Justice Vought opened the next instalment of his journey through region designs over the last weekend in May 2022, and was kind enough to pass me a personal invitation to visit – my apologies to him for taking several days to get to drop in; life is being a little hectic at the moment, and my daily SL activities have been largely confined to logging-in and parking myself for IM’s etc.
This latest design, however, was guaranteed to pull me across to it sooner rather than later because not only is it Justice’s latest build – and I have never failed to appreciate and enjoy his work – it also carries visitors to the Far East, which as regulars to the pages will know is a part of the world I love.
In particular, A Samurai’s Tale presents something of a tribute to Japan’s feudal history and the time of the samurai military nobility, but perhaps not in the manner one might expect.
The samurai came to prominence during 12th century, with their power and responsibilities growing in the wake of their defence of northern Japan against the attempted invasion by the Yuan dynasty in the 13th century. During the Edo period, (1603 to 1868) the role of the samurai became a mix of soldier and administrator, steward and chamberlain within the daimyo estates.
However, in the latter half of the 19th century, with Japan formalising / consolidated its military and ruling structure under the emperor during the Meiji Restoration, the samurai’s feudal roles came to an abrupt end. However, they did not entirely from Japanese life as they adjusted to new, professional and entrepreneurial roles, whilst their traditions, memory, culture and weapons remain popular through until today.
So popular, in fact, that when considering the era of the samurai, we tend to often just think of the warrior, his armour, and the palaces and great daimyo estates of the shoguns, together with Edo period walls palaces, towns and so on. And this is why, for me, A Samurai’s Tale is refreshing. Rather than offering a single scene from feudal Japan, it instead presents vignettes that can be said to reflect the core virtues expected of the samurai: justice, courage, benevolence, respect, honesty, honour, and loyalty.
For example, from the landing point, visitors can walk through a small graveyard with shrines to remember the dead, thus witnessing honour. Over a bridge sits a house representative of loyalty to family and master. Within the house are have period images on the walls, together with a stand holding a pair of katana blades (courage). Travel down the hill from the landing point, and a small fishing village awaits, the kind of little settlement a local samurai would consider as being under his protection (justice / benevolence), and so on.
By not confining itself to a particular period, the setting it allows the music and dance spaces located both close to the house and towards the middle of the region to blend with the rest of the design without looking out-of-place. Meanwhile, there are other numerous elements to be found within the region that fits with the theme – and one which even offers an subtle link to another chivalrous legend, even if it is the purely fictional Arthurian legend.
One of these touches I particularly like comes in the form of stone-carved versions of Kikazaru, Mizaru and Iwazaru, the three Sambiki-Saru (“mystic apes”), whom we better know in the west as Hear No Evil, See No Evil and Speak No Evil. Perhaps most famously represented by a 17th century carving over the entrance to the Tōshō-gū shrine in Nikkō, they represent the maxim of seeing or hearing no evil in others and speaking no evil of them; a maxim said to be the triple dogma of Tendai-Buddhist philosophy which should symbolise a person’s life. As such, their presence within the region underscores the elements of honour and respect within the samurai virtues.
This is also a place where you’ll want to have local sounds enabled whilst exploring, as Justice has created a local soundscape that blends with the various vignettes, giving them added depth.
- A Samurai’s Tale (Oxygen, rated Moderate)