Tea CountryA central trading hub for the south-western portion of the world, Tea Country has become synonymous with the term "trade" mostly due to the positioning and success of its capital Kurosawa City. Most of Tea, despite the imagine that comes to mind for most people when they think about the country, is in fact rural farming communities which-- surprise, surprise --grow tea and much of Tea Country's wealth is responsible for it. The particular type of tea which is farmed and exported out of Tea Country is a native species of oolong tea which, for reasons which have been as of yet been uncovered by any interested parties, will only grow in the particular conditions found in the strangely schizophrenic climate of Tea Country.
The important thing to note about Tea when discussing its' climate is whether or not the discussion is about Northern Tea or Southern Tea. Northern Tea, being closer to the Fire Country and its' more lush environs is a much more tropical climate. Warm weather nearly all year-round but with the cooler winds of the sea, the strange climate seems perfect for growing their particular and strange brand of tea plants. Northern Tea Country sports most of it's farmland and has the sparsest population as the people of the country have slowly migrated south to be closer to the boom of industry and civilization taking place in the surrounding territory of Kurosawa City. Many older Northerner families find a certain level of distrust towards Southern families; mostly due to paranoia that the denizens of Kurosawa and the south may decide in the future to forget their roots and declare themselves their own country rather than continuing to bear the ancestral name of Tea Country. Typically more traditional in nature, Northern families tend to be what you would expect of an older and more family-centric people.
The Southern provinces of Tea are significantly different. Similar to the harsher climates of Wind though with a great deal more fresh water and without the other various deadly facets of Wind, the people of Southern Wind Country have grown into a collective people of experienced merchants and power-brokers which control most (read: nearly all) of Tea Country's wealth even though they owe a great deal of their success to the unique tea which is grown in the north and then traded to the south for export and sale to lands abroad. Even though the Southern Provinces do not suffer things like sandworm attacks or the vicious mineral storms that plague central Wind Country, they have their own share of problems-- namely criminals and pirate bands which rove the less policed parts of the state. The Southern Provinces have, for that reason, become quite notorious for their cutthroat criminals given the nature of how much trade and money goes in and out of places such as Kurosawa City on a regular basis. It's commonly said that if a Tea Southerner isn't trying to take your money by sale then he's likely trying to take it by force.
The northern regions of Tea Country is mostly hills and plains, they enjoy rather temperate climates (as previously mentioned) year-round so have a bountiful crop most seasons. While most of the land is dedicated to farmland and long twisting dirt paths, small villages can be found throughout the country. Highly traditional Asian-style homes dot narrow dirt roads, most people travel by horse-cart or bicycle. Most of the power in these northern tea villages is held by the village chief, often an elder of the village that belongs to an honored house in the small community. Honored houses in Tea Country are old family lines that often claim divine right or special powers bestowed upon their blood and seed during ancient times. For the most part these village leaders make decisions for their small communities in terms of what to farm, how much to produce, what soil would yield the best crop and what they would sell to adjacent or even distant communities. Some great craftsmen also come from northern Tea Country, known for their fine hand-blown glass made from fine white sand crystals through trade with Wind Country that has a lovely rose to amber hue, often referred to as "Teaglass." Other aspects of trade to note include their cultivation of grains such as wheat, rye and barley that are used in both baking as well as beer production, potatoes and citrus trees such as oranges. While there has been moderate success with other vegetables such as cabbage, carrots, and beans as well as fruits such as grapes, apples, and plums, they are not considered to be cash crops due to their variable success due to various indigenous blights. There is little game hunting in the north, livestock is a choice food source, most commonly beef,l sheep and chicken.
Southern Tea Country is a hub of commerce, their focal point being the city of Kurosawa. Located on the shore, Kurosawa as well as many other shoreline cities rely heavily on trade from their docks. Fishing is a local resource as is man-power due to the dense population in the southern portion of Tea Country. There is a noticeable difference between the upper class and the lower class, being a region that embraces the concept of capitalism families or elder do not make the decisions of this portion of the country, rather it is the person or people who are the most successful or ambitious. Hotsume Rika is presently considered to be the leader and face of Tea Country, her ambitious rise to power is as awe-inspiring as her uncanny ability to maintain her seat of power in Kurosawa. While there are shining buildings that pierce the heavens that act as the resting area for the southern elite, there are also dim shanty-like structures clustered in the disadvantaged zones that the poorest citizens dwell in.
