Introduction to Vippon
The Imperial Kingdom of Vippon
A Bloody History
Sitting at the edge of the Sea of Blue Snow, the Imperial Kingdom of Vippon was once a patchwork of 12 different nations. Known together as the Zodiac Nations, Vippon was first united by General Ito Tagowa who conquered the 12 nations over 2,000 years ago.
Historically, Vippon has been a pretty unstable nation undergoing a series of civil wars and rebellions. However, those are but distant memories nowadays. Current Vippon is a stable nation which operates more like a federation than an imperial kingdom. Huge credit for this must be lay at the feet of the Adachi Dynasty, current rulers of Vippon.
After leading a successful rebellion against the previous dynasty, Adachi Yuji decided that the best way to prevent future rebellions to his rule is to allow the provinces to rule themselves. Previous dynasties had tried to unite Vippon into one, giving the provinces no room for their own culture and Yuji intended to change that. In some ways the previous dynasties were successful, there is now only one written language instead of 12, there’s only one form of currency, and everyone in Vippon follow the same calendar. In others, Yuji believed that the effort to unite the people cause more fiction than anything else.
Adachi Yuji decided that he will allow the provinces more freedom. Under the guise of maintaining traditions, the provinces were allowed to keep their culture. For the first time in decades, the people were allowed to dress in the way of their ancestors, and even decide if their family names will be in front or at the back of their names. These reforms by Adachi Yuji, called the Yuji Era, are the reason why the Adachi Dynasty is by far the longest dynasty in the history of Vippon.
Vippon: Culture & Customs
Lay of the Land
The financial superpower that is modern Vippon is located on our world’s largest continent with a long coastline. As the coastline meets the Sea of Blue Snow, it is no surprise that the country has a temperate climate and it rains often in the country. Vippon is divided into 12 provinces that are named after various animals; which is why sometimes people refer to Vippon as “The Land of the Sacred Beasts”.
The 12 provinces are Dragon, Rat, Hare, Serpent, Stallion, Rooster, Ox, Monkey, Tiger, Dog, Boar and Sheep. The capital is the city of Tokuto, located inside the Tiger Province. Tokuto is one of the finance centres of the world and they also have the only international airport in Vippon. However, transport within Vippon is easy as the kingdom has a great network of roads and rails. The system is so good that other countries used the Vippon transport system as a model of what a good transport system should be like.
The Rat province covers the whole coastline but very little else. The country itself is dominated by a large plain a little inland from the ocean. This is where all the big cities and most of the farmlands are. The ten provinces covering the inner plains differ in size but basically form a grid of 2 by 5, with 5 provinces bordering the Rat. North of them is the small mountainous Sheep province.
With a population is just below 100 million people, a large majority of Vipponese live in the cities. Culturally Vippon is extremely homogenous, with very little interaction between its people and those from neighbouring countries. Most Vipponese care little for the world at large and feel more comfortable in their country than overseas. As such, most of them don’t feel an urge to travel unless it’s for business.
As a people who respect their ancestors, the people of Vippon take great care in their family lineage. Some families can date their families all the way back to pre-Vippon days when the kingdom was 12 nations. However, some scholars say that it is due to this love of tradition, that traditional separation of work that men and women still exist in this technological advanced country today.
Men, especially in the cities, wear the universal business clothing of shirt, tie, jacket and trousers on workdays, but they often change to a traditional kimono at weekends or for formal occasions. Women, due to their traditional housewife roles, always wear the kimono, only changing its quality to match the circumstances. Wearing a kimono is a culture by itself with full blown courses on how to put on and wear the kimonos. Selecting the seasonally correct and event-appropriate patterns and fabrics for the kimonos is also very important.
What really makes the female dress special however is the veiling. According to legend, an old woman without male guardians successfully protected her daughters against raiding hostile tribes by making them wear a large hooded cloak and a cloth covering the face below the eyes. No men saw their beauty. After the war, they were the only marriageable virgins left, and both got rich husbands. Since then all Vippon women have veiled from puberty.
The people of Vippon are very private. They rarely give their first names to those they don’t know well and spontaneous exchanges are uncommon even on the tightly packed bullet trains and streets of the mega cities. In fact, TV news shows often blur the faces of those caught in background footage and photos to protect the privacy of passer-bys.
Vipponese are not used to putting themselves in the spotlight, and there is a strong social desire for sameness. Even among friends, people tried to not stand out too much from each other. Among women, this desire to look the same is even stronger and young girls usually make a game of making sure they all dressed the same when they go out in a group. The social force is to be a normal person, and not stand out too much from the crowd.
