As a writer starting my first historical novel, I spent untold hours Googling obscure facts and combing through my old college textbooks about Japanese history for my medieval Japanese fantasy series, Tiger Lily. Fun facts like “at what year were cats introduced to Japan?” (Either during the Yayoi period around 200 B.C. or around 500 B.C. along with Buddhism from India via China like so much else in Japanese cultural history) and “when exactly did the Nanboku-cho period start when Japan split into a Northern and Southern Imperial Court?” (1336 A.D. when Ashikaga Takauji drove Emperor Go-Daigo from Kyoto).
The fantastic parts of Tiger Lily, like singing to nature spirit kami gods and shape-changing trickster foxes, took far less time in creation. Melding imagination with a basic mythological framework didn’t send me down any time-consuming rabbit holes. Don’t get me wrong, I love historical rabbit holes. I could live full-time down there if there were coffee and chocolate ?. But it’s slow work.
Beginning an Urban Fantasy series set in modern Portland seemed like a sensible way to spend less time in research and more time actually writing story. No Googling of Voodoo Donuts or the Washington Rose Garden necessary—I lived there for seven years. There I was, writing happily the story of a Portlandian Japanese-Caucasian college student unaware her father is a dream-eating baku, only taking short research detours down the fascinating paths of Pacific Northwest First Peoples’ languages and myths–such as Dzunukwa, the ogress, bringer of wealth that steals children to eat–and Dream Eater was completed in a timely fashion. Lesson learned. Research costs time and is nowhere near as lively as my own imagination. Or so I thought…
Dream Eater ended with my three main characters headed to Japan. At first I only needed short forays into Tokyo maps. Tokyo, Iwate, and Tochigi have all been my home for short periods of time. But then this memory bubbled up of my Tokyo boy husband’s uncle, born in an obscure village in Northern Aomori, telling me his surname, Herai, was a Japanization of the world “Hebrew” over yaki-niku one night many years ago just before he died.
I Googled “Hebrews in Japan.” That led me to the Takeuchi Documents (or Takeuchi Monjyo.) And that lead me to Jesus’ tomb. In Japan. Down the rabbit hole I went. Not just any rabbit hole of dates and wars and trade, no sir, but a fantastical rabbit hole where a secret Shinto document appearing in the early 1900’s tracing the lineage of kami back through the ages describes how Jesus came to Japan on a flying airship as a teenager, studied esoteric Shinto practices, went back to Galilee to teach. When threatened with death, left his brother to die on the cross while he escaped to Northern Japan where he lived to the ripe old age of 118. Women in this village supposedly kept their babies in woven baskets like Moses, and the very rare surname of “Herai”, like my uncle-in-law, was exclusively from this town, now called Shingo-mura.
And the pièce de résistance? Jesus’ Tomb and museum. Of course I had to use Jesus’ Tomb and the accompanying museum in my story. It was so fantastic, weirder by far than anything my imagination could meld to history. So in Black Pearl Dreaming, (the sequel to Dream Eater) the main characters head to Shingo-mura and encounter Jesus’ tomb. Of course, in my book the tomb is just a front for some far more nefarious dealings by the bad guys, but whether my rabbit hole journey uncovered an actual historical revelation or just a strange attempt to rewrite history, I’ll leave up to you. But, I couldn’t make up something like this. Just goes to show you, dig down deep enough in history and you’ll uncover things more fantastical and weird then ever imagined by an author.
K. Bird Lincoln is an ESL professional and writer living on the windswept Minnesota Prairie with family and a huge addiction to frou-frou coffee. Also dark chocolate– without which, the world is a howling void. Originally from Cleveland, she has spent more years living on the edges of the Pacific Ocean than in the Midwest. Her speculative short stories are published in various online & paper publications such as Strange Horizons. Her medieval Japanese fantasy series, Tiger Lily, is available from Amazon. World Weaver Press released Dream Eater, the first novel in an exciting, multi-cultural Urban Fantasy trilogy set in Portland and Japan, in 2017. She also writes tasty speculative fiction reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Check her out on Facebook, join her newsletter for chocolate and free stories, or stalk her online at her website.