Gensokyo (幻想郷), meaning "Land of Illusion" or perhaps "Home of Illusion", is the fictional setting for the Touhou Project series of games, created nearly single-handedly by ZUN of Team Shanghai Alice. These games have been experiencing a huge surge of popularity among Japanese otaku for a period of several years at the time of this article's writing (at the border of the years 2009 and 2010), as well as in the west.
The reason for their popularity is two-fold. The games themselves are a series of 2D shoot-em-up games, with extremely skill-based gameplay and intricate design that appeals strongly to fans of the genre. However, this does not account for the immense popularity, as such games are a small niche at best. The real mass appeal of the games are their setting and characters, as well as their music, which have brought them a fan scene larger than has ever been seen for a single anime or game series.
As a result, there are immense amounts of fan-produced material surround the core series of games - manga, arrangements of the music, spin-off games, and even animated works. However, due to the huge amount of characters the games have introduced, and the lack of an easily accessible core work to gain familiarity with the world - many would find it quite impossible to actually complete any of the games to read the story they present, and even if they could the translations that exist for the games are not of very high quality - it is easy to find it all too bewildering to know where to start.
This article is an attempt to write some kind of summary of the setting and characters of the land of Gensokyo, to serve as a base for further exploration. It can not claim to be in any way comprehensive, as the world is just too large and fragmented, but it should hopefully be enough to get one started.
It should also be noted that this text will make no attempt whatsoever to avoid story spoilers. It is better to approach the world of Gensokyo without worrying about such trivial matters, and just to discover things as you find them. Plots and storylines are not very important in this world, characters and interactions are. It is also better to not dwell too deeply on such mysteries as why almost every single character in Gensokyo is a cute girl.
Also, this text mostly only deals with the later series of games, on the Windows platform, and not the earlier five games on the PC-98 platform. Their story and setting are not quite consistent with the later games, and is largely ignored in the later storylines.
All names are given in western order. Many other places on the net may give them in the opposite, Japanese, order. "Reimu Hakurei" is the western order, while the Japanese order would be "Hakurei Reimu". Foreign names, like "Alice Margatroid", are always used in western order, here and elsewhere.
Gensokyo itself was once a desolate region, somewhere deep in the inland mountains of Japan. Youkai dwelled there, as they did in all distant and uninhabited regions. Youkai are the monsters of Japanese folklore, and exist in a large variety of forms, and with many different origins and motivations. They are not necessarily evil, but often dangerous. Many have a taste for humans, and will attack and eat them.
People avoided Gensokyo because of its youkai. A few humans that were strong and brave enough would attempt to go there to defeat the youkai, and they eventually settled there, living in conflict with the youkai.
As human civilization progressed, people turned away from superstitious beliefs, and there was no longer a place for youkai in this new world. In 1885, it was decided to seal Gensokyo off from the surrounding world. Human sages created the Great Hakurei Border, sealing the youkai and humans of Gensokyo alike inside their own realm.
Cut off from contact with the outside world, Gensokyo continued to exist largely as it was at the time of the sealing. The arrangement was mutually beneficial to both the youkai inside it, who would have found the modern outside world too harshly skeptical, and those outside, and the border is maintained by both the humans and youkai inside.
The seal was never perfect, however, and the outside world continues to affect Gensokyo in various ways. People sometimes manage to make it through the border into Gensokyo, and the youkai inside sometimes travel outside it, sometimes to hunt humans, or for other purposes. Both things and ideas from the outside world make it into Gensokyo, either because they are brought there, or because things that are forgotten in the outside world have a tendency to appear in Gensokyo. The illusionary and magical nature of the world inside the border means they never quite work the same there as they once did.
Having presented the land itself, we now move on to the places of interest in it, and the people who live in those places. These are presented roughly in the order of appearance in the games.
The Hakurei Shrine sits at the eastern border between Gensokyo and the outside world. It exists at the same time in both places, or perhaps in neither. It is possible to travel between Gensokyo and the outside world through it, but how exactly this happens is unclear. It is the duty of the shrine maidens of the Hakurei shrine to protect Gensokyo and the Great Hakurei Border.
Reimu Hakurei is the current shrine maiden of the Hakurei Shrine. As such, she inherits considerable spiritual power, but even among the Hakurei shrine maidens she is exceptionally powerful. Her natural talent has left her quite lazy, and she seems to show little regard for the important position she holds. She treats everyone, humans and youkai alike, with the same amount of indifference. She spends her days cleaning the shrine and drinking tea, and worrying about the lack of donations to the shrine.
The lack of donations is largely because the shrine is thought of as a den of youkai, which is largely true - the shrine is perhaps more popular with the youkai than with the humans. It is a safe ground, as youkai will not make trouble around Reimu, but humans are nevertheless mostly too spooked to come and worship.
Gensokyo has a tendency for incidents, events that threaten the status quo of the land. Youkai and others tend to execute their own schemes with little regard for others, and it is at these times that Reimu finally gets to do what she is good at, which is to find who is responsible and force them to listen to reason. It is mostly at these times that Reimu's laziness finally evaporates and she gladly goes into action.
Lately, other creatures have been spotted staying at the Hakurei Shrine. Suika Ibuki is an oni who has taken up residence in Gensokyo, despite the fact that Gensokyo is not supposed to have any oni in it. The oni are very powerful ogres in Japanese folklore, but they left Gensokyo on their own long before the Great Hakurei Border was created, because humans would no longer accept them. Oni love to fight and drink, and Suika would very much like to bring the oni back to Gensokyo.
