|Tea-serving karakuri ningyo|
When I first started working on Steamscapes: Asia, I did a Google search for the phrase "Edo Era Robots" and discovered multiple articles about this amazing extrapolation of the clockwork technology Western explorers and missionaries brought to Japan during the Sengoku Jidai. Since I have less time today than I'd like (but I want to keep building momentum), here's some links:
The First Japanese Robots: Karakuri Ningyo
Japan's First Robots Are Older Than You Think
Edo-period “robot” returns to life in Japan
And here's an awkwardly-subtitled piece about a tiny robot THAT DRAWS ARROWS FROM A QUIVER AND SHOOTS THEM! It doesn't just pull back on the string once you put the arrow in its hand -- it draws the arrows from the quiver itself and then shoots them!!!
Now imagine what could be if those robots could be built at human size? That tea-serving karakuri doll becomes something like this...
|Karakuri by Keith Thompson|
The exact place of automatons in the society of Steamscapes' Japan is something we're still working out. Given the ubiquity of karakuri in real life, I'm inclined to think that they would be more common and prominent than many Western visitors would expect. Perhaps bunraku puppet theatre has become the stage for karakuri actors? Perhaps the geisha never developed because robot musicians played for the oiran instead? Perhaps those little arrow-shooting dudes have been upscaled to shoot cannons? And perhaps big-ass oni automata guard the land?
|"Oni Grunt" by Emerson Tung|