Population 141,000,000
SINless Population (est.) 4%
Per Capita Income 28,700
Below Poverty Level 18%
Megacorporate Affiliation 78%
Less than 12 years 2%
GED 55%
4 year degree 29%
Masters or higher 14%
Major Language Japanese (95%)
Currency Nuyen
Capital Neo-Tokyo

Recent History

Japan is changing more rapidly than it is equipped to deal with. Recent political shifts have opened the country to international business. Organized crime groups, Japanacorps and even the government are all railing against each other and themselves to establish dominance in a new Japan.

Three of the ten AAA-rated megacorporations make their home in Japan—more than any other nation. When scientists speak of technological advancement, they look to the work being done in Chiba factories or Kyoto labs. Japan is a nation of innovators living along a skyline ribbed with architectural wonders. Yet underneath the polished chrome veneer beats the heart of an ancient culture. It is a society born from honor and guided by a set of principles that have unfortunately eroded with time, like rocks left upon a beach. Japan changes dramatically as the years pass, but one constant remains: they have always prided themselves on being a nation of adaptability and honor. Their flexibility has spared them from destruction more than once.

In February of 2059, the first major blow was struck against Japan’s economic might. In that month, an ork named Yuri Shibanokuji became CEO of Yamatetsu Corporation. Raised in Russia, where attitudes toward metas were more relaxed, he had little tolerance for the pressure put on him and Yamatetsu by other Japanese corporations and institutions, which were unwilling to accept a kawaruhito (changed person) in such a public and important position. Yuri’s first act as CEO was to relocate Yamatetsu to the land he called home, making Yamatetsu the first megacorp to leave Japan.

To make it worse, in July 2059 Yamatetsu joined with Wuxing and a range of other Asian corps to form the Pacific Prosperity Group, carefully designed to challenge the interests of the Japanese corporate bloc. Overnight, the hemisphere they once controlled unilaterally became an economic battleground.

A third hit was already in the making: Fuchi had been a shaky prospect ever since Dunkelzahn’s will shifted control of the corp’s stock. By September of 2059, panic had spread among shareholders. They sold their shares of Fuchi and Fuchi-related stocks in a frenzy dubbed “White Monday” — the worst single-day stock market drop in 70 years. By 2060, Fuchi was gone, subsumed under Novatech or cannibalized by the remaining megacorps. The Japanese economic juggernaut was finally showing cracks.

As if the Heavens themselves were expressing their displeasure, the cataclysm with the Ring of Fire in 2061 shook Japan's public perceptions. The official death toll from the events surrounding the eruption of Unzen Volcano, the tsunamis and the earthquakes across the islands was confirmed at nearly 240,000 people. This number does not include figures from Saotome and other hard-hit corporate arcologies, since these were not publicly disclosed out of shame. It is the largest loss of life in the history of Japan; greater even than the World War Two bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Emperor Yasuhito and his Sessho wasted no time beginning the rebuilding process — starting with recalling all of Japan’s military forces from overseas in order to help relief efforts. The government also hired Mitsuhama to supplement their police and recovery forces in case of internal strife. Deals were struck quickly, and within days of the Emperor’s ascension there were plans in place for the care and lodging of those displaced by natural disaster.

The plan to rebuild the country was not what the corporations had expected. Mitsuhama, Shiawase and Renraku had each approached the Diet with separate plans to rebuild cities destroyed by the disaster. The government rewarded each with significantly smaller contracts than they had asked for, and none of the primary reconstruction contracts for Honshu Island. The Shinto priesthood believed that the fall of Japan’s cities had been inevitable due to the taint that hung over them from Japan’s avaricious business practices. If the same corporations that tainted the largest cities were allowed to rebuild them, then the balance would never be restored. Instead, the Shinto priesthood would lead reconstruction efforts and also recruit the services of the kami. The corporations were asked to offer logistical support where needed, in exchange for contracts to rebuild locations that the spirits could not or would not touch.

As part of the reconstruction plan, Tokyo prefecture was officially merged with the surrounding prefectures of Kanagawa, Saitama and Chiba, turning the Tokyo sprawl into an official prefecture called Neo-Tokyo. The city itself remained the capital and a new palace was constructed for the royal family at its epicenter. The palace is a symbol of the changes that are to come for Japan. Hope was born in the destruction of our cities; a rose grown in rubble.


Japan gave birth to the terms idoru and otaku (before the latter had anything to do with computers). Their cities look like something carved out of a manga script, and maybe they are; their culture lives on the cutting edge of just about everything except normality. Try naming another place where you can walk down a crowded street and see groups of people dressed as their favorite netgame characters. Japanese youth culture is driven by obsessive behaviors—so much so that there are slang terms for the clinically obsessed.

Welcome to a land where shadowrunners are the dark heroes that fill the trideo every night at eight, skulking between corporate megaliths in search of their own personal justice. Japanese culture means mega-yen for those who know how to take advantage of it. You can make a living smuggling antique milspec gear, or turn a quick yen as a body-mod actor for the newest netgame. You are what you say you are in Japan, as long as the way you act matches the façade you put on. After all, image is everything.


In case you missed the last century, an idoru (aidoru in the Japanese language) is a flash-in-the-pan pop star. Japan might as well be called the land of 8 million idoru. Unfortunately, idols rise and fall very quickly here, no matter if they’re real or electronic. For instance, there was some excitement a few months back about Akira Date, a descendent of the Kyoko Date virtual idol program. Akira had the number one hit song for eighteen weeks, a lifetime by Japanese standards. Everyone who bought the album knew she was a computer program created by Hisato-Turner but nobody cared.

