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Books on Feudal Japan...

PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 15:25 +0000
by Logan Myrddin
I've recently realized that I had THE character I wanted to write about all this time... he was just in the wrong setting! He was a priest in a DREAM world I had created, but it just wasn't turning out right. His name was Shin.
It took me about six months to make the ("divinely inspired") connection between "Shin" and Shinto. I quite suddenly realized that I had it all wrong! He's a Shinto priest in feudal Japan, not a priest of a fantasy world! So, here's the thing.
Obviously, I can't just start drawing. I know more than the average person does about feudal Japan, but I still know next to nothing. I need to research. Specifically, I need books or online references. I need costume references, architecture references, cultural and custom references, ettiquette references, Shinto references, folklore and mythological (There are NO Japanese mythology reference books in print! Can you BELIEVE it?) references, social and political references, environmental and agricultural references.
But what I REALLY need is help! I don't know where to begin! How do I start research (where do I start) on such a broad subject, and when can I safely conclude that I know enough not to embarass myself? Any references you guys can suggest would be appreciated, especially if you know whether they're good or not. Any wisdom from the sensei would also be greatly appreciated.
I've gone on long enough, I think. Thanks in advance, everyone!

PostPosted: Tue Feb 04, 2003 18:29 +0000
by Noblesan
My best suggestion would be to just look for information on japanese temples and castles. As for traditional style japanese houses, The best book I've ever found is: Measure and construction of the Japanese house by Heino (sometimes Heinrich) Engel. It's sometimes in print but you should be able to get it from a college library in the area. I had to wait 6 months for my copy from Tuttle Publishing (the publisher of course). You can find many of the old castles online. I know Osaka castle has diagrams of each floor and there are hundreds of pictures of it from the outside. You might also want to cheat and look for a book of manga backgrounds that have traditional architecture in them. As for the clothes, Check out: They have many different parts of clothes, although I wonder about how much of this is truly traditonal. As for the other stuff, happy hunting. Hope this helps.
Ja mata... Jason

PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2003 10:25 +0000
by Logan Myrddin
What about you, Mr. Sakai? What are the best books in your library? How would you suggest I go about looking for information?

Japanese reference books

PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2003 13:02 +0000
by kouroo
One of the best general reference books out there is "Everyday Life in Traditional Japan" by Charles J. Dunn.
Another interesting book is "Memories of Silk and Straw: A Self-Portrait of Small-Town Japan" by Dr. Junichi Saga. Naturally this is about small-town life, so I don't know if that would be of interest to you.
Pantheon Books offers "Japanese Tales", edited and translated by Royall Tyler. It's not a reference book, though, in that it doesn't read like a dictionary or encylopedia, but it's good reading.
Lafcadio Hearn wrote a book about Shinto and Buddhism in Japan, but I don't remember the exact title; it was something pretty obvious like "Shinto and Buddhism in Japan" though!!
Just a few suggestions to start you off. Good luck.

Chris G.

PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2003 15:11 +0000
by Logan Myrddin
Okay, I've got all the books I need on all the subjects, except ONE.
I can't just draw characters. I've got to be able to draw backgrounds, scenery. I need pictures of japan: Nature, architecture, people, places, scenery, temples/shrines, and so on. I can't get started until I know what to draw in the background. Otherwise, I've done enough research to be able to draw the first story (a relatively light one, as far as research goes). I've looked up pictures of Japan on the web, but I'm afraid to draw from them-- you know, like I'm just copying or something.

PostPosted: Sat Feb 08, 2003 15:15 +0000
by Logan Myrddin
:shock: Oh my god! I'm not going to have to GO to Japan, am I??? Is that what Mr. Sakai did/does?!! I don't have the money for that! And I'm in college! TELL me I don't have to go to Japan just to draw/see scenery!

PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2003 8:37 +0000
by Stan Sakai
Start collecting books on Japan. That's what I did. I now have a pretty extensive library. The best book on scenery in my collection I did get in Japan, though. I found it in a art supply store there.

Also check out the Japan Tourist Bureau if you're in a major city. They have a lot of free stuff for the taking.

Another source for Art

PostPosted: Mon Feb 10, 2003 10:57 +0000
by digulla
Another source is of course the internet. Just check for online images of Japan or a commercial image seller like There you can search for a specific subject and then buy the image.

PostPosted: Thu Feb 13, 2003 13:35 +0000
by Logan Myrddin
Hmmm... Tell me I'm wrong. I've looked at some pictures, and it seems, with just a few exceptions (some particular pine trees and ferns, for example) that the trees in Japan are the same (looking) trees as we have here in America. Am I just looking at the wrong pictures, or have I been making this a lot harder than it should be? Can I just draw north american trees, add bamboo, ferns, etc, throw in a perssimon tree here and there, and be done with it? Or am I just looking at the wrong pictures? I mean, I know they have magnolias over there, and I've got magnolias in my backyard. A little help here? Before I die of consternation and frustration? Please? :?

PostPosted: Fri Feb 14, 2003 4:58 +0000
by digulla
Well, times have changed. In 1600, different plants grew in different continents but mankind invented gardening and now, exotic plants are spread all over the planet. I ran into the same problem when writing a supper in my story: I offered Tomoe an apple and later, I realized that this kind of fruit might be common today but maybe not at that time.

My advice would be to get a book about gardening in a library which tells something about the history of the plants (where it came from and when it was imported from there).

PostPosted: Sat Feb 15, 2003 14:19 +0000
by Logan Myrddin
Um... Should I select a period to set the story in and then research that period, or do I need to research everything?

PostPosted: Sun Feb 16, 2003 12:30 +0000
by digulla
Logan Myrddin wrote:Um... Should I select a period to set the story in and then research that period, or do I need to research everything?

That depends on your goals. I, for example, wanted to show how kind and generous Pau Tai is, so the fact that apples might have been unknown in Japan at that time, was so unimportant for me that I didn't research it. It would be trivial to change to another fruit should someone tell me which fruits were available at that time, so I invested my time into writing more story instead of research.

In the end, you must judge yourself and find something which works for you. If you want to get everything correct, then you must invest lots of time into research. If you want to drive the story on, then you must face the fact that you can't get everything right.

Decisions, decisions, life, life,

Story backgrounds.

PostPosted: Wed Apr 16, 2003 16:52 +0000
by Robert Wetherelt
I asked Sakai-sensei the same questions and was told not to let the background take away from the main action. It's the story that counts.Study Sakai-sensei's comics and glean the rest from the other sources mentioned above. And don't forget the cinema, there are plenty of films that take place in feudal Japan. I have bought a few of them{12 to be exact} and after watching them first to enjoy them,I now watch them to "study" them. I look at the sets and the outdoor locations. How the sets are "dressed" and the "props" and how it all comes together. So I don't think that you have to go to Japan to do your story the way that you want. There are plenty of references out just have to look. And we members of the Dojo are here for you if you need us.Ja,mata.