THE VILLAGE HIDDEN IN THE MIST
Topographic Summary:'Kirigakure no Sato' is located on an island in the middle of a large lake. This lake is within a much larger island, that was artificially created by Shodai Mizukage, when the village was first established. This larger artificial island is within Water Country and isn't too far from the central island where the Water Daimyo resides. The proximity of the central island and the artificial island makes is so transportation isn't an issue, they are literally a boat ride away when you think of it.
There are numerous mountains surrounding the island that were created specifically to keep the village safe from external threats. The mountains in effect produce a wall of jagged death for anyone crazy enough to scale them. It also doesn't help that the whole island is almost always covered in a blanket of thick mist, hence the name of the village nestled within this perilous landscape.
The lake that surrounds the village, connects to a mature river that runs straight through the large island. This is the only logical way in and out the village which also has the benefit of making the village excessively simple to defend. The general look of the village has been altered over the years by the various leaders, with the most recent rendition having the village drastically adapted for defense. Three colossal walls encircle and protect the village from any threats that may arise. But there is another purpose to these walls then defense; they serve to enforce a caste system of sorts.
Summary:The social hierarchy in Kirigakure is extremely complex. To those outside the village the customs of Kirigakure are nearly impossible to properly navigate. Every individual in Kirigakure is placed within the grand social pyramid of the village based on 3 different factors. While none of these factors are inherently more important than any others, they each come with their own rules, impacts, influences and histories that shift where that individual sits within the village. While some of these factors can be changed, others are simply as they are and nothing can be done about it. The three things are the person's family, their caste, and whether they belong to a clan or not. As a whole, these 3 different factors have a permeable effect on life within the village. The families, castes, and the structure of clan influence within the village is more thoroughly explored below.
FAMILIES One of the most compelling things about the social structure of Kirigakure no Sato, besides the caste system, is perhaps the five ruling families. Approximately 95% of the residents of the village belong to one of the five ruling families. Not necessarily by blood, but some by marriage, some by servitude, others through contract agreements, and some simply through inheritance. The families are all so large, so expansive, that not everyone is truly aware of who belongs to their family, though each family has a specific method of identifying themselves. Due to the wide-spread nature of the families, they’re almost equal to businesses, mostly political moves and business agreements that further the gains of the core nobility of each family. However, anyone belonging to a family knows that they can go to any other family member for assistance and it will be given. Each family has it’s own unique culture and beliefs, and perhaps the only fact that exists true for each of them is that every families main goal is to be the most important, if anything, to prove its worth to the people of Kirigakure.
When one member of a biological family joins into one of the five families, only that member is a part of the family. Contractually, other members of the family are able to join if those are the agreement, but by doing so, they are forfeiting membership of the family they belonged to previously. This proves to be dangerous to many, and is often the causation for assassinations.
In Summary:~~The ShiimuThroughout the world, the importance of family is not lost, but it takes on a whole new meaning in Kirigakure. Traditionally, a person anywhere in the world would, in a respectable situation, introduce themselves as Haruma, of the Family Hyouto, this is understood as the name they go by is Haruma, and they belong to a larger family of people who are share the surname Hyouto. In Kirigakure, however, this is not the case. In Kirigakure, families are less about bloodline and more about contracts. While some contracts are oral, often times a written contract, bringing someone into a family, actually exists. The unique nature of contracted families is explored more thoroughly further down. In Kirigakure, the more respectable way to introduce yourself would be Haruma, bled for the Family Karagata, born of the family Hyouto. This is understood to mean that his name is Haruma, he belongs to a larger family of people who share the surname Hyouto, but his loyalty falls to the Karagata family.