Vipponese know that this desire to be the same is consider strange in most other countries but the people feel that this desire is one of the reason why Vippon has put it’s bloody past behind. After all, it’s much harder to fight someone who is the same as yourself.
However, this desire to be the same doesn’t mean that the people of Vippon do not have self-expression. Vipponese are great users of the internet. The anonymity of the internet allows the people to express their views and doubts about everything they wish to discuss. Anonymous bulletin boards are extremely popular, with active forums popping up to discuss news events sometimes just hours after they occur.
The Social Framework
Vippon is a patriarchal society in the strongest sense of the word. Men are expected to be the breadwinners of the family and women are the caregivers. Men are the head of the household and this is a system that almost everyone in Vippon accepts. Although their roles in family and society are quite different, men and women in the kingdom do share certain traits.
The one streak that most Vipponese has is the pursuit of excellence. In Vippon, you cannot just do something; you must do it to the best of your ability. Most Vipponese has a love for perfection. Having a beautiful home is not enough; you must have the perfect home. Good work is good, but not as good as excellent work. This love for perfection has made Vippon one of the richest countries in the world, but also led to some criticism that it is a nation of nit-pickers. This is something that most Vipponese quietly admit to. Nothing is ever enough for the people because nothing is ever perfect.
The political system in Vippon is considered strange to most outsiders. This is due to the fact that the Vippon parliament, called the Hall of Daimyos, has only 12 members in it. These 12 members are based on a large part on the 12 provinces of the country. Each province has to hold a provincial election at least once every 6 years. The party that wins the most seats in the province control the province and has the right to seat a member in the Hall of Daimyos. These 12, called the 12 Daimyos of Heaven, are based in the capital Tokuto and they are the only ones that could vote for the various bills of the country. In times of a tie, the deciding vote will be cast by the Emperor of Vippon.
Vipponese believe that their small parliament is the reason why their country is so efficient. A small parliament means that any horse-trading or compromise can be easily reached. Of course, the various lords have to keep in mind the views of their home province and it is not unusual for a lord to go back to their home province to get the views of his party members.
For all the efficiency the small parliament gives, the trade-off of this political system is that it also gives rise to powerful small regional parties. For example, the Boar Province is currently controlled by the ‘Traditions Party’ and this gives the party a member in the Hall of Lords. However, the party is almost unknown outside Boar. This is due to the political system in place. As the Hall of Daimyos holds so such power, smaller political parties usually concentrate exclusively on one province. If they can control the province, they can have political power that can rival that of the bigger partied. Basically, the political system allows small parties like the ‘Traditions Party’ a chance to punch above its weight. The smaller, poorer provinces like Boar are home to these regional parties as the people of these provinces know that these parties will always fight for them as the parties every survival depend on them keeping control of the province.
For all the talk of elections, Vippon is still a monarchy with Emperor Adachi Shigetoshi, Shigetoshi the Just, nineteenth king of the Adachi Dynasty, as the present emperor. It is a powerful position as the emperor is in charge of all military, finance, and foreign policy matters. The parties may be in charge of the provinces, but the emperor is the one who direct the nation. Even in modern Vippon, the emperor is still the emperor.
Women in Vippon Society
In Vippon, a woman’s role is that of a wife and homemaker. It is a woman’s duty to make sure the home is clean and that their men want for nothing in the home. Women aspire to do their best for their family and are willing to go to great lengths to ensure this. Women worked tirelessly to make sure their family’s need are met and always strive to do more for the family.
For a woman in Vippon, life doesn’t really start till they reached 13 years old. Before this age, girls are thought of as children and are generally allowed to get away with things children are allowed to get away with. Once they reached 13 however, girls don the veils of their province and are taught the arts of a wife. This generally means the girl will now help in the cooking, cleaning and washing of the house and are expected to behave in the “right manner”.
In olden days, girls are taken out of their rooms and are given a mattress to sleep on in the kitchen. It is believed that this will help the girl in adjusting to their new role in life. The girl is also taken out of school at this age and technically, allowed to be married at this age. However in modern times, these practices are fading. Although a sizeable percentage of the population still maintain the teaching of the “wife-arts”, most do not take their girls out of school anymore. Some girls have even gone on to universities in Vippon. The accepted marriage age for girls in Vippon nowadays is about 17-19, and although not illegal, it is almost unheard of nowadays for a girl to marry before that.
