I decided on 8th century for no other reason than the main character is originally from ~660 AD and I knew she would need some time to...come in to her own. For no other reason than picking a number out of the air, I chose sometime around 740 AD. The novelty of going this far back in time is that I don't have to give an exact date, I can fudge a year or two because info in this time isn't exact...mostly.
What I'm finding interesting is just how lucky I got with this choice in time periods, which is why I decided to write this blog update. Let me give you a short list. A few decades of time before the story, several things have happened: a couple history books were issued (Kojiki and Nihon Shoki), a form of currency was introduced (prior to that, they traded in mostly rice and arrowheads), Buddhism was widespread and, basically, Japan was developing an identity of its own. It was still influenced by China, but it was a start.
All of this really doesnt matter as far as a fiction piece goes and I'm def not going for historical fiction, but I would like it to at least feel real on some level. What makes contemporary fiction fun is that these wild things are happening now in our time. I want to put the reader in 8th century Japan so that it feels how contemporary fiction feels. We'll see how it turns out.
To top it off, I've been reading a massive amount of folklore/mythology, some before and some after this the time frame of the story. Two reasons for this: 1. folklore gives you an idea of how people thought back then. their ideas of what was important don't always come through in their history. 2. I'd like to base some of my story on what already exists. I'm not going to copy a piece of folklore and simply toss my characters into it, but I will toss their folklore into my story. The Tengu are a good example of this. *hint hint*