RPG Fantasy Encyclopedia: Japan Edition

幻想辞典日本編 “RPG Fantasy Encyclopedia: Japan Edition” (1988) is an illustrated digest of Japanese folklore and a sourcebook for fantasy campaigns set in Japan.

The encyclopedia notes interest overseas in Japan as a setting, citing “Oriental Adventures” for AD&D and “Land Of Ninja” for RuneQuest, but dismissing them as not something a Japanese person would play. The author finds it odd to see the samurai on the cover of Oriental Adventures seated on a lion-dog, statues of which frequently guard Shinto shrines in Japan. He makes a joke about a geisha class which can perform party tricks with folding fans and water for some reason.

The first chapter relates the story of Izanami and Izanagi, created by the first gods, who use a spear decorated with jewels to create in turn the island Onogoroshima, where they procreate and give birth to the islands of Japan. Izanami dies and Izanagi seeks her out in the underworld, but she is not allowed to leave because of the food she has eaten there. Also Izanagi realizes his wife is rotting and flees in fear. After barricading the entrance to the underworld with a boulder, he performs the necessary rite of purification to cleanse himself. From the ablutions three gods are created: Amaterasu the sun goddess, Tsukuyomi the moon goddess, and Susanoo the storm god (all of whom are assigned 400 HP by TSR’s original “Deities & Demigods” by the way). Amaterasu and Susanoo have a god-making competition and Susanoo, believing himself the winner, celebrates by defecating in his sister’s palace and flaying the “piebald horse of heaven”. Amaterasu sulks in a cave, plunging the world into night until the god Omoikane persuades her to come back.

The encyclopedia concludes with a bestiary. The oni 鬼 (ogre or demon) perhaps inspired the ogre magi of AD&D. It is described as having horns, tusks, and superhuman strength. It wears a loincloth of animal hide and carries a spiked club called a kanabo. Onis are the villains in the fairy tales “Kintaro”, “Momotaro”, “Issun Boshi”, and “Usurei Yatsura”, all stuff to add to my reading list.

A5 softcover with dust jacket, 296 pp.

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