Another person who you'd mostly see at the Hakurei Shrine is Marisa Kirisame, who we will get to next.
The Magic Forest is a dark and ominous forest, avoided by both humans and youkai. It is damp and full of mushrooms. The air is thick with spores and not a good idea to breathe in.
Nevertheless, some live there. It is a good place to be alone. One of them is Marisa Kirisame, a human witch (an "ordinary magician" in her own words). Marisa is a long-time friend of Reimu, and spends a lot of time at the shrine instead of in her home in the forest. At her home, she runs a supposed magic store, but few people know about it and even fewer could find it even if they wanted to. She mostly spends her time at home experimenting with magic. She uses plenty of mushrooms from the forest for their magical properties. She prefers flashy and destructive magic, which only really finds use for fireworks, and for exterminating youkai. Because of this, and because she spends so much time around the shrine, she also often ends up going out to resolve Gensokyo's incidents.
She is extremely irresponsible and easy-going. She resolves incidents mostly for fun, and because she gets to blow things up. She completely lacks any respect for the property of others, and tends to steal anything that catches her fancy (however, she herself would claim she's just borrowing). Her house is full of objects and books she's dragged there and forgotten about. She also tends to steal her magical incantations from others. Her one most prized possession is her mini-hakkero, or eight trigram elemental reactor, a small magical item of immense power she uses for her most destructive spells.
Unlike Reimu, she has actually worked hard to gain her skills.
Alice Margatroid is another inhabitant of the magic forest. She is also a magic user, but not human. She may once have been, but a powerful enough magician can turn themselves into a youkai, and that is what Alice is.
She is a doll-maker, and does most of her magic through her dolls. She might be powerful, but she'd rather surrender a fight on her own terms than fight with all her strength, because she is afraid of finding out what the limits of her power are.
Sometimes she'll fight Marisa, sometimes she'll team up with her. It's complicated.
The Scarlet Devil Mansion is a large European-style mansion which sits on the shore of a lake. It is quite gaudily decorated in red, and looks quite out-of-place. It seems to have been moved there from the outside world for reasons that are not quite clear. It may just be an illusion of a building that once existed in the outside world.
Remilia Scarlet is the mistress of the house. She is a vampire, born in 1503, and thus still quite young for a vampire, or compared to the youkai who inhabit Gensokyo. She is very selfish, childish and haughty. As a vampire she is sensitive to sunlight and running water, so she mostly moves around at night. She likes to throw parties at the mansion.
Flandre Scarlet is Remilia's younger sister, born in 1508. Unlike her sister, she seems to be incapable of showing any restraints with her powers of destruction, and is quite insane, so she is usually kept in the basement of the mansion. She herself does not seem to mind this much.
Sakuya Izayoi is the head maid of the Scarlet Devil Mansion. She can control time and space, and uses this to expand the inside of the mansion, and to better peform her duties as a maid. She is the only human resident.
Patchouli Knowledge is a magician who is an old friend of Remilia. She lives at the mansion, and works as a librarian and tutor. She suffers from asthma, which limits her power as a magician because she can not properly recite her incantations. Her library is full of very rare magical books, and even books from the outside world. These books are highly sought after by Marisa, who is always looking for new magic to experiment with, so they tend to be stolen quite often. Nevertheless, Patchouli and Marisa seem to get along at times. It's complicated.
Hong Meiling is the gatekeeper of the Scarlet Devil Mansion. She seems quite human, but is a youkai. She does not have many special abilities, and relies on martial arts to fight and defend the gate. She is quite social and friendly to anyone who is not trying to break into the mansion. She also tends to sleep on the job.
Koakuma is just an imp who was at some point summoned to the Scarlet Devil Mansion. She helps Patchouli with the library work.
Mayohiga (or in more modern spelling, "Mayoiga") is a village right on the Great Hakurei Border. Approaching it is difficult because the border will try to repel anybody who approaches and steer them away, but it is possible to reach it with enough determination.
It is not really known if Yukari Yakumo lives in Mayohiga, but that is the best guess anyone has. Yukari is an old and powerful youkai, who has power over borders. As such, she has taken on the role of the protector of the Great Hakurei Border, and Gensokyo in general. She can open gaps through which she can move wherever she pleases, including to the outside world.
She is untrustworthy, scheming and fickle. Because they share the duty of protecting the Great Hakurei Border, she has always had a close relationship with the people of the Hakurei shrine. She is quite fond of Reimu, who in return finds her infuriatingly suspicious, but nevertheless relies on her as an ally. It's complicated.
She hibernates in winter, and sleeps most of the day even in summer.
Yukari keeps a familiar, Ran Yakumo, a nine-tailed fox spirit. Ran does all the housework for her, and any other work she can not be bothered to do herself. She is another in the long line of faithful and overworked servants for the selfish and lazy youkai of Gensokyo.
So great is Yukari's power that Ran has enough left over to keep her own familiar, Chen. Chen is a two-tailed cat spirit. She is not very powerful or clever on her own, but she tries her best and Ran takes care of her with motherly affection.
The three of them live as a family in a house somewhere in Gensokyo. It may, as stated earlier, be in Mayohiga, but Yukari does not let people know so easily.
The Hakugyokurou is a large mansion that resides in the netherworld, where ghosts and spirits dwell while waiting to be reincarnated or enlightened. It is perhaps not strictly part of Gensokyo, as it is separated by another border, but this border is not at all as strong as the Great Hakurei Border, and tends to often get bypassed.
