 4, which includes Duel at Kitanoji, Travels with Jotaro and Fathers & Sons, most of the major stories take place in the span of a few months - from autumn to winter.

A bit more tricky are figuring out the locations, and for that I need to ask Sakai Sensei a question (I hope your'e reading this Stan). In Saga Book 4 there are a few major specific locations mentioned. One being Kitanoji Temple, and another being the Toshi Mountains. I tried searching for these to see if they are actual locations, even enlisting the help of my wife (so she could check them in Japanese), but we haven't had much luck. Apparently there are a few real Kitanoji Temples, but we could not find anything for the Toshi Mountains. So I'd like to ask Stan, are these locations in the stories real, or fictional? If they're fictional, do you have actual counterpart locations in mind?
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Re: When and Where?

Postby maichan » Mon Nov 18, 2019 22:13 +0000

There's a good example of "where" in the new IDW issue 6.

In the story notes on the last page, Stan talks about the Adachi Plain located in Fukushima Prefecture. It is here where Adachigahara is located (the name of the eastern shore of Abukuma River as well as the eastern base of Mount Adatara).

This is the location of the story of the Onibaba of Adachigahara.
Before reading the Story Notes, during my meager attempt at researching the battle of Adachigahara, the closest I was able to come was the battle of Sekigahara.
In the story notes, Stan goes on to explain that he's not sure if there ever was a battle at Adachigahara, but he did base it on the Battle of Sekigahara.

Thus we have at least one reference point for Usagi. Now we just need to map out all of his journeys.

In the map below, the red circle is the location of Edo (Tokyo), and the green circle is the approximate location of Adachigahara.

Image
oldmapJapan001 by Michael Foertsch, on Flickr
Last edited by maichan on Thu Apr 23, 2020 10:07 +0000, edited 3 times in total.
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Re: When and Where?

Postby Stan Sakai » Mon Nov 18, 2019 22:39 +0000

maichan wrote:
A bit more tricky are figuring out the locations, and for that I need to ask Sakai Sensei a question (I hope your'e reading this Stan). In Saga Book 4 there are a few major specific locations mentioned. One being Kitanoji Temple, and another being the Toshi Mountains. I tried searching for these to see if they are actual locations, even enlisting the help of my wife (so she could check them in Japanese), but we haven't had much luck. Apparently there are a few real Kitanoji Temples, but we could not find anything for the Toshi Mountains. So I'd like to ask Stan, are these locations in the stories real, or fictional? If they're fictional, do you have actual counterpart locations in mind?


There may be a Kitanoji Temple in the Toshi Mountains, but I have forgotten where I got the names from. I may have read it or heard it somewhere, but it's been so long I have forgotten. Or I may have made up the mountain. Sorry I can't be definite about this.
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Re: When and Where?

Postby maichan » Tue Nov 19, 2019 10:33 +0000

Stan Sakai wrote:There may be a Kitanoji Temple in the Toshi Mountains, but I have forgotten where I got the names from. I may have read it or heard it somewhere, but it's been so long I have forgotten. Or I may have made up the mountain. Sorry I can't be definite about this.


Thank you for your feedback Stan. I guess if the places are partially made up, it may make it impossible for us to trace Uasagi's footsteps on a conventional map of Japan. But maybe we can put together a fictional map of Usagi's Japan one day. Something to think about, ne? :wink:
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Re: When and Where?

Postby maichan » Sat Dec 14, 2019 23:34 +0000

So, as I continue my re-reading of Usagi Yojimbo, I am now about done with Saga Book 6.

Here is what I've surmised so far. Time in the Usagiverse does move at a snails pace.

I haven't been able to find it, but I do recall that someone once referenced something Stan said about how little time went between some stories. That's actually what got me thinking about how much time has passed since we first were introduced to Usagi. Wish I could remember more... Maka, was that you maybe?

Although it's not always clear as to the time of year, it seems that less than a year has passed between the beginning of Saga Book 4 and the ending of Saga Book 6. The stories contained in these Saga Books would be the Dark Horse Volume 3, issues #53 thru #116 which were published from December 2001 to December 2008 - that's 7 years in our time frame.