Kirigakure has 5 Principle Families, the Karagata, the Muramasa, the Kawazaiwa, the Hirohito, and the Shiimu. Every single villager in Kirigakure belongs to one of these 5 families. To be granted residence in the village requires sponsorship from a principle family, and by extension, typically a contract to them. Contracts are not based on blood, and while husband and wife typically belong to the same principle family, most often individuals are only contracted except for rare exceptions. Principle families can be inherited from parents, but often children entering the academy, or civilians in their teens will "sell their soul" and contract to a different family in order to gain something. To add to the general complexities of this social contract, 4 of the 5 families divide themselves into subfamilies, based on a shifting vowel within their names. Derived from when the Karagata used a shifting vowel to denote which shipping company they were talking about, the tradition was picked up by the Muramasa, Hirohito, and Kawazaiwa (the Shiimu do follow a similar sub-family structure, but is based off of Oni worship and is explored individually in the Shiimu family section). All 4 families have individual rank based off which vowel is being shifted. For example, the Karagata have 4 subfamilies (Karegata, Karigata, Karogata and Karugata), while being recognized as a Karagata is most desirable, everyone knows that the Karugata are essentially slaves within their own family and garner almost 0 respect. Each of the families subsection will further explain the differences within their subfamilies. To summarize, in Kirigakure, one belongs to their own genetic family, and in addition, a "business" like family that contracts individuals. A person can belong to a Principle Family, or any of its subfamilies based on a shifting vowel, with depreciating prestige based on that vowel. One would introduce themselves in Kirigakure as Haruma, bled for the Family Karigata, born of the Family Hyouto.
The Shiimu family is the first of the five, most noted for being the family of the current Mizukage. The Shiimu family is primarily known for the slave movement within Kirigakure, the main family having made the larger portion of its wealth off of control over the slave trade. The Shiimu family is almost merciless in it’s business ventures, ruthlessly seizing control of slave trading families, and making no secrets of the shinobi force it has under its control. The Shiimu require all members of it’s family to submit their eldest son and eldest daughter to the academy, and grants wealth to every family member after the first two that is submitted to the academy. While it doesn’t incur punishment for those who are not accepted, families that fail to produce shinobi are typically viewed as worthless within the Shiimu family. Due to this ruling, the Shiimu has arguably the most shinobi under its control between the 5 families. Shiimu are taught to love Kirigakure, and to recognize the value in all life. Not in a manner that all deserve life, but in a manner that all should fight for life. This is why the family dabbles so deeply in the slave trade, as it has a deep respect for slaves who are willing to do anything to maintain their livelihood. Should a Shiimu witness the poor treatment of a slave, they will be quick to the jump to the defense of a slave, much as a person would jump to defend a dog being kicked by a man.
Aside from heavy influence within the slaving community, the Shiimu family does dabble in weapon and armor production, though not too deeply. Culturally, the Shiimu family is considered the only hyper-religious family of the 5. Shiimu are known for their worship of the gods, and regularly put on festivals (for family members only) where they celebrate thanks for different gods that have granted them fortune. Almost every church in Kirigakure belongs to the Shiimu family, with very few of them being open to non-family members. Shiimu are easily recognized as their homes are often decorated in religious texts and items, and the scent of incense is almost universal in every Shiimu home. The Shiimu family fears the Oni, and teach all family members special practices to keep their family safe from Oni. Many of the other families mock them for the superstitious nature, and have popularized the phrase “Don’t be a Shiimu” if someone fears something due to a bad feeling. Shiimu identify each other through the use of a special charm that’s been blessed by a Shiimu priestess to protect them from Oni, often worn on a necklace (though other ways are not unheard of). Losing of this charm is punishable by death (as is being caught wearing it as a non-Shiimu). The Shiimu family only control one clan, the Jouchaku.
The Karagata family is the second of the five families. They are primarily known around Water Country and beyond for their ties to the shipping and transportation industry. It is said that those that control the sea most likely have their hands in about everything you can think of. This is actually quite true. With a monopoly over the shipping and transportation industry they are the most wealthy of the five families. Their primary shipping partners are Water and Earth Country, though they do a fair share for Lightning and Tea Country when contracted. It isn't surprising then, to learn that they are also deeply rooted financially within each of the other ruling families.
There is a darker side to the family as with all the other families. For the Karagata family it is their ruthlessness. They do not believe in any higher power, they believe in the strength of themselves. Over the years they have gained a reputation of producing exceptional assassins. It has come to a point in which they are known for their ties to assassinations as much as they are for shipping and transportation. They forcefully push whatever they want through the system through any means. If there is opposition in the way of progress the opposition will simply be eliminated. "Don't cross a Karagata", has become a popular phrase around the land because of their way of handling things.