There lives Yuyuko Saigyouji, the ghost princess who rules over the netherworld. She has been a ghost for over a thousand years, an exceptionally long time. She is whimsical, absent-minded and lazy. She also seems to be quite gluttonous. She does not remember anything about when she was alive, nor what she had for lunch. She is an old friend of Yukari Yakumo.
Youmu Konpaku is her gardener and guardian. She is half human and half ghost. Her ghost half is separate from herself, and manifests as a white phantom floating besides her. She is a swordsman in training, and is earnest if somewhat naïve. In practice, she does Yuyuko's housework and errands, while Yuyuko teases her mercilessly.
The human village is the largest human settlement in Gensokyo. It is a place where humans can live fairly safely. Youkai do visit the village, to shop and to party at night, but it is understood that they behave well while there. The existence of the human village is important to the youkai, and the wiser and older youkai give it protection.
Another person who protects the village is Keine Kamishirasawa, a half-human half-hakutaku. A hakutaku is a wise horned youkai that are generally appear to give advice to kings. Keine is a sort of were-hakutaku, and turns into one during a full moon. Her powers are control over history, which she can use to hide the human village from attackers by making it as if it had never existed. For her day job she runs a school for the children.
Akyuu of Hieda is the ninth reincarnation of the "Child of Miare", who can remember everything she sees and anything her previous reincarnations have seen. She is chronicling the history of Gensokyo.
Marisa's parents also live in the human village, but she seems to not be in contact with them any more. They run a store where Rinnosuke Morichika used to work. He - yes, "he", for he is one of the very rare men to have a prominent role - later decided to set out on his own, and started up a store named Kourindou outside the human village, near the magic forest. He sells items from the outside world, and other realms outside of Gensokyo. He obtains many of these items through dealings with Yukari Yakumo. He only succeeds because of a lack of competition, as he is surly and has no sense of business. He's half youkai, and a childhood friend of Marisa (who calls him "Kourin"), who he's also provided with a number of her magic items. His most treasured possession is his heater from the outside world, which keeps his store warm even in winter.
Mokou of Fujiwara is a human who became immortal some 1300 years ago. She is sometimes seen around the human village, and is a friend of Keine, but prefers to stay by herself and does not socialize with the other humans. Over the long time she has been alive, she has learned much about magic, and is now thanks to the her control of fire as powerful as any strong youkai. She often provides escort for humans outside the village. She claims to run a yakitori stand.
She is the sworn enemy of Kaguya Houraisan, who we will visit next.
The Eientei is a large mansion hidden deep in the bamboo forest. It is only recently that people have noticed this mansion exists at all, as the bewildering bamboo forest is usually avoided by most people.
Kaguya Houraisan is the lady of the Eientei. She is Kaguya-hime from the tale of the bamboo cutter, a princess of the moon banished to live on Earth as punishment for her crimes. But unlike in the tale, she never returned to the moon.
Her crime was to have Eirin Yagokoro, a brilliant medicine-maker on the moon, make her an immortality elixir, and drink it. When her crimes were pardoned and the emissaries from the moon came to bring her back, she found she had grown fond of the people of the Earth and did not want to return. Eirin was among the emissaries, and out of guilt over Kaguya being punished for her actions, she killed the other emissaries and took Kaguya into hiding. The place they settled was Gensokyo, 1300 years in the past, where Kaguya used her powers over eternity to hide their living place in the bamboo forest.
However, her actions while living on Earth earned her an enemy in Mokou of Fujiwara, who was enraged when Kaguya humiliated her father after he asked for her hand in marriage. To get revenge, she stole the immortality elixir and drank it. The two have been killing each other ever since, but as neither can permanently die this fight does not end. Nevertheless, Mokou often escorts humans to the Eientei for medical care by Eirin, and has even been seen visiting it on her own. It's complicated.
As the moon is known for its rabbits, Kaguya has also gathered rabbits around her at the Eientei. Tewi Inaba is an ancient youkai rabbit of the Earth, who has at some point come to live at there. She is a trickster, but also brings great luck. She is the rabbit told of in the tale of the white rabbit of Inaba. In more modern spelling, her name would be "Tei".
Reisen Udongein Inaba is a moon rabbit, who arrived at the Eientei after deserting her comrades in a war against the humans of the outside world, triggered by the push to explore the moon. Kaguya took her in as a fellow escapee from the moon. Reisen is her old name, Udongein is Eirin's nickname for her and Inaba is what Kaguya calls all rabbits.
Lately, the Eientei has been opening up towards the rest of Gensokyo, with Eirin selling medicine to the inhabitants, and Kaguya hosting events at the mansion.
The river Sanzu is the river separating the world of the living from the afterlife. It does not flow through Gensokyo, but it is possible to travel from Gensokyo to its shores. It is, however, not possible to cross it unless you are dead. On the far shore is Higan, where the souls of the dead are judged.
Komachi Onozuka is one of the gods of death who ferry souls across the river to Higan. She transports the souls of Gensokyo. However, she is extremely lazy and often neglects her job.
This causes troubles for her superior, Yamaxanadu Shikieiki. She is a Yama, more commonly known as "Enma", whose job is to judge the souls of the deceased, to determine whether they are sent to hell or to the netherworld to await enlightenment or reincarnation. She, too, deals mostly with the souls of Gensokyo. She is extremely moralistic, and will lecture people endlessly about their sins, which makes people avoid her, even if all she says is true.
Gensokyo's largest mountain is Youkai Mountain. A home to a great number of youkai since antiquity, it has formed its own mostly separate society within Gensokyo. It is often referred to simply as "the mountain", much like the human village is "the village" and the misty lake near the Scarlet Devil Mansion is just "the lake".
