In that era the centre of Japanese civilization was in the Kansai plain, with the capital moving around between modern Nara and Kyoto. Northern Honshu and Hokkaido were for the Japanese a wild, untamed wilderness, populated by a strange hairy people they knew as the Emishi, who are nowadays thought to be related to the Ainu. During the following centuries the Japanese gradually moved into this 'wilderness' and subdued it, slowly but surely fighting their way north until the process was finally completed with the annexation of Hokkaido in the late 19th century. My game is set in a very loose, weird re-imagining of the very earliest points of contact between Japanese and Emishi, in the deeply forested, cold and snowy North of the archipelago.
Here are some pictures.
A bear spirit. The Emishi worship immortal bear demi-gods who live in the forests. Big, dark, embodiments of nature who know only that they are owed respect and fealty.
An Emishi hunter.
The great forest in winter. The frost itself is alive. It steals in during the night and lays itself on the earth while the people sleep.
An owl spirit. Other demigods of the forest include the fox, the hare, the wolf, the marsh mussel, the frog, the marsh demon, and the moss spirit.
An Ainu woman. Women's lips are tattoo'd, and they are the only ones permitted to tell stories. They are the druids of the setting.
A valley of a moss spirit. Somewhere in its depths the spirit lurks. It never moves when a person is looking.
An Emishi girl, before coming of age and initiation as a druid.
Crow spirits are shape-shifters. They sometimes appear as men or women, wearing black. If they bring dung into the home of a man it curses the place forever.
Crane spirits at dawn, coalescing from the mist which forms on rivers and marshes, and disappearing when the sun melts them away.