It’s not unusual for women to enrol and attend classes that they believed will make them better wives and mothers. To develop their talents, homemakers usually attend several classes like cooking, sewing or even flower arrangement. These classes not only help them develop skills, they are also a way for women to get out of the house and gather together. These classes often double up as a social event for the women who can meet friends and female family members.
In Vippon, men are expected to be the head of the household and as such Vipponese women need to always maintain a submissive demeanour in private and public. To ensure an appearance that will show that they are submissive to their husband, in public Vipponese women always walk 3 steps behind their men and with their head slightly bowed.
As they are expected to be the submissive partner in the relationship, women also expected their husband to be act slightly uncaringly in public. The social pressure to maintain their families’ honour is so great that most women are annoyed at their husband if they showed too much concern for their well-being, especially in public. After all, wives are expected to be the one serving their husband, not the other way around. This “noble suffering woman” complex Vipponese women suffer from is pretty widespread and even Vipponese women joked about the matter among themselves.
As they are expected to be homemakers, most foreigners believe that women have no social standing in Vippon. Nothing can be further from the truth. Women in Vippon are respected for their contribution to the maintaining of Vipponese culture and traditions. As the ones in charge of the family, it is a woman’s duty to ensure that the family keep to the tradition of their ancestors. You can clearly see this everyday as the women wear their kimonos on the streets of Vippon and in their daily praying to their ancestors. A popular Vipponese saying goes like this; “it is the men who move the country forward, but it is the women who allow us to remember our past.” Women in Vippon are not just homemakers and care-givers, they are the custodians of Vipponese culture and this is a role they protect fiercely.
Religion in Vippon
Vippon recognises 2 main religions in the country. The first is the old religion of Ancestral Worship. A practice that predates even the founding of the country, most families in the country has a small shrine where the spirit of their ancestors can visit and bless the families. However, the people believe that most spirits care little for the physical world and the only way they will help you is if you beg for help. You have to debase yourself in front of the spirit so that they would be amused and turn their attention to the family. As is usually the case in Vippon, this means this is a woman’s job. Women in the country beg for favours on a daily basis from the spirits and even if you don’t believe in spirits, a woman is still expected to spend some time each day in front of the family shrine humiliating herself for the family.
The practice is divided into 3 sections, the naming, the honouring and the petition. The woman starts by kneeling and bowing to the shrine. After which she will recite the names of her ancestors and then begged them to shower their blessing on the family. The woman will first start by saying how good the men of the family are and how well they are honouring the family name. They will then continue on how weak she is and how poorly she is serving the family. She will petition the ancestors to help the men of the family as she herself is too weak and useless to be of any help to the family.
Women in Vippon take this daily debasement seriously and one of the first things they do when they marry is to learn the names of their new family’s ancestors. In addition, there are some extra rituals in some of the more religious provinces of the kingdom. In the Dog Province, women would beat themselves with a small whip while doing the ceremony while in the Serpent; the women do the rituals while still in their ball-gag (this means that the only thing that comes out with be amusing grunts from the speechless women). It is believed that the extra pain and humiliation is highly enjoyable for the spirits and thus they will then be more likely to bless the family after the woman’s antics.
The other main religion in the country is Qizen. The state religion of Vippon, the main emphasis of Qizen is the question of a man’s mind and man’s place in nature. The religion believes that there is a life-giving force called Qi that is always around us. Qi is the life-force of mankind that allows a man’s mind to function and allow man to be greater than animals. The greater his mind is, the greater a man’s Qi will be. The more Qi a man has, the greater he will be.
As such, temples of Qizen are peaceful places where the emphasis is on the cultivation of the mind. If Ancestral Worship is the female half of Vippon, then Qizen is the male half of religious life in Vippon. This is due to the fact that only men have Qi and women do not. A man however can give some of his Qi to a woman who can then use the Qi to create new life. Women are only vassals to bring fro new life and it is their sacred duty to marry and give birth. As such, women play a secondary role in the religion and this is also why Ancestral Worship and Qizen can coexist side by side.
Having said all that, Vippon is a society that is very tolerant of different religions. The kingdom allows any religious groups to practice in the kingdom as long as the groups and their practices do not harm Vipponese society or the kingdom.
The Vippon Economy
The Vippon economy was once based on manufacturing. An export-based economy, Vippon found great success as the people’s pursuit of excellence means that their goods are of an excellent grade. Originally this was great but as the kingdom got richer, goods in the country got more expensive. With higher cost, Vipponese companies could not compete with their lower cost neighbours and began to lose market share. Vippon reacted by moving their economy away from manufacturing and into areas like tourism and finance.