In the rivers at its base live the kappa, and on its peak the tengu, and in the forests surrounding it live a great number of youkai. The kappa and tengu have developed their own technology which is said to rival that of the outside world.
Nitori Kawashiro is a one of the kappa living at the foot of Youkai Mountain. She is an engineer, and quite shy. She seems to have managed to befriend Marisa since they met during the events of Mountain of Faith (more about those later).
Aya Shameimaru is a crow tengu living on Youkai Mountain who fancies herself a journalist. She writes and publishes Gensokyo's only newspaper, the Bunbunmaru News, which is filled mostly with the wild rumours and gossip she is constantly collecting around Gensokyo. She is clever and cheerful, but her writings make her less than well-liked. She is an avid photographer, taking many photos for her newspaper articles.
Momiji Inubashiri is a white wolf tengu, and a subordinate of Aya. She guards the mountain from intruders. She is dutiful and obedient, a rare trait in youkai, but perhaps more common for a tengu.
The Moriya Shrine was originally a shrine in the outside world. Sanae Kochiya is its priestess. She is a distant descendant of a goddess, and although she had the power to call down divine miracles, she managed to live a life as a fairly normal girl.
However, as faith in the old gods was on the decline, the shrine's goddess, Kanako Yasaka, decided it was time for a change. Gods rely on the faith of their worshippers for their power, and Kanako sacrificed what little faith she had left to move the entire shire and its neighbouring lake to Gensokyo, staking their future on gaining the faith of the youkai there. The shrine ended up on top of Youkai Mountain.
After some initial mishaps and miscalculations, the plan was largely a success, and the Moriya Shrine came to an understanding with local youkai, who were in the end glad to have an excuse to arrange feasts and parties, and Kanako's powers grew again. Always a progressive force, Kanako has been working on introducing nuclear power to the industry of the kappa and tengu on Youkai Mountain.
Kanako was not actually the original goddess of the Moriya Shrine. Suwako Moriya was, but she was defeated by Kanako in a battle a long time ago. However, Kanako found she could not take over the faith of her worshippers at the time, and the two finally came to an agreement where they created an imaginary god named Moriya, and shared the faith it was given. Suwako is more powerful than Kanako, and is the one supplying most of the miracles in this arrangement. Desipte their disagreements, they are actually quite good friends now.
Suwako was not quite convinced by Kanako's plan to move the shrine to Gensokyo, but came around to it after meeting the strange and powerful humans who lived there. Sanae, who was used to being considered almost a divinity herself for her powers, suddenly found herself to be nothing out of the ordinary among the denizens of Gensokyo. After getting over her initial fear of the absurd world she had arrived in, she has been starting to fit in. Lately, she's even tried her hand at resolving incidents by herself.
Heaven is the home of the celestials, humans who have freed themselves of worldly desires and ascended to heaven, or who have achieved enlightenment and reached Nirvana. It is a realm of slow and pleasurable living. Those humans who did not reach Nirvana still retain a physical body, and can leave heaven and visit the surface, where they appear much like gods. Their bodies are poisonous to youkai, who also fear them.
Tenshi Hinanai ascended to heaven only because her clan was rewarded for their work for the gods. She never had to purify her soul as most celestial did before ascending, and thus remains selfish and demanding. Life in heaven bores her immensely, and she envies the hustle and bustle of life on the surface in Gensokyo, and therefore she uses her considerable powers to create trouble, wishing for the excitement that will ensue when the people on the surface respond.
Hell exists underground, below Gensokyo. Hell is not only where the souls of condemned humans reside, but also a place where powerful youkai who have been banished from the surface live. However, hell has been downsized, and no longer fills up all the spaces underground.
The bridge to hell is guarded by Parsee Mizuhashi, a youkai of jealousy. She was only supposed to ensure people's safe passage when travelling between the underworld and the surface, but her jealousy of their joyous travels overcame her, and now she just blocks the passage.
The Ancient City is an old settlement that was once part of hell, but has since been abandoned. After leaving Gensokyo, the oni took up residence here, and spend their days drinking and partying along with any youkai who have been sent underground.
Yuugi Hoshiguma is one of those oni, and was called one of the Four Devas of the Mountains, along with Suika Ibuki. She is extremely powerful, but cheerful and outgoing. She loves to fight, but only for fun, and will go easy on anyone who takes her up on it.
The Palace of Earth Spirits sits outside hell proper, just like the Ancient City. It is the home of Satori Komeiji, whose job it is to control the various spirits who have taken up residence underground.
However, she has the ability to read the minds of humans and youkai, and thus people fear her. She withdrew to the palace, and surrounded herself with pets who would not fear her ability, but rather appreciated it as they could not speak their minds for themselves.
As the number of her pets increased, she found it hard to find time to take care of them. So she started delegating tasks to her more clever pets. To her most trusted pets, she delegated the task of running hell itself.
Rin Kaenbyou, a two-tailed cat often referred to simply as O-rin, she put in charge of transporting the corpses of the dead to the furnaces of hell, where they would be burned to keep the fires of hell alive.
Utsuho Reiuji, a hell raven similarly referred to as O-kuu, was put in charge of running the fires of hell. She would control the fires and load them with the corpses Rin provided. However, one day she was approached by Kanako Yasaka, who offered her the power of nuclear energy, by having her eat a yatagarasu, a three-legged crow of divine power. Because Utsuho was a bit of a bird-brain, this plan also ran into some problems, but it was eventually resolved, and the nuclear power experiments proceed as planned.
