Of Swords and Honour
Chapter: The Spirit Realms
Beyond the world of mortals lies the Celestial Realms: planes of existence where spirits and gods dwell.
Takama no Hara
Takama no Hara is the spirit world where the kami dwell. Spirits of enlightened individuals ascend directly to Takama no Hara upon death, bypassing Yomi, the land of the dead. Amatsukami, the gods of heaven, reside here. They are the guardians of the natural order, and it is their duty to ensure that the cosmos continues to function.
Yomi is the land of the dead. It is a realm of negative energy that gradually corrupts and consumes everything it comes in contact with, including the spirits of the deceased. The Jashin, or dark gods, rule portions of Yomi. They strive to spread the corrupting energy of the land into the mortal realm through disease, decay and war.
Far beneath the surface of the known world lies the Hidden World, a realm of ancient horror and unspeakable madness. Its inhabitants remain trapped behind the Seven Seals of Tzu (created by a legendary Xin onmyōji), waiting for the day when they will be powerful enough to break the seals and lay waste to the world above.
The Black Road is an insubstantial realm of whispers and shadows where thought and movement become one. It is the land that lies behind and connects every shadow cast in the mortal realm. Yamiji is largely uninhabited.
The Pure Land is a realm of peace, free from suffering.
The Land of the Gods is the realm where the great animal spirits are said to live, according to the Cult of the Bear. It is a land of unspoiled wilderness where man and beast coexist in peace, where hunger does not exist and where warfare is unnecessary.
Kami are Fenist deities, though they are neither omnipotent nor omniscient. They can represent natural phenomena, abstract concepts, or specific powerful historical figures. In general, the word “kami” refers to any spirit powerful enough to be worthy of respect.
The number of kami is not fixed, and, in fact, continuously grows as great mortals enter the spirit world. As a whole, they are known as Yau-Yorozu no Kami, or the Ever-Increasing Myriad Deities.
There are three categories of kami: amatsukami are the gods of heaven, who reside in Takama no Hara. They are the guardians of the natural order, ensuring that the cosmos continues to function.
The kunitsukami are the gods of the land, who reside in the Mortal Realm. These kami protect the land and people of Tsurukoku.
The jashin are the malignant gods who bring disease, pollution, and disaster into the world. They are native to Yomi, the land of death.
Amatsukami are the gods of heaven, who reside in Takama no Hara. They are the guardians of the natural order, ensuring that the cosmos continues to function.
Suigyoku no Kami The Jade Emperor
Lady Jorōgumo The Yellow Spider
On the border of the spirit world and the mortal realm sits Castle Yume. Behind its high walls, Lady Jorougumo’s servants, giant celestial spiders, weave silk into the tapestries of dreams. These dreams are then carried into the mortal realm by a host of spirits, who deliver them into the minds of all slumbering creatures. She normally appears as a demure, middle aged, human woman dressed in an exquisitely woven, silk kimono. Her true form, however, is that of a huge, celestial spider.
Lady Mitsubachi The Honey Bee
Artisans and artists often claim to be “stung by inspiration.” This common expression can be traced to the spiritual servants of Lady Mistubachi, celestial bees whose venom is laced with the pure essence of imagination. In the Sakura Gardens, her bees feed on the pollen of cherry tree blossoms, ingesting the potent energy of Takama no Hara. Lady Mistubachi then sends her servants to sting the poets, calligraphers and artisans of the mortal realm. Lady Mistubachi’s natural form is that of a huge, celestial, queen bee. However, she prefers to appear in the form of a demure, young woman.
Itsutsu Shukumei The Five Fates
The five celestial dragons known as Itsutsu Shukumei are the guardians of fate. They determine the events that affect the lives of every living creature, and dispatch their spirit servants to affect these events. When each living creature is born, the five fates create an urn, into which they place stones engraved with magical kanji, each of which represents an event that will occur in the creature’s life.
Hakari The Scales
A powerful onmyoji in life, Lord Hakari has, as his central concern, the balance of all things. He is a critic of the Jade Emperor, believing that the ruler of Takama no Hara is too powerful.
Dokuhebi The Viper
The half-woman, half-serpent Lady Dokuhebi is the mistress of the Jade Emperor.
Lady Fubuki is the patron of lost travelers. As a young woman, Lady Fubuki became lost in a snowstorm on her way to meet her husband.
Yogensha The Prophet
In life, Lord Yogensha was a powerful shugenja, who received visions of future events. Now, he sends his spiritual servants to deliver visions to other shugenja.
Sho Himura General of the Seven-Striped Banner
Aono Himura was the commanding general of the Mikado’s armies when Tsurukoku was founded. Under his brilliant leadership, he was able to unite the seven kuni, and bring the empire together under one banner. Now, military leaders give offerings and prayers to Sho Himura, in the hopes that he might confer some of his wisdom on them. Shozaburo
The Great Dragon Shozaburo, the celestial dragon, is the father of all dragons.