Tea Country Leadership
Tea has no king, queen or ruling family. Much of the northern leadership lies in the oldest households of Tea Country. While leadership roles in both North and South Tea Country are not hereditary but rather by the virtue of their vast estate and holdings, many of these assets are passed down from one generation to another and wealth in the form of farmland in the north and monetary capital or trade partners in the south is jealously guarded by these powerful families.
Kurosawa, in the absence of abundant farmland but the presence of bountiful opportunities for trade became the unofficial capital of Tea Country over a century ago. Due to the dependence of the Northern countryside for trade, the merchants of Kurosawa slowly began to gain power over the farmers of the north-country. Rules tariffs and taxes have created tensions between the north and the south over the years but they maintain a tense relationship. Kurosawa's leader, also an unofficial position of power presently belongs to the wealthiest and most powerful woman in Tea Country, Hotsume Rika. This is often a sort-lived position of power because a bad trade choice can devastate a leader's resources. Over the years her assets have grown rather than diminish and her influence over the country has grown powerful. Under her authority, the once feudal country setting has become a unified country, much to the ire of many of the great lords and ladies of other honored homes.
Tea Country Foreign Relations:
|Countess of Tea Country|
Crime and politics... the situation is always fluid.
Hotsume Rika emerged from obscurity 30 years ago. The middle daughter of a longshoreman, her family was working class poor. Without formal education, she noticed an unexplored business opportunity with Soons Haven. Soons haven was the gateway to Wind Country, a vast near uninhabitable expanse of countryside with a surprisingly large population considering the dangerous and inhospitable setting. While the obvious need for Water was already being satisfied as was Carmot trade, Wind Country also housed a hidden village and trace with Sunagakure was limited by the Diamond Maelstrom. Trade with Sunagakure would not only be a source of revenue but it would also grant her a powerful ally in her ascension to power. She focused on trade with Sunagakure, initially using Soon's Haven as a middle man until she was able to deal with Sunagakure on her own merit. Her endeavors were profitable and investments made in shinobi guards have protected not only her life but also her assets. Over the years her life has been in peril several times, often by rival entrepreneurs or jealous rivals. Today, she has a monopoly of the ships necessary for overseas trade and it is through shipping that she maintains her seat of power.
Presently she is looking to achieve two things: find a suitable mate and eventual heir and to consolidate her power over Tea Country. Rumor has it she is also looking to expand her influence in a more direct manner in Wind Country.
|Name: Hotsume Rika
Marital Status: Single
Occupation: Countess of Tea Country
Coming in at an impression six feet and two inches, Rika is commonly considered to be an imposing presence to stand near and even though she is blessed with youthful features which are enduring into her middle years she is rarely caught not wearing a smile. With unblemished porcelain skin and a pair of bright yellow eyes, many who frequent the courts of Tea Country are led to wonder if perhaps their leader's lasting youth and more unusual features are the result of some well-kept secret supernatural stain on her family's bloodline but none have ever been able to claim such a thing with any evidence and those that do are quickly brought to ruin by the Countess' many supports and suitors. Typically worn up or at least bound, her hair has a color and tone slightly reminiscent of un-ground coffee though it undeniably has more shine to it than any coffee beans ever have. Despite what one might expect of a woman who spends a great deal of her time dealing with political and mercantile business, Rika has a fit and well-muscled body that she does well to hide using voluminous clothing and apparel.
Charming and polite, Hotsume Rika is perhaps the furthest thing from what one might expect from a cunning industry mogul that is said to indisputably rule the Tea County. Her delicate appearance and affable demeanor would suit a court princess much more closely than a strong and independent mind which is capable of out-thinking some of the most savvy criminals and merchants in both the Wind and Tea Countries but that assessment is one of Rika's greatest weapons against the world that she runs. Loyal to herself and her country first and foremost, the Lady of Tea has made a career out of gutting those foolish enough to try and take advantage of the guise that she wears at court. The truth of the Countess however is a person who cares very deeply for her nation and for her people... and is for that reason willing to perpetrate any evil to ensure their prosperity even though such acts disgust her. Time and time again she has buried friends, lovers and even family to safeguard her position as the protector of Tea and by extension the nation itself.
