Amado: heavy wooden shutters that are slid into the engawa during a storm or winter that helps insulate and protect. When not in use they're stored away along with other shutter variations.
Bajutsu: a Japanese martial art involving mounted warfare in combination with care and management of horses.
Biwa: Japanese short-necked wooden lute
Bo: a long wooden staff weapon used for martial arts, usually about six feet in length. The length and type of wood may vary.
Bojutsu: the study of the bo
Bokken: a wooden katana used for training
Byōbu: painted folding screens, usually gilded with gold foil
Chōchin: handheld paper lantern
Engawa or En: a strip of deck without tatami mats that runs outside the shoji but inside the storm doors, creating a small walkway often used to connect buildings. In this story, it’s used interchangeably with “veranda.”
Furisode: a type of kimono with long sleeves, usually worn by unmarried women
Fusuma: a large wooden panel that is often used to divide a room, serving as a portable wall that can be moved around if needed. Historically trees, mountains, and animals are painted onto them.
Geta: traditional Japanese footwear resembling sandals with two “teeth” on the bottom to create a raised platform
Genkan: an entryway leading into a house, traditionally used to remove one’s shoes before entering a house
Goza: a mat woven from reeds often used to sleep on
Haori: a long-sleeved jacket worn over a kimono that usually ends mid-thigh
Hakama: traditional Japanese pants worn over a kimono, made well-known by the samurai. There are many types of hakama, including formal and casual ones, as well as traveling hakama that even farmers and merchants wore.
Hanami: "flower viewing" usually the celebration of sakura (cherry) blossoms. The tradition of appreciating the finite beauty of springtime flowers at peak season before they're gone. Often a time of deep reflection about the impermanence, and therefore the beauty of life.
Jinmaku: banners or “war curtains” that are erected in camp to create privacy, often bearing the lord’s kamon
Kakigōri: shaved ice with syrup
Kata: a sword technique or move
Katana: a long, curved sword held with two hands
Kama: Japanese sickle
Kami: traditionally in Japanese culture, this word roughly translates to gods or spirits. In the context of this series, kami is referenced as a connection to nature, similar to Shinto beliefs or the Tao from Taoism. The positive and negative energy that exists in the world is neither good nor bad, drawing from the connectedness of all life. One could think of the Skills as kami or the Tao.
Kamon: a symbol of a town or lord
Kimono: a traditional Japanese robe
Koto: Japanese plucked half-tube zither instrument
Kyūdō: a style of Japanese archery
Kunai: a long, leaf-shaped blade attached to a handle with a ring on the end. A kunai is a multifunctional tool that can be used for climbing walls, stabbing, or thrusting during combat. It can also be used for digging or be thrown as a projectile weapon.
Naginata: a long pole arm with a sharp blade on the end
Nigori: sake that appears cloudy or milky because of less rice residue removed
Nikuman: pork bun
Noren: a traditional Japanese fabric divider hung in doorways, between rooms, on walls, and windows. Usually there's a vertical slit for easier passage or viewing
Obasan: "grandmother". Often in Japanese culture, people will address older people like this as a form of respect.
Obi: a sash tied around the waist used to carry the katana or tanto
Ōdachi: oversized katana
Ono: a Japanese axe with a long handle
Onigiri: a triangular-shaped rice ball
Ronin: a wandering samurai. In the context of this series, ronin is used in a broader way to mean “warrior without a master.”
Ryokan: a Japanese inn with tatami-matted rooms and communal baths, usually with yukata provided to wear and food provided
Tabi: a style of footwear (and sock) originating in Japan that has a split toe
Tameshigiri: practice that originally started as a means to test a sword’s strength but is now mostly used to test the user’s skill as they cut through objects such as bamboo or rolled goza
Tanto: a small sword or dagger often carried in the obi
Toro: a Japanese lantern that is usually made of stone but can be made of other natural materials like wood. Toro are traditionally found in Buddhist temples to light pathways. In the context of this story, they are used mostly in the gardens to light pathways and roads.
Tatami: a woven mat made of rush grass that is used to cover the floors of traditional Japanese homes
Tsuba: the metal guard resting between the blade and handle of a katana or tanto
Seiza: a formal way of sitting. A person kneels on the ground, folding their legs under them to sit back on their heels.
Sashimono: small banners depicting a kamon
Samurai: an elite warrior whose name means “to serve.” In the historical sense, a samurai was a warrior who served a lord (Author’s note: Please see the explanation of why the Shadows are not samurai in the beginning of the book, as I have taken many liberties.)
Shinobi: another name for a ninja or spy
Shoji: a door, window, or divider with a lattice frame covered in translucent paper to allow light to pass through. Traditionally shoji slide open on grooves set into the ground
Suburi: repetitive sword movements used for training
Wakizashi: a slightly curved sword shorter than a katana but longer than a tanto
Waraji: sandals typically made from straw that are tied around a person’s foot and ankle
I'm building a glossary with images and illustrations to help transport you to the Land of Hope. I hope to create a series that is accessible to all readers (not just those who are familiar with the Japanese culture), which is why I'm dedicate to bringing the story to life through visuals and explanations of words and phrases you might not be familiar with.
Please note: some of these definitions I've specifically tailored to work with my series. Some of them may differ slightly in terms of how they're used. If you need any books on Japanese culture (or samurai and ninja) feel free to contact me. I have dozens.
Currently under construction.