Satori also has a sister, Koishi Komeiji. She possessed the same power, but to avoid the fear and rejection faced by her sister, she sealed it away. However, this also effectively sealed away her own heart, and left her instead with the power to take action unconsciously. She would come and go on a whim, and walk the world aimlessly. She was lonely, but could not realize it. Out of pity, Satori had her pets play with her and gave her some pets of her own to take care of, hoping she would once again open her heart.
Byakuren Hijiri was the sister of a great buddhist monk, Myouren. She learned the buddhist arts from him, and gained powers of her own. But once he died, she became fearful of death. She desperately sought out magic that would let her regain her youth, and she succeeded. However, in doing so she had moved far past her buddhist origins, and became a magician.
She now had her eternal youth, but now she instead feared that she would lose her power. She realized her powers originated in people's belief in them, and that the youkai represented the magic that she also drew on, and thus she sought to preserve them. She acted as a youkai exterminator, but she secretly helped the youkai she was sent to eradicate. She eventually grew to understand the youkai, and came to truly feel the need to protect them.
Her soaring popularity among the youkai made her feared by humans, even though she never favoured one over the other, but only sought to let them co-exist. She was finally sealed away in the demon world by humans, and everything related to her was buried deep underground.
Minamitsu Murasa was a youkai saved by Byakuren. She was the ghost of a girl who had fallen from a ship and drowned. She used to spend her days capsizing ships, and the fear she instilled turned her into a youkai. Byakuren was sent to exterminate her, but instead faced her unarmed, and created a replica of the ship from which she had fallen, and gave it to her to sail in. She was sealed underground along with everything else related to Byakuren, but was eventually released, and decided to take her ship on a mission to revive Byakuren.
She found a crew of youkai who also held Byakuren in high esteem, such as the mouse youkai Nazrin. Nazrin is a dowser who command mice, who help her search for the things she wants to find. Her work on the ship was to find the fragments of Byakuren's shattered "soaring vault", the tobikura, and the jeweled pagoda of Bishamonten.
The jeweled pagoda of Bishamonten was originally kept by Shou Toramaru, a tiger youkai who Byakuren had chosen to work as the disciple of the god Bishamonten (as he was too busy to spend much time at his temple), but she lost it. She continued her work of standing in for Bishamonten even after Byakuren was sealed away, hiding the fact that she was just youkai from the humans who worshipped her. When Murasa and her crew finally arrived and she learned of their plan to resurrect Byakuren, she finally decided to leave her temple and join them, secretly asking Nazrin to find the jeweled pagoda for her again.
Ichirin Kumoi also joined the crew as a guard. She also has great respect for Byakuren, for treating all youkai kindly, even Unzan, the cloud youkai who is her partner. Unzan is a stubborn and quiet old man, while Ichirin is quick-witted and clever, and good at gettign Unzan to do her bidding.
Nue Houjuu is a nue, a particularly fearsome kind of youkai. She can hide the true forms of things, and herself. She liked to scare people, and used to spend her days doing just that, but she grew bored of it and moved underground. However, the same events that released Murasa to the surface also took Nue with them. When she found out that they were plotting something, she started secretly intefering with them for her own amusement. She eventually came to understand Byakuren and her ideals, and ended up staying at her temple once she was revived.
Not everybody in Gensokyo has a steady home in one of the regular settlements. Many youkai and creatures prefer to live in the open, moving around wherever their whim takes them, or settling in some particular part of nature.
One such would be Yuuka Kazami, an old and immensely powerful flower youkai. Her only real interest is in flowers, and she will move wherever the flowers of the season are blooming. She is extremely strong and ruthless, and is widely feared. She is, however, very polite and does not pick fights with those who do not go out of their way to anger her. She also has little interest in fighting those weaker than her, but prefers a formal match against a capable opponent. Her battles are said to be a particularly beautiful sight.
Gensokyo has a very large population of fairies. They are small, not particularly bright, and easily excitible. They like to live in trees, with which they form a symbiotic relationship. When incidents occur, they tend to get particularly excited, swarming around and attacking unsuspecting bypassers. However, they are quite weak.
There are fairies pretty much everywhere in Gensokyo, where they might take on particular local roles. The Scarlet Devil Mansion employs fairies as maids, although it is unclear if there is any real use in doing so, as they are not very good workers. There are also even zombie fairies in hell.
There are some fairies that have managed to rise to prominence above their usually unremarkable kind. Cirno is the fairy of ice, who usually spends her days around the misty lake by the Scarlet Devil Mansion, but will travel wherever her fancy takes her. She is extremely powerful for a fairy, and this has led her to believe that she is, in fact, the strongest in all of Gensokyo. Her exceptional strength is not really matched by any particular increase in mental capacity over the other fairies.
Daiyousei is another of the more powerful fairies, often spotted around the same places as Cirno. She is perhaps brighter but not as powerful as Cirno.
The "three mischievous fairies", Sunny Milk, Luna Child and Star Sapphire* are three fairies most often seen around the magic forest. They (like many other fairies) love nothing more than playing pranks on people, and will combine their powers to pull off their pranks. They are otherwise quite weak and harmless. They dream of one day creating an incident in Gensokyo of their very own.
Lily White is seen in Gensokyo as the surest sign that spring has come. She appears from the east in spring, and eventally disappears towards Youkai Mountain. As the season give her quite a bit of power, and because she gets very excited, it's best to leave her alone to avoid being attacked. She means no harm, and should be admired from a distance.
Lily White is not the only being representing a season in Gensokyo. Letty Whiterock is a youkai who only appears in winter, and especially on very cold days or in blizzards. She attacks people with cold, and is feared among the humans population. She seems to be a friend of Cirno's.
