Monday, 1 December 2008

[RPG Blog Carnival] Transitions and Transformations - Japan 2028 (Part 1: Overview)

I was thinking of posting this anyway, but it turns out the RPG Blog Carnival for this month has been given the title Transitions and Transformations, and it definitely qualifies for that. So what the heck.

This is a Cyberpunk 2020 setting that I developed a year or so ago when thinking about running a game for the local gaming group. For one reason or another I ended up doing something else instead, but I liked the setting so much I kept it. Today I'll put up a historical overview; tomorrow a 'current situation' one will follow.

Japan, 2028

It started with the Great Kanto Earthquake (Kanto Daijishin) of 2010. The quake, centred on Chofu - a satellite city of Greater Tokyo - measured 8.9 at the surface on the JMA's seismic intensity scale, and caused an estimated $6 trillion in damage (with over 900,000 deaths). Tokyo was effectively levelled, although certain quake-resistant high-rise buildings in the Shinjuku and Tokyo-station areas remained standing. Most seismologists consider it extremely fortunate that the quake did not trigger an eruption of Mt. Fuji, which underwent a period of activity shortly before and after the quake. If that had happened, the consequences for Japan would have been utterly catastrophic, as opposed to merely disastrous.

But disastrous they were, and in the aftermath the archipelago underwent a period of political upheaval which rivaled the quake itself in intensity. The years between 2010 and 2015, known now as the Great Tumult (daikonran), saw an estimated 18 different governments and a huge growth in membership of extremist splinter groups from the Japanese Communist Party (Nihon Kyousan-tou) and the New Komeito Party (Shin-Komei-tou), amidst economic collapse and localised starvation. 2015 saw the deposition of the ruling LDP government and the execution of the Imperial Family by the military wing of a group called the Nishi-Funabashi Socialist Party, who modelled themselves on the proletarian revolutionaries of the 1917 Bolsheviks. Their provisional government, set up to "create democratic structures to usher in the new socialist era", lasted 34 days, during which time they accomplished little other than the murder of some 160 Diet representatives and the Governor of Tokyo. On 6th September 2015 a motorized infantry division of the Japanese Self Defence Forces, backed by US air strikes, launched an attack to regain control of the capital, and within a week most of the other SDF units in the Kanto region had joined them. After a 20-day street battle, reminiscent of the destruction of the Paris Commune, approximately 70,000 of Tokyo's citizens had been killed and the country had a new military government. By 2016 that government was firmly entrenched, though now officially ruled by the centre-right Buddhist New Komeito Party.

Stability followed, and by 2020 Japan had regained some semblance of a functioning modern state. In 2019 the Izu-shoto Autonomous Economic Region was set up in the volcanic islands stretching to the South of the capital. Essentially a playground for Japan's new conglomerates (the shin-keiretsu such as Hoshino, Shinrai, Hitotsuyanagi and Rakusho), the AER is a tax-free haven for research and development which has reinvigorated Japan's image as a high-tech economy.

But the outbreak of war between the People's Republic of China and USA, precipitated by the seizure of Taiwan, saw Japan once again dragged into chaos. Both it and the United Republic of Korea, as the USA's key allies in the region, quickly became involved in the fighting. In March 2022 the first PRC Marines landed on Ishigaki-jima in the Okinawa archipelago, and the last US base on Okinawa was destroyed before the end of the year. The PRC juggernaut continued through to the mainland islands of Kyushu and Shikoku, ironically basing their invasion plan on Nimitz and MacArthur's Operation Olympic. With Japanese industry crippled and organised defences failing, the US Army and the military of the Republic of Korea launched their own invasions of Honshu to prevent the entire country falling under the occupation of the Chinese. They halted the invasion at a line running across the extreme North of Kyushu and Shikoku, and a general armistice was signed on Christmas Day, 2026. Over a million Japanese had lost their lives.

Since that day, Japan has remained divided, and there is little sign of either Chinese, Korean or American troops leaving their occupied zones. Ostensibly the Koreans and Americans cannot leave while the Chinese threat remains, but many in the islands now suspect that retaining control of Japan is as much a priority as protecting it. While the Eastern half of Honshu and Hokkaido retains its independence and has undergone something of an economic revival in the past year and a half, the rest of the islands were devestated by war and miliary occupancy and have little hope of restoration.

The main 'winners' of the war were undoubtedly the shin-keiretsu. As the primary suppliers of the reformed Military of Japan, their economic strength and political importance have increased immensely. Independent competitors have almost entirely disappeared and the Izu-shoto organisations have taken on the power and significance of the zaibatsu of old. Most commentators believe that they are already working towards bringing about independence for the entirety of Japan, whether through stealth or force. With future conflict considered a certainty, it seems clear that the shin-keiretsu will be at the heart of it.


  1. That really is so cool. How did you make the map? (I am utterly hopeless at anything graphical, and so admire anyone who can manipulate images). The setting sounds great - a totally self-contained world. I have never played Cyberpunk, though I have the books - I would love the chance to play this.

  2. This is a great write-up. I hope you've given some thought to submitting it to the RPG Blogger Anthology (today's the last day!)

  3. Viriconium: I used (Search in google.) It's like the microsoft paint you get with Windows, except good. All I did was download a map of Japan, then add layers for the new text and the border lines. Really simple when you know how.

    Zach: Someone could nominate it for me! I'd be too self conscious to nominate one of my own entries.

  4. Damnation! I think we missed the cutoff. :( Excellent post, though!