There are no clans associated with them. They were the lowest of the five families at one time and do not care to be associated with any of the clans. They have risen to power through outright killing anybody that gets in their way. Relying on the strength of their family over anything is what is deemed important to them. If one decides to leave the family it is almost as if they have chosen their own death sentence because they will be assassinated once they are officially accepted into another family. There are no second chances when dealing with the Karagata family.
Each family has a way of recognition, to recognize a Karagata all one has to do is look for their sigil. The sigil of the Karagata family is that of a Kraken. Why a Kraken? Well, the mythical beast and the Karagata family share some similarities. The Kraken is known for taking down ships indiscriminately and without remorse and that translated well with how the Karagata family rose to be the most wealthy of the families.
The third family is the Kawazaiwa family. Their main business is farming and crops, despite their sparse nature in Kirigakure every single land based farm in Kirigakure is owned by the Kawazaiwa family, may it be through business, or through less moral transactions. The Kawazaiwa family is perhaps the smallest family, having only made it’s claim in the last hundred years or so. However, the Kawazaiwa have gained immense popularity, and are very effective at seizing members of other families due to their very freeform nature. Kawazaiwa family members are not required to participate in any festivals, and pay very low taxes to their family. However, family members earn their keep by contributing a portion of all their crops. To be in the Kawazaiwa family you must own some portion of land, and use it to grow crops, which 40% of must go to the main family to sell. The other 60% can be used by the growing family to do with as they please, typically selling it as well. They gain their loyalty by allowing family members to do what they want, not mandating anything beyond the basic necessities.
Shinobi do come from the Kawazaiwa family, but not many of them, as farming is typically far more important than shinobi activity. Kawazaiwa, like all other families, are taught to be very loyal to Kirigakure, in that they must provide for the village, to be provided for. The Kawazaia family managed to join the Yamai clan into their ranks, who contribute the majority of their shinobi. A part of that contract, however, is that all members of the Kawazaiwa family must also don the red dots from the Yamai clan, though not necessarily on their forehead. If a Yamai clan member finds a non-Kawazaiwa touting the dots, or a Kawazaiwa without them, it is a sign of great disrespect, and they often respond by murdering them in cold blood. Other Kawazaiwa are not so strict, and the Kawazaiwa have made an effort not to take in anyone who has been what could be considered too hostile, as they want to maintain at least the appearance of being a more peaceful family.
The fourth of the five ruling families are the Hirohito. Known primarily for their political machinations and widespread influence, their primary trade is in information and back-door dealings; if someone wants to know something, they come to the Hirohito. While they aren't as monetarily wealthy as some of the other families, having been around almost as long as the Shiimu family, they know certain dirty little secrets about the other families that allows them to retain their influence without having to throw money behind bribes and the like. While members of the family, both the main family and the sub-branches, produce shinobi at a fairly standard rate they are encouraged to work in other avenues of business as well, primarily political in nature, and as a result the Hirohito makes up the majority of the judges/secretaries/bureaucrats/etc in the village. Some are trained to be traditional spies, breaking into secure areas to retrieve information, but most gain their information through more general means. Hearing whispers while at work, listening to gossip at the local bars, following rumors that one hears in everyday life, all of these are then given to a trained spy of the Hirohito who then either confirm or deny the information. The Hirohito do not kill off family members who join other the other families, and in-fact often encourage certain members to do so, whether through marriage or servitude. While this is a 'well-known fact' it has yet to actually be proven by the other families, and such a widespread amount of family members is what gives the Hirohito their information gathering skills.