The Aki sisters, Minoriko and Shizuha Aki, are goddesses of autumn. Minoriko, the younger sister, is a goddess of harvest, and Shizuha, the older, a goddess of falling leaves. They oversee autumn together. Minoriko, as a harvest goddess, is worshipped at the village during their harvest festival.
The Baquartet - a portmonteau of the japanese word "baka" for "idiot", and "quartet", are an informal group of four youkai who have made themselves particular well known for not being all that bright. They roam the fields of Gensokyo and attempt to attack humans, but are not particularly powerful. The first of them is Cirno, who has already been mentioned.
Another is Rumia, a youkai who controls darkness. She is usually shrouded in an unnatural darkness which even torches cannot dispell. However, she herself can't see much in this darkness, and tends to get lost.
Wriggle Nightbug is a firefly youkai. Firefly, unlike most bugs, are appreciated by humans, so they stand a good chance of living long enough to turn into a youkai. She controls other insects and uses them to attack humans.
Mystia Lorelei is a night sparrow youkai. Her song can cause confusion and madness, and also night blindness, which she uses to attack people at night. Her side business, however, is a grilled lamprey stand. Lamprey is said to cure night blindness, giving her an easy way to drum up business. It's not actually very effective, but as she can just stop causing it, she can fake it well enough.
The Poltergeist Mansion exists somewhere in Gensokyo, but is of little importance except for being the original home of the Prismriver Sisters, Lunasa, Merlin and Lyrica Prismriver. They are the spirits of three out of four sisters who lived in the mansion long ago, when it existed in the outside world. It is long since gone there, but remains in Gensokyo. The sisters are now musicians, and form the only musical ensemble in Gensokyo. As such, they are quite popular. They play violin, trumpet and keyboard, respectively, without using their hands.
Medicine Melancholy is a young doll youkai. She was a doll who was discarded in a field of lilies-of-the-valley, and eventually turned into a youkai. She specializes in poisons. She hates humans for their treatment of dolls, who she wants to set free. She has trouble finding compatriots for her cause, as most dolls can not actually move on their own, as she does. She is quite immature, and her lack of experience makes her unpredictable and dangerous.
Hina Kagiyama is a cursed god, who lives in the forest surrounding Youkai Mountain. She gathers up curses that have been expelled by humans through the nagashi-bina ritual, where curses are transferred to dolls, which are then cast into a river to be carried away. This way she keeps them from returning to haunt humans again.
There are plenty of dangerous youkai living underground. On the way to the Ancient City or hell, one might encounter Yamame Kurodani, a spider-like youkai who is actually a tsuchigumo with control over diseases. One might also meet Kisume, a shy youkai who likes to drop onto people from above, but usually prefers to live in a bucket.
Iku Nagae is an oarfish youkai, who is an envoy of the Dragon Palace. She spends most of her time swimming through clouds, watching over the dragon. The dragon is the highest god in all of Gensokyo, and the cause of all weather and earthquake, as well as the one who created the land in the first place. Her ability is to read the atmosphere, be it the weather or the atmosphere of humans, which lets her fit in perfectly in any company. She will merely go with the flow, leaving her univolved and lazy.
Kogasa Tatara is a karakasa who also lives in the skies above Gensokyo. Being a traditionally scary type of youkai, she wants to scare people, but she is not very good at it.
As previously mentioned, Gensokyo has a tendency to get embroiled in incidents. These are usually caused by one youkai or other taking actions that have consequnces across the entire land, for their own selfish reasons. These incidents are usually resolved by the miko (as Reimu is usually simply referred to) going into action, and forcing everyone to stop whatever it is they are doing.
Youkai tend to enjoy these incidents, for their novelty and excitement. Fairies also tend to pick up on the excitement and start swarming.
A summary of all the most important incidents in recent times follow, in chronological order, and titled after the game or other work that depict those events. The incidents are dated in Gensokyo's date system, which counts years from the time of sealing in 1885. Thus, the years ranging from 118 to 124 correspond to the years 2003 to 2009 in the outside world.
Also, we assume that in all cases, it is Reimu who goes into action, although in the games there is also the option for Marisa to do so, and various other characters from earlier games. Smaller events, such as those depicted in the game extra stages, are left out.
In the summer of year 118, a thickening scarlet mist enveloped all of Gensokyo. The mist not only blocked visibility, but also blocked enough of the sun to make the summer unusually cool.
The miko, following her keen intuition, heads towards the misty lake, where she runs into Rumia and Cirno, who have nothing to do with the incident but fight her anyway. Continuing towards the source of the mist, she enters the Scarlet Devil Mansion, where Hong Meiling, Patchouli Knowledge and Sakuya Izayoi all try to stop her, but fail. She finally meets the mistress, Remilia Scarlet, and finds that she has been creating the mist because as a vampire she can not stand sunlight. Reimu defeats her, and makes her stop spreading the mist, and the incident is resolved.
Spring in the year 119 was late. The cherries were supposed to be blooming, but instead a blizzard was blowing. However, there were still cherry petals dancing in the wind.
The miko heads upwind, trying to find where the petals and the blizzard are coming from. In her aimless searching around Gensokyo, she runs into Cirno who makes another even less successful attempt to fight her, Letty Whiterock, Chen, and Alice Margatroid. After these fruitless encounters, she finally notices the cherry blossoms are blowing in from high above the clouds. Heading upwards, she encounters Lily White and her overly enthusiastic heralding of spring, and the Prismriver sisters preparing for a performance by the entrance to the netherworld.