With their strange culture, Vippon is a favourite for tourists. People comes the world over to view and experience the wonderfully strange Vipponese culture and Vipponese are more than happy to open their doors to free-spending foreigners. However, it is in the area of finance that Vippon truly made their mark.
When Vippon turned their economy towards finance, Vipponese companies decided that the best way to generate growth was to go overseas. The companies went on a buying spree, snapping up companies after companies overseas. Although this has created some resentment in other countries, the strategy was great for Vippon.
Vipponese companies made a point of buying up companies with a good track record of making new products. With their culture for perfection, the Vipponese companies will take the products created and then find ways to improve and perfect the products. The wealth generated by their acquisitions was moved to Vippon and his eventually benefit the country as the companies have to pay taxes.
Currently Vippon has some of the most powerful multi-national companies in the world, and the head of these companies, called shoguns (named after old military warlords), are welcome the world over.
Veiling in Vippon
An Old Woman & the Monk
The practice of veiling in Vippon is believed to have begun as a response to the acts of rapes during wartime. According to the popular legend, an old woman prayed to her ancestors for guidance on ways to protect her daughters from invading soldiers. The next morning, the old woman prayers were answered when she saw a sohei walking by the road. The warrior monk was in a dusty monk robe, and had hidden his face with a hood and a scarf. The old woman was inspired and made both her daughters wear a hood over their head.
A veil was sewn to cover the lower half of the face and the old women ordered both her daughters never to take off their hood in public or even speak in public. The invading samurais (some stories say bandits or even foreigners) never touch the 2 girls as they could only see the eyes of the 2 girls. The stories they heard was that both were so ugly that they had to cover their faces in public, and the invaders promptly lost their interest in the girls.
When the war was over and the invading samurais left, the 2 girls were the only beautiful virgins in the whole of the village and marriage proposals came flooding in. The dowries the family got when the 2 daughters were married were so high; the family became rich overnight. After that, the tradition was born and all women veiled from puberty.
It’s not known how much of the legend was true but historically it does have some things going for it. Historical records state that veiling started during the warring periods between the 12 nations, and that the Brotherhood of Qizen supported it. The Brotherhood of Qizen is the formal name of the council that runs the various temples of Qizen in Vippon and they have always been supportive of the veil in Vippon.
The original reason for this has been lost to myth and legend, but it is generally believed that the veil was an attempt to stop the widespread abuses against women during wartime. The monks believed that abuses like rape and kidnapping hurt the men as much as the women as it show that men are nothing more than beasts. Whatever the reasons, the monks are the ones who are credited with the promotion of the veil within Vippon.
Love & Sex in Vippon
Marriages in Vippon are often arranged by parents but not always. In modern Vippon, young boy and girls have many chances to meet each other and as such, there are more and more love-matches in the kingdom. However, the majority of marriages are still arranged.
As women veiled in the country, it is not unheard of for couples to marry without the man ever seeing the woman’s face, even in a photograph. This is especially true in noble families where marriage is more of an alliance between 2 families than anything else.
Relations between men and women in the marriage follow patriarchal lines with the women expect to be subservient to the men at all times. As they are the head of the household, men are allowed to punish their wives if they believed that the wives are not meeting the standards of the family. Women are subjected to curfews by their husband and could be punished for many things. This is especially true in the more traditional provinces like the Rat province where records show that a wife can expected to be beaten an average of 14 strokes of the cane per day.
Surprising, most women in Vippon accept and expect this. Women in Vippon expect to suffer for their family and believe that it is part of their wifely duties to give their husband an outlet for their pent-up aggression. In Vippon, the wife is expected to think of their husband first and as such they feel that there is nothing wrong with daily beating at all. If this is what their husband wants, it’s what they will have.
This is even true in the bedroom. Vipponese are known to be “creative” in the bedroom, and the kingdom has a booming adult industry. It says something that a striptease by a woman for her husband is considered run-of-the-mill here and that they even have a formal name for tying people up for exotic purposes. In case you are wondering, it’s called Kinbaku-bi.
Most Vipponese think that there is nothing wrong with these activities as long as one is discreet about it. As long as both parties are willing, it’s considered perfectly normal for one to be kinky once in a while, or even most of the time. In fact, Vipponese believed that what you do in the bedroom in private shows more about yourself than what you do in public.