Over the years, the Hirohito have managed to bind not one but two of the shinobi clans of Kirigakure to themselves; the Aisu and the Fushinkou. The Aisu have been tied to the Hirohito family for as long as they have been in Kirigakure. The original member of the ice-wielding clan was married to a rarity in the Hirohito main family, a strong warrior and famed shinobi of the village. While they became a clan of their own, given the nature of bloodline limits, they remained bound to the Hirohito through the marriage. The Fushinkou were a different matter entirely. Originally the Hirohito and Fushinkou were rivals, their control over the politics of Kiri almost equal in measure. However, when the time period came that the bloodline-wielding clans were feared and attacked, the Hirohito took advantage of the situation and provided the prideful clan of warriors with advanced knowledge of attacks in return for their political power and military backing. When the 'bloodline purge' ended, the Fushinkou were indebted to the Hirohito, though only those two families know that. Whenever a 'changing of political power' is required, aka an assassination, and the Hirohito do not want to risk their usual tactics of extortion and subtle manipulation, they typically call upon the Fushinkou to perform their dirty work.
Given that the majority of the Hirohito family and its branch family members are involved in espionage is some form or another, it is necessary that their family marker isn't anything plainly obvious. They are also one of the only families that do not require their marker to be worn at all times, at least in terms of the branch-family members. Family members outside of the direct Hirohito line wear a simple band of iron on the thumb with the Hirohito symbol engraved on the inside when they are meeting with other family members. Those in the main family are given both a platinum ring, which is passed down through generations that is worn on the ring finger. Upon reaching the age of sixteen, family members can chose to 'turn in' the ring and receive a brand in the form of the Hirohito family symbol on the underside of their tongue; this is optional but also highly encouraged for the shinobi of the family.
The last of the "Power Five" families in Kirigakure is the Muramasa. Well known throughout Water Country for their skills in hard labor, the Muramasa make everything from boats, to houses, to bridges, to weapons. Having been around for quite some time, the family has amassed a large amount of wealth due to their ever-growing industry of metalwork. Many believe that the Muramasa family has dealings with Rock Country to obtain vast amounts of iron with which to work, but the family has been tight-lipped in anything concerning the matter and so no one really knows whether or not it's true. It is public knowledge however, that the family owns a series of islands near the borders of Water Country.
Rich with iron deposits, these islands have become mines that have been in the family for times preceding its official establishment. The Muramasa family nobles are limited in number, with a total of five branching families, none of which take on the Muramasa name. Nobles are identified by a single earring consisting of three pearls in a sequence. The first pearl is carved out into a waxing crescent, the middle of which is attached to a full pearl. Attached on the other side of the middle pearl is another carved pearl, in a waning crescent. The earring is typically hung from the middle pearl. Male nobles wear it on their right ear lobe while females wear it on their left.
Members of the branching families are known to wear the Muramasa crest as well, usually embroidered subtly into their clothing. Many have it on the back of their collar, if applicable. The branching families are each closely intermingled, with a single noble sitting atop each of the branches at any given moment. When a noble dies, the other nobles meet with the elders of the fallen branch, discussing in length who should replace the dead. It generally boils down to the firstborn, but there have been exceptions. Holding a monopoly, anyone that works in construction or blacksmithing of any sort are under the influence of the Muramasa family. Aside from their massive control over the metalworking industry, the Muramasa family are known to produce shinobi of high caliber. Most of them are exceptionally strong in the physical sense, but there do exist those that excel in the other aspects of the shinobi life. The family has produced two Mizukage's throughout the history of Kirigakure, though neither were nobles.
Throughout the years, the Muramasa family has formed an alliance with the Toukai clan. Those in the clan that don't become shinobi will generally become workers for the Muramasa. The Toukai have time and time again proven to be a valuable asset to the workforce. In return, the Nobles give them any supplies they need for personal construction free of charge. The Toukai just have to build it themself. It's said that the Muramasa's pay them quite handsomely as well for their work. The Muramasa family generally don't have their hands dirty with too many assassinations, instead relying on their Toukai allies to do the job and supply any materials needed for it to get done. Their are of course the few exceptions. During the series of uprisings from the bloodline clans of Kirigakure, the Muramasa family strongly discouraged the Toukai from participating. Instead, they offered them protection from the village. After all, the Toukai had once been almost entirely wiped out. Another incident like that would likely extinguish them forever.