The netherworld is where the petals are coming from, and that is where the miko heads. Youmu Konpaku attempts to stop her, revealing that she is the one who has been collecting spring itself from Gensokyo, in order to revive a youkai cherry tree in the netherworld that has been sealed from blooming for centuries. She was ordered to do this by Yuyuko Saigyouji, who wishes to revive a soul buried below the tree, that she read about in ancient records.
While fighting Yuyuko, the seal is finally broken, the cherry tree manages to bloom, and the soul beneath is temporarily released - and it is Yuyuko's own, having been sealed away to prevent her from ever reincarnating again, as her powers only bring her unhappiness as a human. Yuyuko, being terribly absent-minded, had forgotten all about this. The miko manages to seal her once again, and the incident is resolved.
In the summer of year 119, an unusual amount of partying and feasting was taking place in Gensokyo. A mysterious mist was also once again seen around Gensokyo. The miko, and many others besides, set out to find out what is actually going on.
Through various different paths, people discover that the person responsible is Suika Ibuki, an oni who has returned to Gensokyo after the exodus of the oni long ago. She wishes to reunite the oni and humans, and is using her powers to gather people for feasts, to lure out the other oni, who all love feasting and drinking. The mist is actually herself, as she can spread herself out into tiny particles, to take part in the partying without being noticed.
She is convinced to stop, and the incident is resolved.
Later in the summer of year 119, as the humans and youkai were preparing for the harvest moon viewing, some of the wiser youkai noticed that something was wrong with the moon. It has been replaced by a fake. As the full moon is very important to the youkai, this needed to be taken care of, so the moon viewing could proceed properly.
Yukari Yakumo fetches the miko, and they both head out to find who has hidden the moon. To prevent the fake moon from becoming full, the stop the night, leaving Gensokyo in an eternal night while they undertake their investigation.
They encounter some unimportant youkai who get in their way, such as Wriggle Nightbug and Mystia Lorelei, and also have a misunderstanding with Keine Kamishrasawa, who thinks they are attacking the human village as they happen to pass by. Keine points them towards the bamboo forest. On their way there, Marisa Kirisame interrupts them, as she is investigating the incident created by the fact that the night has been stopped. After being defeated, she backs off, and the pair notices the existence of the Eientei inside the bamboo forest, and head there.
Tewi Inaba and Reisen Udongein Inaba try to prevent them from entering, as does Eirin Yagokoro, who is revealed to be the one who replaced the moon. On orders of Kaguya Houraisan, the mistress of the house, she did so to seal the Earth off from the moon. People from the moon can only travel to Earth during a full moon, so by replacing the full moon in the sky over Gensokyo, they would be prevented from reaching it. The people of the moon had been threating to come and bring Reisen back to fight in their war against the humans, and to protect her Kaguya had the path sealed.
However, the Great Hakurei Border would be quite enough to keep them out. After defeating Kaguya, the full moon is restored, the night is restarted, the people from the moon fail to appear, and the a particularly complicated incident is resolved.
In spring of the year 120, flowers suddenly started blooming all over Gensokyo. Not just spring flowers, but flowers of all season, in unprecedented numbers. This was clearly an incident, but few felt it was particularly dangerous. Nevertheless, many of Gensokyo's residents set out to find out what was going on, or just to enjoy the flowers.
The miko, worried that people would think her lazy if she wasn't seen doing something, also set out to find the cause. After encountering the many others who were also investigating or moving about for their own reasons, she noticed that not only were there an unusual number of flowers and fairies to go with them, but also a large number of spirits. This leads her to the river Sanzu, where ferrywoman Komachi Onozuka is slacking off. Too many souls had been arriving for her to ferry across lately, and she didn't feel like picking up her pace, but was waiting for things to calm down again. The large number of souls waiting for transit had started to flow back into Gensokyo, and lacking bodies were possessing flowers, causing them to bloom.
Yamaxanadu Shikieiki, Komachi's superior, catches wind of what is going on and appears to scold Komachi and gets her to start ferrying quicker, which mostly resolves the incident. However, Shikieiki can not resist the opportunity to lecture the miko on her faults, and one final battle takes place.
In spring of the year 122, Yukari Yakumo launches a plan to invade the capital of the moon. She enlists the help of various youkai throughout Gensokyo, and also that of the miko, who she trains to summon the powers of the gods for the purpose. The miko goes along with the plan without much enthusiasm, while the various factions of youkai plot and scheme. The Scarlet Devil Mansion produces a rocket to travel to the moon, powered by the miko's newfound divine powers.
The inhabitants of the Lunar Capital mostly deflect the invasion with the help of their old comrades in Gensokyo, and having satisfied her curiosity, the mistress of the Scarlet Devil Mansion returns to Gensokyo along with everyone else.
(This incident is not only depicted in the manga series Silent Sinner in Blue, but also tangentially in the light novel series Cage in Lunatic Runagate, and the manga Inaba of the Moon and Inaba of the Earth).
Sometime in the year 122, Kanako Yasaka moves the entire Moriya Shrine and its surroundings into Gensokyo, to the top of Youkai Mountain, in an attempt to gather the faith of its youkai to replace the declining faith it received in the outside world. Tension starts to build between the newcomer shrine and the youkai, tengu and kappa of Youkai Mountain, as the old balance of power starts to shift.
