The Game of Letters and Romance

The Game of Letters:

Many will ask what such a game is, and more experienced Courtiers may smirk behind their fans. Unlike Kemari, this game is one of wits and words, of subtext and allusion. It is a skill, it is a talent and above all, it is an art. It is the staple past time of any Winter Court and no Courtier worth attending would find themselves without participation in this pass time.

A truly skilled Courtier will find themselves participating in several of these Games as Winter Court progresses, and this is a battle fought with perseverance in mind. The winner of is game is the last to send a reply, as receiving no answer is a sign that your opponent has conceded to your wit and skill. These are not letters that are meant to convey simple information, but rather letters that are designed to be a display of skill and manipulation. Despite being a cleverly disguised method of Courtier’s testing each others mettle, a letter for this game should never be written casually. This is not a friend you are exchanging words with, but an opponent. However, though this game is a battle of the mind, letters should not be written in the blunt, militaristic style of a commander either.

Each letter is composed following a specific set of wit and the careful calculations of the author. The true soul behind the Game of Letters is the symbolism employed within in each. Not only in the text itself, but in every seemingly trivial detail. The lines of the calligraphy, the weight and color of the paper, if the letter has been scented or not, and the small object sent with the letter all gives hints as to the intention behind the words written within. A truly skilled Courtier can guess the contents of the letter without ever seeing the words, based on the knowledge of what just a few of these represent. This however, does not stop one from reading said letters. These types of letters are very rarely sealed, so any samurai can stop a servant to read one. This should always be expected and Courtiers often plan on the fact that their letter will reach the eyes of more than just their intended recipient. That is all part of the game.

How many people can Participate?
As many courtiers as there are, but know that Letter’s is much like an Iaijutsu duel, and each one is almost always versus a single opponent. A third party joining in is absolutely dishonorable. However, this does not mean one can not play with others, so long as each game is its own separate entity. Just make sure to not reply to the wrong letter.

So, what is one of these Letter’s at it’s core?
It is a thirty-one syllable poem (5-7-5-7-7), usually based on an image from nature and conveying the author’s intent indirectly. Remember, subtlety and symbolism are key in this. Though one’s words may not convey their exact thoughts, combining them with the right color paper and flower will speak the words your letter only alludes too. Once the proper paper has been chosen and the poem penned, a completed letter will also be scented and attached to a small object, often a representation of the hidden meaning within. Which you choose to use all depends on the message you are trying to send.

What else factor’s into deciphering the intent behind a letter? Almost everything, but let’s cover some of the basics.

Paper Color: The color of paper establishes the mood, conveying a particular emotion to the reader. Pink might suggest young love, while Black may bring to mind a more serious topic.
Paper Thickness: Even that which a normal samurai would not think of can influence the picture a courtier is trying to paint with their letter. So thickness and texture is not to be forgotten. A thick, heavy paper suggests a serious topic, while a thin tissue conveys a more light hearted tone.
Paper Size: There is also the matter of size to take into consideration when constructing your letter. Using a large piece of paper to convey a short message suggests generosity or extravagance, while a small piece of paper crowed with writing conveys a subtle insult, suggesting the recipient is not worthy of more paper.
Brush Work: a Courtier may go through several drafts of letters to perfect their intent behind the calligraphy. Messy or uneven brushwork might suggest an insult or lack of emotional control, where as steady, tidy hand writing can bring to mind the controlled On of a skilled courtly opponent.
Scent: Each letter is generally scented with a special perfume, though in very rare instances they can go unscented. Like everything else in this letter, the fragrance chosen is another piece of the puzzle behind the author’s message.
Letter Fold: While these letters are rarely sealed, they are often folded, sometimes into elaborate folds that are meant to show off the constructor’s talent just as much as the calligraphy within. A simple, elegant fold could indicate lack of care in regards to the message inside, where as a more elaborate fold can show the seriousness with which the game is being taken. The Scorpion in particular are known to be master’s of a specific style of folding that is beautiful to look upon but incredibly difficult to unfold without tearing.
Accompanying Object: Each letter, without exception, is attached to a small, accompanying object, the symbolism of which once again plays into the bigger picture the letter paints. It can be anything from a flower, a sprig from a tree, an incense stick or a multitude of other, small but telling items.
Signature: Much like courtly romance, Letters is played anonymously, the participants never signing their letters to one another. However, they may often leave some form of mark to give a vague representation of who they are. Just like everything else, it too can convey a meaning.