Being as a whole rather religious, the Muramasa have for a long time been dedicating to serving the Lunar Goddess, Mizuki. Legends state that the first Nobles of the family had a pact with the Night Mother, they and their descendants should serve her for time immortal in exchange for great prosperity and long lives. Indeed, the Nobles that aren't assassinated seem to live an extraordinarily long time before dying of old age far past others. Unlike the most of the power families, the Muramasa care little if one marries into the other families. They don't discourage it, though they don't particularly encourage it either. The only time they would ever have a problem with inter-family marriage is if the Muramasa name is disgraced by the wed.
CASTES Kirigakure uses a traditional caste social structure that has had a massive impact on the overall design of the village over the years. The castes are divided in the following order, moving from the outside to the core of the village. The closer you get to the core the higher class you are in this caste system.
In Summary:~~UntouchablesWhile the family one belongs to is more apparent based on day-to-day interactions, there is a slightly more subtle mechanic at work in Kirigakure that divides its citizens as well, which is castes. While Kirigakure does not enforce castes to the point where people of nobility have never met poor villagers, there are places certain villagers simply can't go because of their caste, and certain experiences they will never have because of it. The castes in Kirigakure as split into 4 ranks, Untouchables, Merchants, Shinobi, and Nobles. A random person visiting the for a day may never notice these castes if they aren't too observant, but the more time you spend in Kirigakure, the more apparent it becomes. Those born and raised within the village have it bred into them and often follow social norms based on a caste that they may not even be aware of. The caste structure does have a physical effect on the village though, as the village is actually split into 4 sections called Provinces, based entirely on the castes. Each Province is actually self-sustaining, and has an internal "economy" (i.e; farming, plumbing, housing, law enforcement, banks, etc) that is not principally reliant on any of the other provinces in order to function for short bursts of time. This was intentional so that in the event of siege, Kirigakure could lock away parts of the village to protect the villagers. The Provinces are divided by enormous stone walls that act as barriers for the shinobi to monitor and travel through, and passage through the walls requires certain permits, permission, reason, and so forth. Typically speaking, downgrading (going from the Noble Province to the Shinobi Province) is scrutinized far less than upgrading (going from Merchant Province to Shinobi Province).
Everyone in the village falls into a caste. While shifting castes is not as simple as shifting a family is (simply signing a contract), it is possible for someone to change their caste and their fortune. Most commonly, this is done by children in the merchant caste who manage to earn themselves into the ranks of shinobi. Less frequently but still common, is merchants down on their luck who fall to less legal methods of profit and fall victim to their vices. Gaining Nobility is just short of impossible, as it requires at least 3/4ths approval of nobility status from the the current noble families, as well as sponsorship from the Daimyo and at least 2 council members. Castes lean towards endogamy, but there is no law demanding it, and while it can be frowned upon by outsiders, it is not entirely uncommon for people to explore love, and lust, outside of their caste.
They are typically the most disgusting in the eyes of the majority. They're people that have been destroyed by their various diseases and vices and because of such are often looked upon as if they were worth nothing at all. This isn't exactly true, there are a variety of people and families amongst the thieves and criminals, that have been born into this shitty existence. The civilians found here typically have no true means of income and are otherwise ignored by the government. Their place of residence is located outside the village, built upon the meager amount of land that the village has no use for. The total population here is only 5% of the Kiri civilian population, which is perhaps what makes it so easy to ignore.
Due to their impoverished state, they are not expected to pay any taxes and their homes are not taxed or bothered. However, the homes are almost entirely slums, and have fallen into an utter state of decay. Many of the homes no longer have doors, windows, etc, and are just frames of buildings that house far more people than they were ever truly intended to. Almost every building that isn't a home in this area is a bar, or some sort of brothel.
The village turns a blind eye to this area, so crime runs rampant, and is mostly ignored. Usually the only time the village will intervene is to dispose of the dead, and even then the bodies are destroyed without a care in the world. The ninja that come here, only do so because they can get away with almost anything. It isn't uncommon for a variety of ninja to be seen around the slums, though those that make this a habit are often questioned as to why they would mingle with such filth.
