Pop Culture and Japan

Cultural Displacement And Complex Identities: An Overview Of The Kamuni

Japanese culture has had a big impact on me. Hell, it inspired the creation of Yamato Magazine and it’s been influential in crafting a world in which I’ve been able to publish my debut novella AT THE DEAD OF DUSK. Set within a dark western world called The Frontier, the novella follows an infamous witch hunter transporting a young woman across dangerous terrain.

When creating The Frontier, I dipped into my love of Japanese culture and created a group of people called kamuni. Much of the kamuni’s history has been inspired by the Ainu, the indigenous people of Japan who have their origins in Hokkaido. Read on to discover more about the kamuni.

Throughout the history of The Frontier, the frontiersmen have worked to stake their claim and tame the wilderness. But long before they arrived, there was another group of people who’d carved out an existence and they are the kamuni.

An island race of explorers, the kamuni have a distinctive culture and we’ll take a deeper look into who they are, what their belief system is and how they approach life.

What does kamuni mean?

The language of the kamuni is a rich, multi-layered dialect. There can be more than one meaning to a single word and much of what is said is done through body language as well.

The word ‘kamuni’ translates into Natural Lingo as ‘people of the earth.’ It’s a reflection of the kamuni’s deep connection to nature and how they view the universe as a living being and that everything has godly characteristics.

Where do the kamuni come from?

The original home of the kamuni is Suwanichi, an archipelago of islands far to the west of The Frontier. Suwanichi is a lush and vibrant land filled with different kamuni tribes that each have their own unique subcultures and ties to the areas and islands they inhabit.

The kamuni were the first humans recorded as settling on The Frontier and arrived with the intention of discovering new lands. In their dialect, they refer to The Frontier as Kana Mora (The Golden Land), for the abundance of natural resources they found when they first settled.

Over the centuries of settling on The Frontier, the kamuni tried to live in harmony with the monsters and beasts of the world. They always saw themselves as guests and treated the land with respect.

What do the kamuni believe?

Kamuni believe in daiku, divine beings that are everywhere and in everything. The term encompasses animals, plants and inanimate objects. The idea is that all things have been infused with a spark of Nature and that everything has the potential to be a god, from water to a bow and arrow.

Kamuni regularly give thanks to daiku through various rituals that may be unique to a specific object. The term also can refer to good and bad spirits and may also be swapped out for Nature as a way to reinforce the connection kamuni feel to the land and sea.

The stories of the daiku are passed down through oral history, with each kamuni tribe referring to them in prayers and songs so that the stories are then passed on to the new generation.

Another thing to note is that kamuni don’t see monsters the same way as the frontiersmen do. For example, a werewolf or a kelpie would not be seen as a monster to a kamuni. Instead, they are animals who are simply following their nature.

How do kamuni live?

Traditionally, kamuni live in tribes and family units in settlements called astiri. A kamuni household is usually a hut that has been built by all members of the tribe and each household is under divine protection from the daiku. Each part of a kamuni household may have a specific section dedicated to a certain daiku.

The main building within an astiri is a long hut where all the tribe gather to drink, eat, pray and tell stories in front of a sunken hearth.

This way of life has been significantly altered through the frontiersmen restricting a large degree of kamuni culture on The Frontier and it’s much more likely to find this traditional way of living in Suwanichi.

How has the kamuni way of life changed over time?

For kamuni living on The Frontier, they have been forced to adapt to the frontiersmen becoming the dominant people of the land. Over the course of their history, there have been three major conflicts with the frontiersmen: the first, second and third Kamuni Uprising.

During these rebellions, the kamuni have had their ways of life impacted in several ways. For example, after the second Uprising, hundreds of thousands of kamuni were forced to leave The Frontier and return to Suwanichi and many who were left behind became slaves and indentured servants.

The most recent Uprising saw kamuni slaves fight back against their masters. Ultimately, the third Uprising was put down by Alyosius Greenlaw, and while the rebels did succeed in gaining more freedoms than before it wasn’t without further compromises and an erasure of culture.

All of this upheaval has led to a complex identity crisis for the kamuni and how they view themselves and each other.

As an example, kamuni born on The Frontier may be looked down on by the kamuni who have spent years living in Suwanichi.

Others have chosen to abandon the old ways altogether and embrace the frontiersmen religion, while some choose to work in the employ of aristocrats because it’s better than the alternative.

The kamuni battle conductor Itsano plays an important role in AT THE DEAD OF DUSK. Buy the novella today!

3 thoughts on “Cultural Displacement And Complex Identities: An Overview Of The Kamuni

  1. This is a really interesting comment, and something I have considered after reflecting on my years in Japan. I think there is a lot of potential to tap into the Japanese culture that is still relatively unknown by westerners outside of the country, and the Ainu culture even more so. Perhaps because it’s a touchy subject, but I would love to see more creative works based on the cultures and history of the Ainu people myself. Geographically Hokkaido is a very interesting location that has a ton of potential (with geographical connections to Russia, while remaining within reasonable distance to Korea and China.) Tons of rooms to play with ideas there.

    Does the book take place in the American west?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for commenting and definitely agree with your point on taking inspiration from the lesser known aspects of Japanese culture. One of the biggest Ainu influences for the kamuni are the associations with guardian spirits being in every plant and animal.

      The novella is set in a world that is inspired by the American West and several other cultures, including Scottish and Celtic folklore and incorporates monsters and magic.

      Like

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