A Guide to the Hidden Meanings of Nature


Red: Passion, Danger.
Yellow: Honor, Warmth, Clarity.
Orange: Knowledge, Change
Purple: Wealth, Privilege
Blue: Relaxation, Calmness
Green: Life, Youth
White: Purity, Spirituality.
Black: Sorrow, Mystery
Brown: Earth, Stability
Grey: Dull, Unremarkable.
Pink: Love, Fragility.
Silver: Trust, Romance

Scents: These can be applied to both Perfumes and Incense Sticks

Jasmine: a heavy, flowery scent known for it’s relaxing and soothing properties, but also has heavy ties to sexual intimacy.
Lavender: a light, playful scent known for bringing about a peace of mind.
Lilac: a gentle, flowery scent known for inspiring creativity.
Rose: a thick, common scent known for promoting thoughts of love and passion.
Iris: a subtle, flowery scent known for it’s connection to wisdom and cherished friendship
Lotus: a heavy, thick scent known for it’s connection to the Kami, often a representation of spirituality.
Chamomile: a soft, flowery scent known for it’s connection to fortune and prosperity.
Ginger: a spicy musk known for it’s connection to luck.
Mint: a tingling scent that tickles the nose, known for it’s invigorating qualities.
Sage: a leafy, natural scent known for it’s connection to inspiring wisdom and meditation.
Cocoa [Colonial]: a thick, exotic scent known for it’s connections to the decadent and tantalizing.
Coffee [Colonial]: this is a scent becoming more well known in Rokugan, it brings to mind the exotic and energizing.
Vanilla [Colonial]: a light, sweet scent that is known for it’s connection for inspiring warmth within others.

Hanakotoba – The Language of Flowers

Red Rose: Romance, passion.
Carnation: Family love, friendship
Amaryllis: Shyness, coyness
Azalea: Patience, modesty
White rose: Innocent, devotion, silence
Yellow Rose: Jealousy
Red Tulip: Fame
Violet: Honesty
Gardenia: Secret Love
Jasmine: Grace, Friendship
Primrose: Desperation
Lavender: Faithful
Sweet pea: Goodbye
Bluebell: Gratitude
Pansy: Caring, Thoughtful
Freesia: Childishness, Immaturity
Cactus Flower: Lust, Sex
Hydrangea: Pride
Red Camellia: Love, but to a Samurai these are considered Bad Luck.
White Camellia: Waiting, Wanting
Dahlia: Good taste
White Chrysanthemum: Truth but more commonly associated with Grief.
Daffodil: Respect
Anemone: Sincerity
Narcissus: Selfishness
Forget-me-not: True Love
Hibiscus: Gentleness
Iris: Loyalty, Good Tidings
Peony: Bravery
White Lily: Purity, Chastity
Orange Lily: Hate, Revenge
Holly: Single and looking
Morning Glory: Willful promises
Verbena: Cooperation
Snowdrop: Hope
Sampaguita [Colonial]: Simplicity, Purity, Humility.
Frangipani [Colonial]: Shelter, Protection
Laelia [Colonial]: Often referred to as the Moon Orchid. It represents the Moon and all that is connected with it.

Tree Blossoms and Sprigs: These can either be presented as the flowers or, as a small clipping from a branch

Take (Bamboo): Longevity, Strength
Momo (Peach): Generosity
Ume (Plum): Beauty
Sakura (Cherry): Kindness, Fragility
Bonsai: Harmony, Balance.
Matsu (Pine): Immortality, Everlasting.
Momiji (Maple): Great Blessings

Now that all contributing parts of the Letter has been discussed, considering the following less than elaborate example below and the conclusion one might draw.
A poem about the shy and pure white hare is written on a soft paper the color of cherry blossoms. It is accompanied by a clipping of the white Camellia but is scented with a heavy, sweet Jasmine perfume.
Did you see what I did there?

