Thursday, 27 May 2010

Subway Station Campaign Settings

Faustusnotes may be utterly and obstinately wrong in every single opinion that he holds, and he may be a cry-me-a-river leftie of the most hideous kind, but he does make some interesting posts sometimes. (He's also managed to get into the Japanese gaming scene pretty well, which is something I never really did, although I mostly blame working weekends my entire working life for that.) Here's one, on using Osaka's subway station names as locations in a campaign world. I like this idea, although I don't like Osaka all that much as Japanese cities go (it has all the ugliness Tokyo has, but with almost none of the compensatory beauty that exists in Tokyo in pockets, although the people in Osaka are nice).

My stomping ground was always Yokohama, which in my opinion is the best city in the world in which to live. It's one of the few Japanese cities which has managed to reconcile itself with its post-1867 architectural heritage, so you get a feel for what the Japan of the 1920s and 30s would have looked like when you go there, and it has that friendly, relaxed, anything-can-happen sort of vibe that all proper big port cities have. It's also lacking in the sort of pretentious, arrogant wanker which really major world cities (Tokyo, Paris, New York, London) attract.

But the problem with Yokohama as a subway-station-name-setting is that it's a relatively new city, which has seen most of its growth very recently. This means its stations have the pretty banal, made-up sorts of names that most new, planned towns have. Sakuragicho (Cherry Tree Town), Bashamichi (Horse-drawn-cart Street), Chukagai (China Town), Fujigaoka (Wisteria Hill), Aobadai (Green Leaf Plaza)... these are not the stuff on which interesting campaign settings were built.

So there's little alternative than to look to Tokyo, which really hogs the limelight as far as interesting place names go (as in most other situations). Thus we have -

- Kasumigaseki, the "Misty Barrier"
- Toranomon, the "Tiger Gate"
- Karasuyama, the "Crow Mountain"
- Akasaka, the "Red Hill"
- Akihabara, the "Plain of Autumn Leaves"
- Sangenjaya, the "Three Tea Shops"
- Ochanomizu, "Tea Water"
- Kanda, "God Fields"
- Meguro, "Black Eye"
- Hiro-o, the "Wide Tail"

My favourite, obviously, is Yurakucho, literally "the town where there is enjoyment", which I think you'll agree is both intriguing and intruigingly vague.


  1. Cool. I think intriguing vague could be said to be a virtue of more than one of those.

  2. They're nice! I like the Plain of Autumn Leaves. Is it always Autumn? Or was it planted long ago by some Emperor with trees that are perenially red and gold? Or is it a huge expanse of strange rock-formations, which look like interlocking maple leaves? And what is on the other side of the misty barrier...

  3. Thinking of faustusnotes' version of the "Plain of Autumn Leaves" and juxtaposing it with images of the actual Akiba makes me laugh.

    Anyway, I may have to try this with the Busan subway system. Lots of the stops don't have hanja (kanji) attached to them on the maps, but I can always try to look them up or just ask the wife...

  4. "utterly and obstinately wrong in every single opinion that he holds, and... a cry-me-a-river leftie of the most hideous kind"

    But other that, you're cool?

  5. By the way, and more seriously... have you seen this?

    Much the same idea, in a lovely presentation.

  6. Dave, that is really cool. Thanks for the link!

  7. I agree, that's awesome! And very relevant to my last campaign.