Koje is the only Vashan city open to foreigners from Peregorne at the present time. It is located on Hiroko, the northernmost island of the northernmost province of Vash, Nagosan. The island of Hiroko is surrounded by smaller islands, and west of it is the Bramble sylph nation of Shambhala, another part of the Vashan Empire. Koje lies on Kirechi Bay. At the center of the island, looms the enormous extinct volcano of Mt. Iseya. The Nagawara River has been diverted into canals that fan out from the center of Koje's wharf area and provide waterways for boats carrying products and people to all points of the island.
For most of its history, the island of Hiroko has been a forgotten place, an island of small quiet fishing villages settled by Il'lthye of House Tetsu-ko and Tesugan humans. Until recently, Koje itself was little more than the island's largest port town, built on the flat land where the Nakagama river flowed down from the base of Mt. Iseya to reach Kirechi Bay.
Recently, the incursion of foreigners from Kaezar and other northern provinces began to concerned the insular government in the Vashan Empire's capitol, Taekoto. The shogun and emperor, in charge respectively of the temporal and spiritual well being of all Vashans, charged one of their chief daimyo's, Lady Heiija of the House To-kaishu, to take charge of the fief and to turn it into a bastion against the unwanted onslaught of foreigners, as well as to provide a place to trade with them. The old palace in Koje, which is owned by a branch of the il'lythe clan of House Tetsu-ko is located in Tonyamachi, an older area of town. This branch of the Tetsu-ko are the hereditary warlords/daimyo of Hiroko Island (primarily merchants and traders), and have been more or less shunted aside by the "foreign" daimyo, Lady Heiija, who has been sent to Koje to act as the military governor of the island. The local Koje bokufu (city administrators) and guardsmen are loyal to the Tetsu-ko lords, and Lady Heiijja has her own men. An uneasy truce exists between the two, but both are adament on keeping the laws of Vash.
Under the direction of Lady Heiija, much of the current city of Koje has been built over the former town which had long been established there. The earlier inhabitants of the island have been overrun by the daimyo's retainers and the influx of outsiders that they attracted, who now far outnumber them.
The current city of Koje is a many-leveled city built in tiers, all stepping gradually downwards towards the flatlands around the bay. The highest point in town is the daimyo's manmade plateau. The mountain that the old town once surrounded was leveled across its top, and Lady Heiija built there her multi-tiered castle, its walls and gardens, and encircled it with a moat. The soil from the mountain tops was distributed in a circle around the plateaux to form a second slightly lower tier, the Uchikanda. The highest ranking of the samurai families serving Lady Heiija maintain manors there. The western side of the Uchikanda slopes steeply upward towards the City Shrine and Gardens (recently built by Lady Heiija to honor her family's patron gods) and the Northwest Gate that leads towards Moyamura, an area of hills and pine forest near the foot of Mt. Iseya and also the seat of the daimyo's new hawking villa. The City Shrine consists of a garden, teahouse, and island bearing a bizarre openwork iron globe filled with flames. The globe is the shrine of Ni'ga, the fire god, and the surrounding garden is dedicated to the earth god, Dri'an. The east side of the Uchikanda is flatter, though all of the Uchikanda is raised high above the canals below. Out the Northeast gates of the city, lie the rolling hills of mysterious Kin'iro'ha and of the island's famed horticultural district, the village of Umecho.
On a level with the Uchikanda, are two wooded hills. To the east, is the Temple Hill (Terazaka), reached by very steep steps up a butte, and surrounded by a wooded park and shinto-style graveyard at its base. This temple is dedicated to is the pantheon of eastern gods, with the main temple dedicated to Chi'ni, and with smaller pavilions dedicated to the twelve other gods lining the ceremonial walk to it. A central fountain/gazebo-like structure is dedicated to the animal gods. Connected to the temple is the monastery/dojo of the Qai Monks. To the west of the temple park, and sloping gradually down towards Ichikashi (fisherman's) district, is the Tonyamachi, the area where the wealthy merchants, town officials, and lesser samurai live. There are several upscale shops and other establishments in this district. The trading house/yashiki of House Tetsu-ko is also here, as are the scribes, public baths, and papermakers (along the canal).