~~The Merchant Caste
This caste is composed of the general working class amongst the village. Merchants, sailors, shippers, laborers, artisans, whatever, they are all part of this particular caste which is located in the outer rim of the village. The majority of the people that make up this caste are contracted by the village to complete tasks around the village, so it isn't surprising to find that this caste represents about 45% of the civilian population. Their living conditions here are mostly average. A lot of the people in this area are dirty, tricky, and underhanded, but respect the ideals of the village and do their best to uphold them. While it's certainly not common, some businessmen in this area will own a slave or two, though the slave is often of poor quality. All residents of this caste are taxed by the country based on their income, which is usually a small amount compared to the higher castes.
The Merchant caste is considered something of the motivational powerhouse for the village, however. These are people that typically buy almost completely into the philosophies of Kirigakure. The ninja as a whole, are viewed as celebrities, and the ones they hear about more often become icons very quickly. It's not uncommon for merchandise from the merchant caste to make it's way up in the social structure, only to reveal that a new ninja is "hot" and products in their likeness are selling like crazy. People from this caste, tend to only really have run-ins with senior ninja during festivities and large events, and even then they are separated. Ninja seeking fame and status will be smart to utilize their face time with these lesser civilians to gain stature in their eyes. As the ninja that impress these people are quick to get attention from the village as well.
Members of the merchant caste sometimes enroll themselves or their children into the military in an attempt to work their way up the social ladder. Many of these people and or the children that come from here, perform average at best once they do become ninja. It is a rarity for them to advance past Chuunin. The ninja coming from the merchant class are either ninja with a few too many bad marks on their record or not enough social standing to make it higher in the castes. They then fall from the good graces of the people and are assumed to be either social climbers or dirt bags, neither of which are good things.
~~The Military (Shinobi) Caste
Everyone in this caste is a ninja or the families of ninja. Active ninja have their housing paid for by the village, those that are not active ninja are charged a standard fee for the area in which they live. This is mostly for the elderly and or those that have had ninja within their family before. There are many ninja owned business' found in this area, making the caste fully self supportive.
Often times, nobles and or large business owners from the Noble Caste will buy ninja owned business' to increase their own wealth and power. By sponsoring a ninja this way, the ninja and the owner of said ninja's business gain more influence and fame depending on the relationship and or status of the parties involved. Famous ninja are a sought after commodity for the Noble Caste, so they are always looking for ways to sponsor ninja that rise in fame.
In population terms, this caste makes up about 65% of the military force and about 30% of the civilian force for the whole village. It is also the largest of the areas within the village. That being said, it houses many important buildings, headquarters, training grounds, and two of the three military academies. This particular area of the village is located in the second ring of the village.
~~The Nobles Caste
Finally we have the Nobles Caste located at the very core of the village. It is composed of people of nobility and stature within the country, including important family members, famous ninja, and wealthy businessmen. This caste is fairly large, despite it's small population. It's size is primarily due to it's massive residencies and parks. Many of the civilians found in this area have their hands deep in the matters of the country and village and are of great social importance. Additionally, much like the civilians in the merchant district, they profusely buy into the celebrity status of ninja. The civilians here make up about 20% of the civilian population, and the remaining portion of the shinobi population.
Businessmen and nobles will actually buy family owned businesses of ninja as a way to support then, and then consequently tout their close relationship with said ninja and his family. The more ninja a person is connected with and the more fame those ninja have, the more popular a person can become in this caste.
Many of the people in this caste are indulgent in their life styles and will do anything to be affiliated with a ninja that has gained fame so as to increase their own position in the social hierarchy. Often enough, they will use anything at their disposal to get their hands on information that will pull them farther into wealth and in the process increase their power overall.
Clans (A Summary):The 3rd and final factor that acts as a silent divisionary force within Kirigakure in a person's status as a clan member. There are 5 primary clans, each with a Kekkei Genkai, the Fushinkou, the Toukai, the Aisu, the Yamai, and the Jouchaku. While other minor clans have come and gone, the 5 major clans hold such significance within Kirigakure due to their history. Clan members are regarded as powerful, important members of society, and they are held to a somewhat different standard. While their actions are more heavily scrutinized, they are also granted more leniency. Clans as a whole hold great political significance within the village due to the unique power they offer, which calls for a unique approach to their lives. While some people of Kirigakure look at clan members with respect, there are still many people within the village who view clans as a danger, and would prefer their extinction.