The majority of Japanese idoru are Japanese natives. The country has no affinity for foreign stars unless they are international superstars like Maria Mercurial. Usually the international stars who make it big here are those who meet a preconceived Japanese ideal of what should be adored. That means a beautiful woman who comes across as polite, well-mannered and, of course, virginal. Idoru wield a lot of power while they’re on the top of the hill. If you can hold on to that power, then anything you want can be yours. Akane Ishino used her idoru status to earn a job as Ryumyo’s translator.

Moe Obsessions

Having a fetish is similar to having a chip addiction without the “better than life” high. In Japan, they call it moe, meaning obsessed with how cute something is as opposed to the sexual attraction or mania that fetishism implies. Being cute is extremely important in their culture, especially for girls and women. An example of moe would be the pleated-skirt uniform every school-age girl is required to wear. Girls have been known to select schools based on how cute the uniform is, knowing their popularity with their moe-affected peers will depend on their choice. For men, moe can also manifest itself in an obsession for women with body mods such as neko-mimi (cat ears). When SURGE hit Japan, the kids went wild. It’s cool to grow a tail or pink fur. The closer you come to the look of the popular manga characters, the more potential you have to tap into people’s moe.


With so many major tech corporations operating in a relatively small space, Japan has become a haven for tekuno-feto (tech fetishists). A lavish black market exists for experimental tech goods. Tekuno-feto covet all forms of technology — the particular type of device coveted depends on the tekuno-feto you’re talking to.


The ota groups are born out of anime-obsessed youth. Some stick to their love of anime. Others grow from that to focus on the subjects of the vids they watch. This includes the robot-obsessed mecha-ota and ili-ota who are discussed below. Ani-ota are very common in Japan. They tend to dress up as anime characters on a regular basis. An ani-ota will profess absolute knowledge of the anime genre — if they don’t own all the vids, they expect to at some time in their lives. Most ani-ota are aware that their favorite characters are not real, but this isn’t universally true. There are aniota who will even tell you that Ryumyo’s ally spirit Jurojin is actually an anime hero brought to life.


Warmongering paved the way for the mili-ota, fans obsessed with military history and gear. Local smugglers will tell you that a high number of their clients are mili-ota. Though the strict gun laws throughout most of Japan make it difficult for these ultra-fans to get ahold of vintage weaponry, mili-ota seek out anything pertaining to the military, from uniforms to guns and even tanks. Mili-ota are also fountains of knowledge on military tactics dating back as early as Japan’s feudal period. Most mili-ota focus on one period or one nation and collect everything they can pertaining to that army. Others focus on modern militias, keeping detailed notes on the Desert Wars teams, national troops and corporate armies. Similar to the ani-ota, they often strut across the city in full military dress. On lazy days they stick to fatigues.


There’s a reason that Japan is in the forefront of Matrix technology: it’s a plugged-in culture. Nine out of ten kids have their first datajack implanted by the age of eleven. Students are as likely to do group projects with a net buddy in Bangladesh as they are to work with the student sitting next to them. When class is over, many of them stay in the Matrix, reporting to netgame LTGs to do battle with an equally obsessed number of Korean youth in Matrix simulations. The netgames range from racing to sports to all-out war games. Part of the appeal of netgaming is the ability to become someone completely separate from who you are. For instance, you see a lot of boys taking on the role of Japanese schoolgirls in games like “Shudder.” The net is escapism at its best.


Drones are everywhere in Japan, with an amazing concentration in Neo-Tokyo. They’re used for many different tasks — mostly those considered degrading, such as sweeping streets or collecting garbage. Robotic pets have been common since the Twenties, and with the advance of technology, it didn’t take long to see anthropomorphic drones arriving on the market and taking their place in rich families as governesses, maids, chauffeurs and so forth. At the other end of the social spectrum, brothel owners soon understood there was a customer base for compliant sexual dolls. The complexity of these robots’ AI is improving with each new model, and they can now perfectly mimic human behavior in the typical situations for which they’ve been programmed. Outside of those predefined situations, however, their artificiality and limitations become more apparent.


Firefights are usually pretty one-sided in Tokyo; guns are completely outlawed. You must be an officer in order to own one. Citizens have responded to the law by carrying a variety of blades, and thus far every attempt to have these blades outlawed has been denied. Further, private police forces are also not allowed in Neo-Tokyo — corporations are permitted to have armed officers on extraterritorial grounds, but once they leave corp soil they are considered to be normal citizens.

Neo-Tokyo is perhaps the most technologically advanced city in the world. It will be the first to have a wireless Matrix infrastructure with predicted I/O speeds upward of 500. Full-ASIST wireless hot spots are difficult to locate, so there are still a number of manga-kissa (Matrix cafés) around the city that offer affordable jackpoints starting as low as 1¥ per hour. Be aware that these sites are monitored by the local police, so if you plan to do anything illegal, you should also plan to cover your tracks well.

In addition to a future wireless Matrix, the city now offers Matrix overlay in the more tourist-friendly central core as well as in areas like Ikebukuro, Shibuya and Ueno. It’s a big draw watching someone stroll down the street alongside the digital representation of someone else who is actually a world away.

Neo-Tokyo is also the most mechanized city in the free world. You’re more likely to deal with a robotic vendor than to see a person. Vending machines have replaced Stuffer Shacks in most sections of the city. People in Tokyo also use robots for basic tasks from household chores to walking the dog. The GridGuide system interfaces with drones to offer sidewalk guidance in addition to road help. It’s years ahead of anything in the UCAS. It’s reached the point where a third of the people who own a car don’t even know how to drive it.

Since the earthquakes killed so many in the underground train stations, everything has been moved above ground. This transformation has left behind a damaged subterranean tunnel network that has become home to kawaruhito and others displaced by disaster.

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