In autumn of 122, the inhabitants of the Moriya shrine set out to challenge the Hakurei shrine for the position as the main shrine of Gensokyo. The miko obviously does not take kindly to this, and sets out for Youkai Mountain. After running into the gods Shizuha and Minoriko Aki on the way, as well as Hina Kagiyama, the miko is warned away by the kappa Nitori Kawashiro at the foot of the mountain. None of them manage to stop the miko, who proceeds up the mountain where she is again blocked by the tengu Momiji Inubashiri and Aya Shameimaru, who ultimately decide to let her past in the hopes that she will deal with the disturbance caused by the appearance of the Moriya shrine.
Once she reaches the shrine, the miko faces its priestess Sanae Kochiya and finally the goddess Kanako Yasaka, who after being defeated agree to reconsider their approach and find a better way to coexists with the youkai of the mountain. The youkai finally see the new shrine as a good excuse for festivals and parties, and Kanako starts working to develop the area together with the technologically advanced kappa and tengu.
In summer of the year 123, strange weather once again besets Gensokyo. Each part of the land has its own troublesome weather, and each one seems to be different. Finally, a very localized earthquake occurs that levels the Hakurei shrine. The miko has no choice but to head out to investigate, as do many others.
After travelling across Gensokyo and experiencing many different kinds of weather while looking for clues, the miko finds Iku Nagae, who says she is there to warn of an earthquake, and is surprised to find that it has already happened. She finally reveals her suspicion that it is all the work of Tenshi Hinanai, which turns out to be true. The celestial has been bored by the carefree life in heaven, and has travelled to the Earth to cause an incident of her own in Gensokyo. She has observed them in the past, and wants one of her own to create some excitement.
The miko defeats her, and gets her to stop, and to rebuild the shrine.
In winter of the year 123, a geyser suddenly erupts near the Hakurei shrine. The miko does not see this as much of a problem, as it provides her with a hot spring which she hopes will attract more visitors to the shrine.
The geyser also spews out spirits from deep underground. As these spirits turn out to be quite well-behaved and mostly keep to themselves, she does not see them as a problem either, not in a land where ghosts and youkai run rampant every day. The wiser youkai, however, see a problem, as greater powers have been exiled underground that can not be allowed to be released on the surface again. Patchouli Knowledge and Yakumo Yukari agree that something needs to be done, but because of the arrangements made with the inhabitants of the underworld, they as youkai can not directly act, but need a human to travel underground for them.
The miko is not interested, but is convinced to head down anyway. She runs into the underground youkai Yamame Kurodani and Kisume, who get in her way, and Parsee Mizuhashi who jealously defends the bridge to hell. None of them can, of course, stop the miko, who proceeds to the Ancient City of Former Hell, where Yuugi Hoshiguma quickly catches wind of the appearance of an intruder, and goes out to fight her for fun. After being given a good fight, Yuugi points the way to the Palace of the Earth Spirits, where Satori Komeiji lives.
Satori is defended by her pet cat Rin Kaenbyou. Having defeated them both, Satori explains that she has left her pets in charge of hell, and the geyser is probably their fault. The miko heads down towards hell proper, where she again encounters Rin, who after being defeated explains that her friend, the hell raven Utsuho Reiuji, has gained a new power and become too powerful. She has decided to turn the surface world into a part of hell too, using her power. The geyser was a byproduct of Utsuho's newfound powers fuelling the flames of hell, and Rin sent the spirits up to the surface as a call for help, to find someone to get Utsuho back to her senses.
The miko defeats Utsuho, and finds she ate a yatagarasu, an ancient powerful creature, and gained the power of nuclear fission and fusion. She was given the yatagarasu by Kanako Yasaka, as part of her project to develop nuclear power for the industry of Youkai Mountain. Utusho, being easily distracted, got carried away by her new powers and started trying to expand hell, which has been in decline for a while, for her master. She is convinced to stop, and Kanako's nuclear power project gets back on track.
In spring of the year 124, the miko hears rumours of a ship carrying treasure sailing in the skies above Gensokyo. She is skeptical but somewhat curious, and once Sanae Kochiya confirms there is actually a ship, she sets out to chase it down.
She encounters Nazrin and Kogasa Tatara while attempting to catch up with the ship, and finally Ichirin Kumoi and Unzan, who all try to stop her from reaching the ship. She defeats them, and Ichirin notices she's collected fragments of the soaring vault, which the crew of the ship needs. The miko is let on board, where she finds the ship contains no treasure after all. She faces the captain, Minamitsu Murasa, and finds that they are headed towards the demon world, makai, to resurrect their savior Byakuren Hijiri, having been released them to the surface by the geysers caused by the previous incident.
As the ship heads into the demon world, the miko has another fight with Shou Toramaru, who thanks to Nazrin has regained her jeweled pagoda of Bishamonten, but lets her proceed with the unsealing in order to finish things once and for all.
The miko finally faces Byakuren herself, who tells her of her philosophy of equality of humans, youkai and gods. The miko is not very impressed, and defeats her in a battle. However, she does not really have much reason to take things any further, and leaves Byakuren and her crew alone and lets them sail on to fund a new temple for their cause.
In the summer 124, a mysterious giant is seen lumbering around Gensokyo, shrouded in a tepid mist. This time, however, the usual miko does not set out to investigate, but rather Sanae Kochiya wants to try her hand at disaster resolution. She also has fond memories of the giant robot anime she used to watch in the outside world, and decides to believe the mysterious giant is, in fact, such a robot, for her own amusement.
She sets out to look for clues, encountering and defeating a number of youkai and other inhabitants of Gensokyo, until she she finally finds that the giant is the creation of Suwako Moriya, the goddess from her own shrine, who has been keeping it a secret.