By jotei/konohama, copied from FRO7 files

A Pair of Letters for Kitsu Ise Kozume

To a vanguard of the Spiritual leaders of the Lion,

Our contact has been brief, but Matsu Koritome Tanpopo wishes to ask about matters pertaining to the Kitsu, in this case with regard to his own situation. I wish to hear from my Ancestors about what I should do with the family line and I am given to understand that some among them would have the ability to put me into contact with them. I am aware that you are not a Shugenja of the Kitsu yourself, but perhaps you would have met a Sodan Senzo you could ask?

Fortunes carry your soul,



To the bold and efficient Kitsu Ise Kozume,

Matsu Koritome Tanpopo writes again, this time with a more general matter pertaining to the Kitsu: I wish to make an arrangement for recurring School exchanges between the Phoenix and the Lion ((I mean where Lion get trained at a Phoenix School and vice-versa)); I anticipate that, given the chance, the Phoenix would want to send a few students to train with the Kitsu and I need to determine if this would be possible. I will also be reaching out to the Ikoma, but if my hunch, based on having grown up surrounded by Phoenix, is correct, the terms would be far more agreeable with the opportunity to send students to train with the Kitsu.

May you ever find yourself in favour with your Ancestors,


A letter to Usagi Soji and Usagi Kikori

Father, Mother

I write with incredible news.

First, let me say that I received mother’s guidance regarding the debts our family is owed. I will seek during my time to seek out these debts and have them repaid to the clan. I thank you for trusting me with this duty, for while trade and commerce are dubious matters, a clan still must be good stewards of the wealth our lord entrusts us with. I will not fail you in this charge.

Second, I have just departed the Winter Court, and can finally send this letter now the snows have cleared. It was an incredible experience. I was even invited to create paintings for our Dragon hosts, and to send to the Imperial court itself. I’m still shaking as I consider it. Thank you, thank you so much, for your many lessons on the art of Sumi painting.

Speaking of the court, it is there I received the most amazing news. My friends, Asako Norinaga and Daidoji Isamu, of the Phoenix and Crane clans, have both extended incredible invitations. I have told them of Kenji-kun’s affinity for the kami, and his budding talents as a potential Shugenja. Daidoji-sama has offered to speak for Kenji-kun in a letter of recommendation to the Asahina, and Asako-sama has offered to speak for him to the Isawa. They each offer to have him tested for suitability to study with their schools.

I know we pride ourselves on our self-reliance, and this virtue has been a comfort to me many times in my life. But Father, Mother, I love my little brother dearly, and I want him to have the chance to excel. Either of these opportunities would be incredible for him, and I urge you to consider them. I am sure they will come at some cost, be it diplomatic or otherwise, but they could be the beginning of a very bright future for Kenji-kun.


I hope this letter finds you well.


If you can, please send more Yuzu juice, and perhaps some dried, candied yuzu if there is any left after the winter season. It is proving very popular with my friends here!


Your loving, dutiful son

Usagi Soji

Included at the bottom of the letter is a playful rendering of a small, anthropomorphic hare with a straw hat walking down a road with a pack slung over his shoulder.

A final winter letter

Doji Junichiro-san  I am sorry to write and say that I had considered having a dinner for the two of us. but recent events make it easier to simply write to you this summer and see if our issues can be settled that way. Maybe I can set aside my wishes to have a more partnership relationship. And learn to live a life with  you living your life where you are at I living in my lands.

Peace be with you

(Chop of Matsu Mayuko)

Letter from Karo Kakita Komichi to Daidoji Isamu

“Daidoji Isamu,

Our ancestral lands are, of course, well. The harvest was exceptional this year, and we plan to share the surplus with the neighboring provinces. One hopes that your arrival in Shiro Kitsuki was safe.

