L5R: Chronicles of the Ota
History of the Ota
The Ota family of the Daidoji was formed in the late 600s, during a time that has been largely lost to history and stricken from the Imperial records. It was a time of great strife, plague, and famine.
In the year 660, the spring rainy season came early and brought abnormally heavy rains that persisted throughout the planting season and recurred in the fall, which caused widespread crop failure. Initial appeals to the Emerald Champion, Akodo Kenburo, for a temporary reduction in taxes were refused by the glorious and wise son of heaven, Hantei XX. Delegations from the Crab and Dragon attempted to lobby the Emperor directly, hoping the Son of Heaven would reconsider Kenburo’s decision. Hantei XX was outraged that servants of the throne would dare ask the Son of Heaven to get by with less that he levied punitive taxes on both clans. The cost of these additional taxes was too much for the Dragon Clan to absorb and the clan suffers famine over the winter.
In the year 661, the previous year’s poor weather continued and lasted the entire year. In the spring, the heavy rains combined with run-off from the previous year’s heavy snow caused massive flooding of all major rivers and lakes. The floods wreaked terrible destruction on low-lying villages and cities, as well as washed out roads and bridges. Many farmlands were ruined as well, particularly in the fertile lowlands of the Scorpion, Lion, and Crane. Moreover, the loss of roads and bridges impeded efforts to ship supplies to regions afflicted by hunger.
In 662, the flooding finally abated but the damage from the two previous years was so severe that many croplands remain unusable, limiting the food that can be grown. By then even the reserve food stores maintained by the Imperial families are dwindling and starvation is widespread among the common folk. As conditions in the Dragon provinces continue to deteriorate, starving peasants began to mass at the edge of their lands at the Lion and Phoenix borders.
Widespread disease breaks out across Rokugan due to the combination of the previous year’s floods famine which is now weakening the peasant population. The most notorious and widespread disease comes to be known as Water Fever due to its association with flooded regions.
The massing refugees lead to tensions between the Lion and the Dragon, and following a few demands to remove them that are unanswered, marched on Dragon lands to slay them. The refugees rush back, and are defended by the Dragon samurai. The Phoenix intervene but do little to stop the fighting until winter forces a truce.
After weeks of heavy negotiations, near the end of Winter Court diplomats from the Phoenix are able to mediate an end to the Dragon – Lion war. Akodo Masaumi agrees to halt further attacks on the Dragon lands, Mirumoto Umeka agrees to publicly apologize for failing to deal with the refugees on her own, and most importantly the Phoenix agree to allow any Dragon refugees to cross into their lands, hopefully preventing the conflict from flaring up again.
In 663, Weather patterns are now back to normal, but the dire effects of the last three years have exhausted most seed stock and emptied all reserve stores. At this point samurai are almost as badly off as the peasants and even the Imperial families find it hard to properly feed their samurai. It becomes increasingly common for clan samurai to defect to other clans or simply become bandits.
As tensions are tight throughout the Empire for food, and following court manuevers by the Crane, the Crab declare war as they are unable to feed their soldiers on the wall. Crab troops invade Crane lands. The Crane are better prepared as an ingenious chef and quartermaster, Daidoji Ota, has found a way to ensure that the Crane armies are able to survive. Through a cunning mixture of millet, oats, seeds, and fruit, he has created a travel-ready meal that has kept the Crane armies ready for battle. The near-starving Crab will be no match when the armies meet in the spring.
With trade completely stopped it does not take long before riots and peasant revolts break out all across the Empire, with the worst impact initially striking Rokugan’s major urban centers. In the Imperial capital, the Legions quickly crush all such uprisings, but elsewhere the depleted clans are less fortunate. The Phoenix lose control of the City of Suffering to bandits and the Scorpion are barely able to contain the riots in Ryoko Owari.
Late in the spring the Asahina daimyo, Asahina Koresada, receives news that his infant grandson has died of Water Fever. Shaken and grieving, Koresada vows that no other child will die to disease if he can prevent it. He orders the monks and shugenja of the Asahina to travel Rokugan, setting up hospitals wherever they can to treat the sick. He forbids them to turn away any child, no matter their station or condition.
With his godson killed, Daidoji Daimyo Daidoji Katsunan realizes what terror he has wrought in his battles with the Crab. As the forces of the two Great clans are meeting on the field of battle, Daidoji Katsunan commands that his great battlefield chef, Daidoji Ota, turn his attention from military rations and to create as much food as can be afforded to provide nourishment for the children of Rokugan. Ota, a genius where it came to making a diaspora of ingredients not only edible but nourishing, sets to work creating compact meals for the children of the empire while Daidoji Katsunan rode to meet the Crab. Rather than facing them in battle, Katsunan proposed a peace as he now knew the pain of losing one so dear as many Crab had watched their forces and children wither without food. While Hida Tsuneko at first believed it was a trap, she was willing to do anything to feed her people, and soon the nourishment of Daidoji Ota spread from Crane to Crab, and after there was a peace, to the rest of the Empire.
For his aid in stopping the war of hunger, Daidoji Katsunan elevated Ota to his own vassal family, and the Ota family was born. Daidoji Ota changed his name to Ota Ichiro, first of the Ota.
For Ota Ichiro, fame and glory were not as easy as he had once desired. Following appointments to his own lands, Otagkawa Province, he quickly found himself overwhelmed with the challenges of lordship. These kept him away from his true talent of cooking, and away from his family. While he eventually proved to be a capable administrator, there were multiple claims toward the end of his life of illegitimate sons and daughters he sired with artisan chefs.
While this shadow of scandal plagued the vassal family for a few generations, the legitimate daughters of the Ota proved to be more even-handed and better tempered than the first of the name. Through shrewd negotiations and bargaining, the Ota set up deals with traditional Crane enemies the Crab and the Lion to help provide their troops with meals that were high quality, if not as good as what they made for the Crane. Due to this closer than usual working relationship, an Ota merchant patron was able to uncover the workings of a maho-tainted Kuni witch hunter before a plot to spread the Shadowlands taint far north of the wall could be accomplished.
A few centuries later,
Victory -> Defeated Scorpion
Favor-> Daidoji Daimyo