Lady Matataki One of the most powerful kami next to the Jade Emperor, Lady Matataki is the keeper of the stars in the night sky.
Lady Yugune The patroness of kabuki, Lady Yugune is the spirit of twilight, and the embodiment of fireflies.
Lord Natsu The sprit of summer, Lord Natsu’s lands in Takama no Hara are vast, and filled with every variety of beast imaginable.
Ishimaru Hisashi The “Sword Saint” is considered the greatest swordsman to have ever lived. He participated in some of the most famous duels in history.
Kanshisha The guardian of the Sake Spring, where the river Ai begins.
Kunitsukami The kunitsukami are the gods of the land, who reside in the Mortal Realm. These kami protect the land and people of Tsurukoku. Hizuru
The Fire Crane Considered the most powerful of the five spiritual guardians of Tsurukoku, Hizuru inhabits the great volcano, Mount Hizuru, in the north of Tsurukoku. The Fire Crane appears as a colossal crane composed of magma and flame. His eyes are cinders the size of boulders, and his plume is black ash. Nagara
The Water Dragon Nagara, one of the five spiritual guardians, inhabits the mighty river to the south of Tsurukoku that shares his name. Nagara guards the Land of the Crane from the urokobito barbarian hordes that inhabit the southern lands. His temple sits at the base of a great waterfall, and he appears as a colossal, wingless dragon comprised of mist. Shinme
The Iron Horse Shinme guards the western shore of Tsurukoku, and sends tsunami after tsunami to capsize the navies of potential invaders. The temple dedicated to her is located in the port city that shares her name, which sits at the mouth of the Nagara River. Shinme appears to be a massive horse formed from a roiling cloud. Lighting shoots from her eyes, and thunder shakes the firmament when she stamps her hooves. Ki no Hitsuji
The Wooden Ram Ki no Hitsuji guards the Fuuchirin forest from harm. He and his spirit servants tend to the rivers, trees, and animals of the forest, making sure that the ecosystem stays in balance. Ki no Hitsuji appears as a gigantic ram, with bamboo horns and a pelt of moss. With every step, plants spring up around him, and the forest springs to life. Tsuchitora
The Earth Tiger The Earth Tiger guards Tsurukoku’s eastern border from the ruthless Xin warlords. He sends earthquakes, landslides, and avalanches to wipe out the forces of potential invaders. His temples are scattered along the Tsuchitora mountain range, which runs along Tsurukoku’s eastern border.
Lord Enkai ruler of the deep sea, brother of the Jade Emperor
Inazuma Lord of the Storm Lord Inazuma and Lady Raimei inhabit Castle Raiden.
Lady Raimei Thunder
Jashin The Jashin are the malignant gods who bring disease, pollution, and disaster into the world. They are native to Yomi, the land of death.
Lord Eimin The Final Enemy
Lord Eimin, an oni, is the ruler of Yominokuni, the Forbidden City of the Dead. He is known as the Final Enemy, since the spirits of all noble samurai are given one chance to best him in combat. Those who are successful are permitted to return to life, while those who fail become permanent residents of the city. Eimin is a huge oni, standing 20 feet tall and weighing over two tons. He is always encountered dressed in samurai armor, and wields a huge, black katana.
Lord Kuchibi The Tsunami
From his great, ebon castle in the far reaches of Yomi, Lord Kuchibi sends his agents to spread war and hostility throughout Tsurukoku. Wherever strife is found, Lord Kuchibi’s spirit is present. Kuchibi is a huge, fat oni, standing 20 feet tall and weighing three tons. He has wild hair, wears samurai armor, and carries a yari.
Lady Kaijin The Ember Lady
Lady Kaijin, the kami of destruction, is considered to be the most dangerous of all celestial creatures. Her utter disregard for anything other than the destruction of all living creatures led a coalition of kami from Yomi, Takama no Hara, and the Mortal Realm to imprison her in the Hidden World. There she waits, shackled deep within that realm of madness, for the day when the Seven Seals of Tzu are broken and her offspring, the Horror, are unleashed upon the world. Kaijin looks to be a beautiful, young, human woman, with pitch black eyes and a pale face.
Shimoyake Lord of the Frozen Wastes
Lord Shimoyake is an ambitious, if not overly powerful, daimyo who controls some of the most remote regions in Yomi. His position on the periphery of Land of the Dead has made him unafraid to take risks, and for many millennia his forces have conquered and consolidated the lands around him.
He intends to spread the bitter cold of his realm throughout the spirit world and into the mortal world itself. Indeed, some of the coldest places in Tsurukoku have been corrupted by Shimoyake’s tainted touch: those who pass through risk suffering from frostbite and hypothermia. Shimoyake stands 10 feet tall, with snow-white hair and ice-blue skin.