Race to find imperial treasure on the Kumano Road.
Kazan became emperor in AD 984, at the age of 17. He was coerced into abdicating the throne at 19. He then took religious vows and became an itinerant monk until his early death.
This much, according to historical texts, is true.
What happened next is less certain.
When Naka no Yoritomo is assigned to escort high-ranking nobles on a pilgrimage, he brings along his household and his trusted onmyōji Tsurugu. But this pilgrimage is not merely a religious journey, it is a secret search for lost imperial treasure.
Humans and yōkai race to find a priceless jade flute, believed to have been hidden by Kazan along the Kumano Road pilgrimage route. Stakes are high as they compete not only for the inestimable value of the flute itself, but for the prestige of its discovery and its delivery to the politically-charged court of the shōgun, and what that will mean for both religious tolerance and a clan’s survival.
Also a TTRPG adventure!
The search for the lost treasure will take characters and players along the ancient trail, from the river for ritual ablutions to the mountains and rainforests of breathtaking Wakayama, exploring shrines and sacred sites as they decipher riddles and learn more of the troubled youth who was tricked out of his throne.
Pray at the tallest waterfall in Japan, and keep an extra rice ball to assuage the jealous ghosts of those pilgrims who did not reach their destinations. Bathe at the miraculous Tsuboyu hot spring, already ancient by the Kamakura era. Struggle up the steep and treacherous dogirizaka, or “belly-cutting slope.” Beware the venomous mamushi. Stand where millions of prayers have been prayed over a thousand years and add yours.
The “Only The Dead Face North” game scenario is a one-shot adventure for up to six players, easily adapted to D&D 5e, Pathfinder 1st or 2nd edition, L5R, or your preferred system.
The Kumano Road is still a pilgrimage route today, with memorials to Kazan’s passage a thousand years ago. The old path cuts across the mountains of the Kii peninsula to the Sanzan, the three great shrines of the Kumano Shintō faith. The region is an important part of the history of shugendō, a syncretic practice of Shintō and Buddhism.