Tea has a trade agreement with Sunagakure. Located east of Wind Country, it takes a ship 2 days to cross the bay from Soons Haven to Kurosawa City when traveling at 6 knots. The distance being about 270 miles, slightly longer than the width diameter of tea Country itself. Travel by water is preferred to travel by land due to the roving bandits that traverse the countryside. North of Tea Country is Fire Counted, another vaunted powerhouse that Tea Country never achieved trade relations with because of the dangerous countryside necessary to traverse to reach the country borders. Overall, Tea is willing to trade with anyone and would likely break agreements. Many of the merchants are happy to trade with shinobis in particular because Hidden Villages offer a wealth of resources and they do not discriminate against nukenins but their prices tend to climb when performing sales, many call it a confidentiality tax that most actually honor.
Kurosawa City - Capital of Tea CountryWhen people in other countries speak at length about "Tea Country" it is often a safe assumption that they are speaking in particular about Kurosawa City as it is indisputably the beating heart of the country's bustling industry and strong trade economy. Built at the very southern tip of the country into a natural bay area, Kurosawa City was founded in 85 BE shortly following a massive boom in economy from Water Country several years before that and the founding of Soon's Haven two decades prior. Even though Soon's Haven had the advantage of being founded first, Kurosawa City saw success that their rival city would never see simply due to the country that they were built in. Where as life in the Wind Country was a hard existence that required it's people to battle the very land itself on a daily basis to survive, Tea Country possessed a great deal more fertile land and a great deal more abundant fresh water. It was because of this that Kurosawa City rapidly overtook Soon's Haven as the primary trading hub on that side of the main continent (though Soon's Haven would inevitably rise to join together with them to form the Trade Alliance at the end of the Early Modern Era). It was not until the past few decades that specific trade interests through Hotsume Rika focused on Sunagakure, not that trade between Soons was absent prior to her intervention but the wares were focused on the needs and perceived wants of a shinobi where there was no attempt to fill that market before and the wares were significantly more utilitarian.
- The Shipyards - "Old Kurosawa"
The Shipyards, or alternatively referred to by some as simply "the docks", are by far the oldest buildings in the city as the residential and more land-based mercantile districts slowly sprang up around those bustling docks as time went on. Sometimes referred to as "Old Kurosawa" or "Old Town", the Shipyards primarily dominate the western half of the city even though their docks extend over the entirety of the city which faces the natural bay that Kurosawa was built on. The Shipyards are perhaps the one part of the city that never rests. During the day career dockworkers and indentured workmen alike can be seen loading and off-loading various boxes and shipments which are being transferred in the ports. Referred to as Labor Houses, these clans of career workmen pride themselves on their quick, efficient and most of all trustworthy handling of goods and go to great lengths to compete with each other for contracts to work with various shipping companies which have goods which pass through the city. While work on unloading shipment can continue into the night hours for crews which are slower at their work than others, it is typically the taverns and brothels which are most busy during the wee hours. Full to the brim of sailors and workmen who are looking to relax or find a good time after long days of work, the owners of some of the busier taverns in the Shipyard are among the wealthiest men in the city-- although you might not know it from the look of their establishments which are almost always in constant disrepair from drunken fighting and constant parties. Sadly the Shipyards are also home to one of the saddest aspects of the city; the homeless and the jobless. Pitiable men and women who for one reason or another have lost their occupation and any fortune they might have had, these "dock bums" as they're referred to are often a source of cheap but unreliable labor for ship captains too poor or too foolish to hire one of the more well-established Labor Houses.
- The Shipyards - "Old Kurosawa"
- The Countryside - "Farming Area"
Located in Northern Tea Country, a majority of the northern portion of this country is either rough, rugged terrain that some farmers have turned into great pastures or rolling hills that have been cleared to make way for farmland. The population in this region is sparse but for the most part life is peaceful here, not due to the absence of 'bad people' but rather the relative proximity to a hidden village (Sound). The 'shinobi' of Sound protect the villagers of these agrarian communities for a price, but their presence is also a source of unease for some. Rumored to be demons and monsters, many of these villagers are superstitious and fearful.
- The Countryside - "Farming Area"
- Tsuwano - "A Rival Lord's Property"
Tsuwano Masahiko, a rich landowner in Northern Tear Country. He is not associated with Kurosawa and claims sovereignty and domain over Northern Tea Country. Both the Countess and the Lord have private armies as well as the funds to pay for outside assistance in the form of shinobis and have done so. This continual rivalry has maintained tensions throughout the country but has resulted in a minimal loss of life. Rumors exist that Lord Tsuwano has attempted to seek the Countess' hand several times in the past but that he has been rejected each and every time. It has been said that she does not feel he is a suitable suitor and has went as far as to mention that his reign would be short-lived.
- Tsuwano - "A Rival Lord's Property"