An Inspired Map of 12th century Akitsushima — Japan



Yamabuki travels from the Taka compound to the capital of Heian-kyo

Readers of today have asked for a map of Yamabuki’s world. However, a 21st century map based on satellite positioning would show a universe totally at odds with what Yamabuki would likely have known.

People in Yamabuki’s era lived on a flat Earth suspended in space. The sun rose and set over the land. The oceans flowed over the edge of the horizon. Comets streaked through the skies. Some stars, wanderers–what today we call planets–moved around.

Many of the land masses we see from orbit would have been completely unknown to her and the shape of a world that’s a sphere would have been fantastical. Why don’t the people on the bottom of the fanciful globe simply fall off?

Yamabuki’s world of 1172 was largely uncharted and people would hold their breath for hundreds of years until what today we know as cartography came into existence.

Maps of the time were more like treasure maps than Google Maps. The Americas were not yet discovered, though there were rumors of it in Asia for the Chinese claimed to have visited a massive continent across the far Pacific (what Yamabuki called the Windward Sea) in the seventh century. Some even say the Chinese sailed to what today is called California.

Yamabuki’s world, and the action taking place in the first four of the seven part Sword of the Taka Samurai is on the south western isle, The Isle of Unknown Fires which today is called Kyushu and across the Barrier Strait on the Main Isle, also known as Honshu.


The Barrier Strait today is called either the Kanmon Strait or the Strait of Shimonoseki. Nagato Prefecture, across the Strait from from the Isle of Unknown Fires, today is known as Yamaguchi prefecture. The modern names would have held no specific meaning for the young warrior as she goes on her journey.

The prefecture names are in large blue italics. Clan names in red. Population centers are in black. Bodies of water, channels, and rivers are also in italics.

In part one, Cold Blood,Yamabuki on her journey from O-Utsumi to Kita in Chikuzen prefecture would have followed the road through the lands of the Ito, Sagara, and Kikuchi, traveling through Dazaifu, Mizuki, and finally to Kita. She crosses the Barrier Strait and passes through Akamagaseki in Nagato.

In part two, Cold Rain, she arrives in Minezaki, where the North Road is intersected by the East-West Road, which is also known as The Smugglers’ Highway.

To intercept Yamabuki, Saburo would have come from the headwaters of The River of Forty Thousand Sands on the Isle of Two Kingdoms, crossing the Bungo Strait at the narrowest point, and hugged the coastline, traveling through the lands of the Ouchi before arriving in Kita.

The map is inspired. It is not what we would see from a satellite. It is not to scale, but it attempts to reflect a worldview of a people who are growing, expanding, and developing in an age that is very different from our own or even the one of the Warring States period, 300 to 400 years later.

More maps will be added as Yamabuki makes her way to the capital of Heian-kyo and beyond.


4 thoughts on “Yamabuki’s World — 12th Century Japan”

  1. Pingback: The medieval Japan of Yamabuki | Toot Sweet Ink

    1. Hello LadyJaneGray,

      I apologize for taking so long to reply and hope your interest hasn’t completely cooled. To answer your second question, first, when will Yamabuki (as an adult) reach Heian-kyō. We already saw her returning to Heian-kyō, her birthplace, in Cold Heart though it is in flashback. The upcoming book that is with the editors now, Cold Trail, is focused on Heian-kyō and the journey there and YES, she does make it to the city and the book after that and already being written, Cold Fire, will take place almost entirely in the capital.

      As to the maps, Laura Scott, the series editor extraordinaire, is creating those along with layouts (not exactly maps) of the Taka Compound and a street map of Heian-kyō itself because so much action takes place in the city–a city of 400,000 people that measures (North-South) as long as the Bungo Strait is wide at the ferry points. As Saburo, the shinobi priest, quickly learns, it is a world onto itself. Laura draws the maps by hand from the ancient maps we’ve been able to discover. Alas, most “old” maps are actually new, dating from around 1600, and not the 1150s, but she has made very educated guesses.

      Thank you for your support.

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