Kindred of the East: the Song of Lanterns

Song of Shadows

R'e Part 4

Taiko, a warrior who lived in Japan before the Tokugawa era, studied Cha-no-yu, tea etiquette, with Sen no Rikyu, a teacher of that aesthetical expression of calmness and contentment.

Taiko’s attendant warrior Kato interpreted his superior’s enthusiasm for tea etiquette as negligence of state affairs, so he decided to kill Sen no Rikyu. He pretended to make a social call upon the tea-master and was invited to drink tea.

The master, who was well skilled in his art, saw at a glance the warrior’s intention, so he invited Kato to leave his sword outside before entering the room for the ceremony, explaining that Cha-no-yu represents peacefulness itself.

Kato would not listen to this. “I am a warrior,” he said. “I always have my sword with me. Cha-no-yu or no Cha-no-yu, I have my sword.”

“Very well. Bring your sword in and have some tea,” consented Sen no Rikyu.

The kettle was boiling on the charcoal fire. Suddenly Sen no Rikyu tipped it over. Hissing steam arose, filling the room with smoke and ashes. The startled warrior ran outside.

The tea-master apologized. “It was my mistake. Come back in and have some tea. I have your sword here covered with ashes and will clean it and give it to you.”

In this predicament the warrior realized he could not very well kill the tea-master, so he gave up the idea.


You congregate in the courtyard.

There is no moon in the sky.

An unassuming monk in white robes walks toward you, standing at approximately 5 1/2 feet tall with a small and wispy frame. He could be called anything but intimidating. Were it not for the pale white pallor to his skin, he could be just another indiscernible face in the crowds of the Middle Kingdom. His head is bald with the exception of the black queue hair braid falling from the back of his skull to about mid-back. Both eyes being so deep and dark shades of brown, they’re nearly black. Beneath his usual attire, he bears the muscular toning and physical stature of a practiced and maintained martial artist, although he looks as if he disdains physical conflict and fighting. He bears no unusual markings of modifications. No piercings, tattoos, or even surface scars.

He is the Frightful Scholar, the sensei of the Song of Shadow. And you tremble in fear of him.

His voice is calm, almost serene. He gets straight to the point.

“Go to Hashima. Bring back a Nure Onna (Snake Woman),a Nukekubi (Removeable Neck Woman), a Nopperabou (No-Face Woman), a Aka Manto (Red Cloak),and a Kuchisake Onna (Slit-Mouth Woman). Ask for Tenome when you get there.”

He rolls several smoke bombs at your wu.

When the smoke clears, you stand on the deserted dock of Ghost Island. The soft wail of crying echoes in the deserted city…


Character Knowledge!
Hashima Island (端島?, or correctly Hashima, as -shima is Japanese for island), commonly called Gunkanjima or Gunkanshima (軍艦島; meaning Battleship Island), is one among 505 uninhabited islands in the Nagasaki Prefecture about 15 kilometers from Nagasaki itself.

The island was populated from 1887 to 1974 as a coal mining facility. The island’s most notable features are the abandoned concrete buildings and the sea wall surrounding it. The island has been administered as part of Nagasaki city since 2005; it had previously been administered by the former town of Takashima.

It is known for its coal mines and their operation during the industrialization of Japan. Mitsubishi bought the island in 1890 and began the project, the aim of which was retrieving coal from undersea mines. They built Japan’s first large concrete building (9 stories high),a block of apartments in 1916 to accommodate their burgeoning ranks of workers (many of whom were forcibly recruited labourers from other parts of Asia) and to protect against typhoon destruction. According to a South Korean commission, the island housed 500 Koreans who were forced to work between 1939 and 1945, during World War II.

In 1959, the 15-acre island’s population reached its peak of 5,259, with a population density of 216,264 people per square mile for the whole island, or 139,100 people per square kilometer for the residential district.

As petroleum replaced coal in Japan in the 1960s, coal mines began shutting down all over the country, and Hashima’s mines were no exception. Mitsubishi officially announced the closing of the mine in 1974, and today it is empty and bare, which is why it is called Ghost Island. Travel to Hashima was re-opened on April 22, 2009 after 35 years of closure.

The island is increasingly gaining international attention not only as one of the modern international heritages in the region, but also as the housing complex remnants in the years from Taishō era to Shōwa era. It has become the frequent subject of discussion among enthusiasts for ruins.

Since the abandoned island has not been maintained, several buildings have already collapsed. Other existing buildings are subject to breakage. In this regard, however, certain collapsed exterior walls have been restored with concrete.

While the island was owned by Mitsubishi Material up until 2002, it was voluntarily transferred to Takashima town. Currently, Nagasaki city, which absorbed Takashima town in 2005, exercises jurisdiction over the island. A small portion of the island was re-opened for tourism on April 22, 2009. A full reopening of the island would require an enormous amount of money to make the premises safe, due to the aging of the buildings.



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