Unfortunately, we cannot accept your petition to marry Otaku Neko. While one appreciates the… initiative that you show, it is simply not possible for us to redact the arrangements already made on your behalf. Though, this is a good time to note that those arrangements tie into your presence in the Winter Court of the Kitsuki family. Our family has seen fit to arrange your marriage to Kitsuki Rika, of the Dragon Clan, at the conclusion of Winter Court. We have already finished making the arrangements, and she will be blessed to join our Clan once it has concluded.

Blessings of the Crane upon you,

Kakita Komichi, Karo”

A Letter From Daidoji Isamu to his daimyo.


As autumn turns to winter, does your servant, Daidoji Isamu, send his greetings. This one hopes all is well with your family and our lands back home as this one heads to court in Dragon lands.

I had hoped not to bother you for anything, but I have a humble request. I wish, once my duties are over in the war, to be permitted to marry Otaku Neko of the Unicorn clan. Due to her family’s traditions, I would have to marry in her family, and this one does not want to deprive his lord of his talents during war time. Once the matter of the war is settled however, this one feels this is a good match for him. It would strength our ties to the the Unicorn clan, and they would get a capable shugenja in return. Normally this one would write his parents, but they are busy managing their lands and this one has not received replies to his correspondence in some time.

If Daidoji-domo could permit this a merit of reply of his approval or disapproval of this one’s engagement, this one would be grateful.

Fortunes favor you, your servant,

Daidoji Isamu

Shugenja Healer of the Asahina, Hohei of the Crane


From the Desk of Kitsuki Kaiden, Yoriki to Bayushi Bantaru to the Offices of the Emerald Magistrates on the Day of the Rat in the Year 997.


Per the orders that Bayushi-sama and I received back in Otosan Uichi, I have made my way to the war front to begin observations and report back. This will be the first such report, and as such will have only my initial observations, as well as some grave news that I must convey before I move on to further reports.

First, and perhaps foremost, I must report on the untimely death of Magistrate Bayushi Bantaru, who was ambushed as we approached the warzone by a group of bandits. Bayushi-sama ordered me to get out of the combat alive, and the last I saw he was trying to fight but fell. As such, I am attempting to fulfil his duties and obligations, particularly these reports which I hope will shed some light on the current state of affairs and whether further intervention is needed.

You will be pleased to note that I have found no egregious signs of a breaking of the treaty as drafted by the Imperial families. In fact;

1. All prisoners have been well taken care of to the best of my knowledge and abilities. One prisoner was able to provide me with a schedule, which I have attached to the best of my memory.

2. There does appear to be an presence by the Imperial families in maintaining a Neutral Zone of sorts. Whether this is meant to be a demilitarized zone remains to be seen – One of my top priorities will be to talk to Otomo Shimahime, who is in charge, about what is in place and what we can help with.

3. There are no documented cases of violence or abuse with the Heimin within the warzone.

Leading me to believe that most articles are being attended to with the utmost caution and care by the Clans. However, a number of things have concerned me:

  1. There seems to be a number of ‘volunteers’ from neutral clans both major and minor that present complications. Could be worth following up with clans as to whether they have knowledge of this.
  2. The current state amongst the nearby villages is that of a small amount of panic, and whilst this is not in and of itself a bad thing, I do believe it warrants further investigation.
  3. Likely deserters and dissatisfied soldiers forming bandit and ronin groups as the war wears on.

As I said, this is merely a preliminary report, and as such I will continue investigations to see whether there is more to all of these matters unless orders change.

Walk in the Light of the Son of Heaven,


Kitsuki Kaiden




A small book of wood block printed pages circulates around Kosaten Shiro, along with a few copies at the messenger’s way station and the Lion prisoner camp. It only contains a few pages that are sewn together, and the plain cover reads in bold text: THE YOJIMBO.

Click here for the PDF (Mobile Friendly). Click here for the Desktop Version (JPG).

Issue 4 Year: 997