To the far west on its own isolated tor, is Daigakuzaka, the university hill, the cliff-like face of which overhangs the next lowest level, the Kanda. University Hill can only be reached via bridge from the road through Uchikanda.
The Kanda is an older area of town that used to lie on it's outskirts. It is primarily an artisan's district, and the road through it is lined with the fenced compounds of the craftsmen. It is a narrow strip of high ground below the cliffs of the university's hill, yet still quite a bit higher than the lower areas of Koje's Old Town, which stretches out below. It spans the distance between the Southwest Gate and the bridge that leads across the west canal and up onto the Uchikanda level. Lady Heiija recently established an archery park in that area.
The low lying flatlands of Old Town include Nagakashi, the wharf area, and Ichikashi, a neighborhood of fisherfolk also known as the "Bija Ghetto" due the many Bijapuran immigrants who have settled there. These areas make up what remains of the older village that has so rapidly been overrun by the new Koje City. Congested and full of shops, working class residences, warehouses, and teahouses, Old Town is the heart of the city's activity. The sumo wrestling arena, the kabuki theater, and the Old Temple and gardens are found here. The Old Temple and gardens are dedicated to Yin-wan, goddess of war who was regarded as the protectress of Koje. The surrounding "garden" is a poisonous swampy place, filled with snakes and black bamboo. It is dedicated to Ardu, goddess of disease and the night, and has a small shrine in it dedicated to the god of death and resurrection, Arani'vait.
Making up its southern border are the warehouses, boardwalk, and piers of the long wharf area, Nagakashi. Swarms of merchant vessels, passenger ships, and small fishing boats fill the bay and crowd the piers where there is also a small shrine to Dri'an who controls the seas. At its eastern edge, Old Town connects to the small blue collar and fishing area of Ichikashi, via a huge bridge. The two banks of the canal at either end of the bridge form the main market area. Bordering Ichikashi are the potters' compound and other craftsmen's fenced-in compounds. Also among the inhabitants of the Old Town one frequently finds Bramble sylph merchants from the neighboring island province of Shamhala, their homeland. Other inhabitants of the empire live and travel freely in Koje, such as the Elpas, Nosk, and Re'hari. At the eastern edge of Ichikashi, the dismal City Prison sits at the Southeast Gate, which is at present kept sealed.
Construction in Koje is almost entirely done with wood. The only large use of building stone in the city, is found in the high, sloping foundation walls of the daimyo's castle and along the canal quays. Most craftsmen's compounds are surrounded by high wooden fences and entered through gates. The castle, manor houses, and many of the wealthier homes and shops would have tall mud brick and stucco walls with tiled caps or very fancy wooden fences surrounding their property. Lesser houses would be all of wood or wood and paper and have wood shingle roofs. Most small shop fronts and stalls have solid, sloping wooden or thatched roofs. Less permanent structures have awning-like covers to protect merchant goods, etc. Outside Koje most huts and country homes would be of mudbrick, sod, or wood and have roofs of thatch.
All but the poorest hovels have floors that are raised to about knee-level off the ground. Inside buildings, groups of rooms are often connected by open-air corridors rather, than by hallways. Shoji screens serve as sliding doorways, as well as room dividers between the pavilion-like rooms. Tatami (woven straw) mats cover the raised wooden floors. The better homes look out upon a garden, which was considered an essential feature. Furniture is minimal, portable, and usually low to the ground.
Koje-jo — The daimyo's castle and gardens
Uchikanda — NW gate, samurai homes, and city shrine and gardenBija and Bramble shops,
Universtiy Hill, Daigakuzaka — Butte to the west of town that houses the city university area.
Kanda — Artisan's district
Temple Hill, Terazaka — (Main) Temple hill with surrounding park and graveyard, and NE gate.
Tonyamachi — Wealthy residential and shopping district, and the home of the town's mayor (town hall).
Old Town — Working class and middle class neighborhood of shops, entertainments place, and the old temple. City market is on its far east side. Includes Nagakashi and Ichikashi.
Old Town, Nagakashi — Long wharf area that makes up the southern part of Old Town.
Old Town, Ichikashi — Fishing pier, SE gate, Immigrants Ghetto, and City Market.
Gai'jin Compound — Foreigners' residences and wholesale businesses outside the SW gate.