In this case, it is the Dutch East India Company's factory in Dejima off the coast of Nagasaki, in the dark years after Japan had crucified or tortured to death the Christians baptised in the 17th century by Francis Xavier, and before the country was prised open to the outside world in the nineteenth by the American naval captain Perry.
This is an occultic, honour-and-shame, totalitarian and feudal Japan. With this scenery and these props, David Mitchell smoothly takes his characters through a story of betrayal, power struggles, love and courage. It's such an exhilarating experience you overlook bits of contrived plotting or slightly underdone characters (particularly the female protagonist). A bit brutal and graphic at times, not really a romance, but a lavish feast of a book and I loved it.