Empire of the Blazing Sun
“We did not want war, but it has found us nonetheless. Honour demands that this matter be settled…permanently”
– General Oni, commander of Sword Army Third Division, to his subordinates prior to the razing of Singapore, 1868
The rise of the Empire of the Blazing Sun took the other major powers totally by surprise. In less than a century it has developed from an insular, almost medieval society into a major world power, with aspirations of imperial rule from the Yellow Sea to the Malay Peninsula, and further still, far across the Pacific Ocean. Starting from scratch in terms of an industrial and technological revolution has proven to be a boon to the Japanese, for they have been able to avoid many of the pitfalls and dead ends that other nations made before them, and have benefitted from observing and duplicating the best of foreign technologies.
But, as many foreigners have discovered, it does the Blazing Sun a great disservice to assume that their every advance has come about through blind duplication. For Japanese scientists and engineers, gathered under the auspices of the great Imperial Alchemical Institution in Kobe, have proven to highly innovative in their designs, and are served by a body of craftsmen who take an almost obsessive pride in the quality of their work, as befits the manner of smiths who beat and folded inferior metal ores time and again until they produced the deadliest and most effective of blades, the Samurai katana. From their origins on the Japanese home islands, the forces of the Blazing Sun have spread far and wide across the seas, and the empire’s striking flag now flies on lands from south Asia to South America. And although the young Empress Shinzua did not set out to provoke a war with the Britannians or anyone else, she is determined to capitalise on it so as to secure the gains of her predecessor and great-aunt the Empress Maya, as well as drive the grasping mercenaries of the East India Company well away from her empire’s borders.
Territorially, the Blazing Sun is the smallest of the world’s great powers, and many of its holdings are spread far and wide across the eastern seas. Apart from Japan itself and its dependent island chains, the Blazing Sun holds sway over Korea, the former Dutch East Indies, the Philippine Islands, Hawai’i far out in the Pacific and further still, the province of Kanawa-Hsi at the foot of South America, giving the Empress a foothold in the Atlantic as well as the Pacific. Remarkably, thanks to the patience, willpower and political dexterity of the old Empress Maya, many of these territories were claimed quite peacefully. The Philippines were purchased outright from the cash-strapped Republic of Mexico in 1823, while the Dutch, at Prussian instigation, signed over governance of their territories in return for favoured trading status in 1849. Shinzua added Kanawa-Hsi to the empire in 1867, following a purchase from the almost bankrupt Republic of Argentina.
This is not to say that the empire has not known war in the course of its rise. The Samurai were decimated in an appalling bloody campaign on the island of Hokkaido to repulse and then destroy a Russian army sent to invade Japan in 1774, an event that allowed Empress Maya to eventually wrest power back from the fatally weakened Tokugawa Shogunate in the 1820s. And far more dramatic than this was the means by which the Blazing Sun gained control of Korea. Only after a hard and bitterly fought war that lasted seven gruelling years, and which revealed to the world the horrors of chemical warfare, did the Blazing Sun assume control of the Korean peninsula. Even today this region, especially the wild, mountainous north, is not wholly secured, and Blazing Sun military forces are kept battle-ready and alert through frequent skirmishes with rebels, bandits and occasionally even trespassing Russian patrols.
Although Blazing Sun rule now encompasses a number of different peoples, in particular Koreans, the native inhabitants of the Philippines and the East Indies and now a substantial number of Spanish-speakers, official policy is maintain a hands-off approach, in much the same way as the Britannians, leaving local governance largely in the hands of locals. However, the Dutch, thanks to their long and beneficial association with the Empire, are accorded the exceedingly rare honour of being considered equal partners within Blazing Sun territory, even though they no longer have any official governing power. It is this that allows them to trade freely in imperial holdings, unlike any other foreigners except the Chinese.
The Empress Shinzua, great-niece of the former imperial monarch, currently occupies the Chrysanthemum Throne of the Blazing Sun. She ascended the throne in 1862 at the tender age of 14 following the abdication and retirement of the seventy-three year old Empress Maya. The old Empress still lives in her private apartments in the Imperial Palace in Kyoto, where she continues to act as one of her successor’s foremost advisors.
The precocious and strong-willed Shinzua, however, is shaping up to be just as effective a ruler as her predecessor. Like Maya, she governs as an autocrat, her will carried out by her favoured Council of Seven; noblemen whose loyalty to her is absolute, although only three of them, her High Generals, are publically known. As a mark of his rank, each Council member carries a ‘Masamune’ blade – a masterfully wrought katana. Through her Council, the Empress’s will is made law across her empire. Ministers are appointed to handle various administrative functions, but everything they do must with the approval of the Council and, by definition, the Empress. Such could be considered too great a burden for any single ruler, but Shinzua has chosen her vassals well, In addition, as Empress she commands the total loyalty of the Shinobi clans, whose network of agents operates in every corner of the empire and, so it is said, far beyond as well. With these assets at her command, the energetic and highly astute sovereign keeps a close eye on her domains.
With its relatively small size and widely scattered possessions, the Blazing Sun military is one of the few to operate with a true combined-arms structure. The empire’s military is split into three major organisations – the Shield, which defends the Blazing Sun’s existing holdings; the Sword, which constitutes the empire’s prime offensive power; and the Crucible, a balanced and flexible force that provides both replacement troops and fighting reserves to the other two forces, while being fully capable of engaging in independent action if necessary. Each of these armies is split into ten divisions, any of which can do battle in nearly any environment as a single self contained force. Although their ratio of different assets may vary, Blazing Sun divisions include all manner of forces and equipment, from infantry companies all the way up to mighty Land Ships. Moreover, each division has its own organic air support and a battle fleet to transport it anywhere within the empire and beyond.
Blazing Sun land forces use highly unconventional equipment thanks to the adverse terrain in which they must often fight. Their land ships take the form of huge heavy walkers capable of traversing terrain that would defeat conventional machines. Backed up by tough and versatile tanks, they are a force to be reckoned with, especially in tight terrain. Blazing Sun infantry, known collectively as Ashigaru, fight mainly as aggressive, fast moving formations, each soldier fully conversant in the art of melee combat as well as musketry. However, the hard core of these formations, who also provide garrison troops from Blazing Sun war engines, are the Rocket Assault troops. These modern Samurai eschew the use of firearms altogether, favouring a combination of swords and potent poison gas grenades adopted from the Koreans, to do their deadly work.
Blazing Sun ingenuity is equally prevalent in its naval and air forces, with a combination of radical designs and highly advanced materials technology. At sea, Blazing Sun warships carry a very flexible main armament, rather than specialising in one area, allowing them to fulfil many different roles. However, incendiary rockets with volatile chemical warheads are a hallmark of the armament of ships of all sizes. What they all also have in common, are strong hulls and rounded or sloped armour, allowing them to retain their buoyancy even in the face of severe damage. With many back-up and redundant systems, they are also less susceptible to disablement by sudden lucky hits.
In the air, the empire’s craft are even more radical. Using a combination of powerful and highly efficient directional turbofans, combined with lightweight Sturginium-derived alloys, Blazing sun aircraft are both very resilient and highly manoeuvrable, capable of riding the air currents as deftly as Britannian craft, while packing an armament easily the equal of a seaborne cruiser. Blazing Sun pilots are highly dedicated, even going so far as to ram enemy planes and war machines if this is necessary to achieve victory for the Blazing Sun.
With these forces at her disposal, the Empress Shinzua hopes to force the Britannians to a deadlock and secure her empire from the grasping clutches of any other ambitious foreigners. The Empire of the Blazing Sun may be small, but time and again it has punched well above its weight and won.