The town of Sapporo stands nearest the Sohei Bridge and the lands of the gaijin. It is the second biggest town in the Dragon Province after the capital of Kyoto. The Dragon samurai here are charged with defending the borders of the empire from the attacks of the barbarians of the west and the Kingdom of Albion - though truthfully it is the Dragon Province that is usually the aggressor in those conflicts. Sapporo is home to Sensei Kanazawa's niten dojo. The Dragon samurai have a fearsome reputation for fighting with two swords at the same time. This art, called niten is taught at the renowned dojo of Kanasawa Sensei, the province's finest dojo. This is located at Sapporo fortress and Sensei Kanasawa is a Dragon master and samurai in the service of the Dragon Lord of Sapporo, Lord Nakamura. The fact that this dojo is here makes Sapporo town an important location in the province and ensures that all the samurai who guard the western borders with Albion are well trained as many pass through the doors of this dojo in their training years. It also makes Sapporo town a place where samurai from all over the province travel to learn the art of niten.
The town of Sapporo was built around one simple premise: defence. It was a walled town with a high wooden palisade running the entire outside edge of the settlement. The palisade was double-skinned, with an upper walkway along most of its length. Every few hundred yards a large wooden tower was built. Wooden staircases led up to the battlements at regular intervals and soldiers in the daimyo’s army could move around the defences easily and rapidly if needed. Though the walls were wooden it was every bit as defensible as an equivalent stone construction. Sat up on Tanaka’s horse in front of the saddle, Chi looked on in wonder as the group passed through the open gates to the town. Crimson-armoured soldiers stationed there bowed respectfully to Tanaka as he rode past. He nodded in response. Chi was instantly aware that the man who he sat in front of was important here. Far more important than he had given credit for. He was also aware that people were staring at him, the blond-haired gaijin. Beyond the town gates a single road led between tightly packed buildings. The buildings were similar to those Chi had seen on their two-day journey south across northern Dragon Province. They had the ubiquitous curving roof lines and wide eaves. But they were closely spaced, with little room between them. The roofs were virtually touching. As the group proceeded down the road Chi could not help but notice that the avenue led them along a single route. Occasionally side roads led off and these were identical in design with close-spaced dwellings. The road twisted and turned in places and it wasn’t long before Chi was completely turned around and disoriented. Keinosuke must have been aware of the youngling’s scrutiny and unasked question. “It’s for defence,” he explained. “The roads are like this through the whole town. It makes the place like a maze. An outsider would find it hard to navigate their way around and would easily get lost. An attacking army would be forced to fight for every yard of ground. The roof tops are the perfect place to station archers. They have a commanding view of the killing grounds that the roads become. On top of that the roofs do not connect into a high-level walkway. You can only travel so far on them and you have to return to the road to proceed. No army could take this town without massive casualties.” Chi looked on silently, expressionless. He had never seen a place like this before, it was the first big settlement he had ever experienced and he was quite overwhelmed. He had no idea if this layout was typical for towns, having never visited one in his native Albion. The group passed on through the town. Commoners moved aside, bowing low to the ground as the patrol passed. Chi was more and more aware that the riders he was with were special. Up ahead in the near distance a hill rose and upon t hat hill was an incredible structure. Where every building Chi had seen in Honshu so far had been made of wood and paper, this one was constructed mostly of stone. It rose hundreds of feet into the air, made of many layers. Each layer had its own roof, in the typical curved, wide-eave style of the region. It dominated the town and seemed to stand aloof and masterful over the settlement it permitted to bow at its feet. “The castle and home to my lord Nakamura,” Tanaka explained gesturing to the huge edifice. “I will be heading there to make my report after I have delivered you.” Chi had no idea what that meant but remained silent. He had learnt not to ask questions of Tanaka unless told to. The warrior had a knack of answering the important ones without being asked anyway. Riding onwards the group took one of the side roads which sent them away from the castle on the hill. A short while later another impressive structure appeared on the horizon. It was like a smaller version of the castle. It too was made predominantly of stone which marked it as something special. The riders approached the gates to the structure and they opened silently in front of them. Tanaka held up a gauntleted hand and the others in his patrol reined in outside the building. He continued to walk his horse into the compound beyond the gate. They rode into a large courtyard, exposed to the midday sun. The floor of the courtyard was sand and it was full of people training.