Saga Book 4 DUEL AT KITANOJI the story "Vendetta" indicates "autumn is approaching" and the story "Images from a Winter's Day" begins with "seven months ago" which would be winter of that year. Then in the entire TRAVELS WITH JOTARO only 2 to 3 weeks pass by. FATHERS and SONS is less clear, but one can assume it is still autumn, and in the final story "Hokashi" there is mention of "winter is coming." (AUTUMN)

Saga Book 5 has various clues as to still being autumn. In GLIMPSES OF DEATH "Samurai for Hire" there are "fall colored leaves" But in MOTHER OF THE MOUNTAINS we are left to wonder as to the season. It is in TOMOE'S STORY in "Ghost in the Wall" where we see fallen Ginko leaves, which again indicate autumn. (AUTUMN)

Book 6 starts with what may be a jump in time, as we may have skipped winter without anything happening. BRIDGE OF TEARS it is mentioned that only one week has passed from "Shuzuiri" all the way to "The Killer". RETURN OF THE BLACK SOUL is another story arc hard to place in a season, but in "Sparrows" there is mention of it being "a few weeks ago" since the "Rain & Thunder" story (in the BRIDGE OF TEARS story arc). The final story arc of Book 6 begins with "Kitsune Gari" and in the first two frames is a peach. Peach season would be late spring or early summer (June), again indicating we skipped through winter. And the final story in Book 6, "Saya" shows farmers planting rice, which would be mid spring to early summer (March to June). (SPRING - EARLY SUMMER)

I still have a lot of reading to do, and I still need to go back to the first Usagi stories and Saga Books 1 thru 3.

Please feel free to share your thoughts, comments, opinions and ideas as to 'when' and 'where' we've been and are going! :D
Last edited by maichan on Sun Apr 19, 2020 19:00 +0000, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: When and Where?

Postby maichan » Sun Feb 23, 2020 21:50 +0000

I recently finished Saga Book 8, so will update with my findings from Book 7 & 8 before going back to re-read the Fantagraphics books, and Saga Books 1 thru 3.

Stay tuned!
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Re: When and Where?

Postby maichan » Sun Apr 19, 2020 20:00 +0000

So here we are in the midst of a pandemic, and I thought I'd have time to catch up on reading and on reviewing the Usagi story timeline. That hasn't happened since I'm still on a normal work schedule, but I did finish Saga books 7 & 8 and will try to explain the time which I feel has passed in those books.

SAGA Book 7 - Traitors of the Earth: no clear indication where we begin, so I can only assume we continue where we left off from Book 6, making it sometime in summer. There is a possible indication of cooler weather leading to Autumn in "What the Little Thief Heard" because Kitsune is cold on the last page. In "The Hidden Fortress" we see a dragonfly again, indicative of late summer or early fall. In the "Death of Lord Hikiji" Usagi is eating a fruit. What could it be? I guess anything, but I like to think an apple or maybe a persimmon, either of which would also indicate autumn.
In the Town Called Hell story arc we see a single maple leaf blowing through town in the lead story. And in Nukekubi there are turnips in a garden, which might also indicate harvest time, or autumn, or maybe not. The next two stories leave little if any clues as to season, but in "Encounter at Blood Tree Pass" on page 9 the farmers are planting rice, so this tells us it is sometime during spring. The character Kato also says he has "searched for weeks for Usagi" since we last encountered him in "A Town Called Hell!" "Return to Hell" continues the story with Kato, so we can assume not much time has passed.
Red Scorpion is the third story arc of book 7, and starts out with a jump back in time "more than half a year ago" before returning to the present, with talk of coming rains and "farmers are ready with their planting", so let's say it's late spring. Both "Toad Oil" and "Returns of the Lord of Owls" have no clear indication of season. But in the Scorpions Tail stories the rice fields appear to be freshly planted (late spring/early summer) So from Traitors of the Earth to Scorpiom's Tail we seem to have passed through AUTUMN, WINTER & SPRING.

Saga Book 8 - in the TWO HUNDRED JIZO story arc, there's lots of rain, and the story "Ice Runners" indicates summer.
In the THIEVES & SPIES story arcs, "The Thief and the Kunoichi" parts 1,2 & 3 all take place over a few nights at most. Our best guess is it is still summer. In "One Armed Swordsman" we are told directly that it is Autumn. While "Death of a Tea Master" tells us it is spring - with the words, "green leaves"..."a new season begins." In "The Bride" a coming storm & rains might indicate summer.
Finally in the HELL SCREEN story arc we experience a lot of rain again. In "River Rising" we also see some young kyuri (cucumber) growing on a vine. "Kazehime" and "Secret of the Hell Screen" also have plenty of rain, and we are told that 3 months have passed since Usagi's arm was injured in the fight with the Kappa, so I'm guessing it's late summer now, and in "Fate of the Elders" we see a dragonfly again and there is mention of a chilly night (early autumn?). So in these stories it looks like we've gone from SUMMER to AUTUMN, skipped winter, then back into SPRING and SUMMER.

So if I figure this correctly, it seems that less than a year has passed between the beginning of Saga Book 4 and the ending of Saga Book 6, while from the beginning of Book 7 to the end of Book 8 close to 2 years have elapsed - this would mean roughly 3 years have gone by in that time frame.

Your thoughts and comments are welcome!

Now I need to go back to the beginning and try to work out that part... wish me luck! Unless someone would like to tell me they've figured this part out already? :lol:
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Re: When and Where?

Postby jabba359 » Mon Apr 20, 2020 9:38 +0000

That's some good sleuthing there!
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Re: When and Where?

Postby Steve Hubbell » Mon Apr 20, 2020 19:50 +0000

Of course, if Usagi is experiencing Michigan style weather, he could have spring, winter and summer conditions all in the same week..... :roll:
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Re: When and Where?

Postby Mayhem » Tue Apr 21, 2020 0:31 +0000

Japan is acknowledged, along with the UK, as having some of the most unpredictable and fluctuating weather patterns in the world. Both are islands, both with multiple competing air streams.
With a breeze comes a storm, but then you'll all be washed away...
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Re: When and Where?

Postby Maka » Tue Apr 21, 2020 8:54 +0000

Maichan, your analysis is the best of fandom. I loved reading it. Thanks to you and everyone who contributed to this thread. So great! Peace, maka
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Re: When and Where?

Postby maichan » Thu Apr 23, 2020 14:48 +0000

Maka wrote:Maichan, your analysis is the best of fandom. I loved reading it. Thanks to you and everyone who contributed to this thread. So great! Peace, maka


Thank you Maka. Mostly I do it for myself, but if it will help other readers, then all the better for all of us. :lol:

After I stumbled across a few details while reading about Lord Hikiji (http://www.usagiyojimbo.com/the-cast/) , I decided to play around with the maps some more. Chances are we'll never really know exactly where Usagi has wandered, at least we can get an idea of where he might have spent some time.

These maps should help us get a better idea of where things are.

Here is a satellite view of Japan via Google Maps.
Japan consists of five main islands (Hokkaido, Honshu, Kyushu, Shikoku, and Okinawa). Hokkaido is the northernmost island, and Okinawa is the southernmost island(s). The Okinawa islands are not readily seen on the maps below. Honshu is the largest, main island - this is where modern day Tokyo is located.

Image
japan_map by Michael Foertsch, on Flickr


Here is the old map I showed earlier, indicating where Adachi Plain is in regards to Tokyo.

Image
oldmapJapan001 by Michael Foertsch, on Flickr

This map below shows the provinces of Japan, Mutsu province is shaded in red.
Hikiji is the lord of the Mutsu Province, which takes up the entire northeast portion of the main island of Honshu, and includes Adachigahara Plain, the city of Sendai (mentioned in "Lone Rabbit and Child"), and Usagi's village.


Image
Provinces_of_Japan-Mutsu by Michael Foertsch, on Flickr

And here is a modern map to get a better perspective.

Image
Adachigahara by Michael Foertsch, on Flickr

I would venture to guess most of Usagi's travels are in this region of Honshu, withing the boundries of the red rectangle.

Image
Usagi_possible_range_of_travel by Michael Foertsch, on Flickr


If we look at this satellite map below, the red square is the area of Adachi Plain, and it is enlarged in the next map.

Image
Adachigahara_geo_00a by Michael Foertsch, on Flickr

Image
Adachigahara_geo_01 by Michael Foertsch, on Flickr

The red arrow indicated Mount Adatara while the blue arrows indicate possible regions that can be considered part of Adachi Plain.
Now I just need to figure out where Usagi's village is located. Fortunately I'll start rereading the entire series from the beginning, so I may have a chance to learn more in the coming months. :lol:

Image
Adachigahara_geo_02 by Michael Foertsch, on Flickr
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