The Japan Society of Northern California and Green Apple Books present
Praise for Daughters of the Samurai:
“Surprising and richly satisfying,” – Megan Marshall, author of Margaret Fuller: An American Life
“Beautifully crafted . . . subtle, polished, and poised” – Stacy Schiff, author of Cleopatra
“An extraordinary, elegantly told story of the beginning of Japan’s education and emancipation of its women.” – Kirkus Reviews
About Daughters of the Samurai:
In 1871, five young girls were sent by the Japanese government to the United States. Their mission: learn Western ways and return to help nurture a new generation of enlightened men to lead Japan.
Raised in traditional samurai households during the turmoil of civil war, three of these unusual ambassadors—Sutematsu Yamakawa, Shige Nagai, and Ume Tsuda—grew up as typical American schoolgirls. Upon their arrival in San Francisco they became celebrities, their travels and traditional clothing exclaimed over by newspapers across the nation. As they learned English and Western customs, their American friends grew to love them for their high spirits and intellectual brilliance.
The passionate relationships they formed reveal an intimate world of cross-cultural fascination and connection. Ten years later, they returned to Japan—a land grown foreign to them—determined to revolutionize women’s education.
Based on in-depth archival research in Japan and in the United States, including decades of letters from between the three women and their American host families, Daughters of the Samurai is beautifully, cinematically written, a fascinating lens through which to view an extraordinary historical moment.
You may pre-order your hardcopy of Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey From East to West and Back here!
About Janice P. Nimura:
Two years after graduating from Yale, Janice P. Nimura moved from her native Manhattan to her new husband’s native Tokyo. Over the course of three years in Japan—where she worked as an editor and wrote for English-language newspapers—she became both proficient in Japanese and comfortable in her un-dreamed-of role as daughter-in-law to a Japanese family.
Upon returning to New York she earned a master’s degree in East Asian studies at Columbia with a focus on 19th-century Japanese history, and continued to work as an editor and writer, contributing book reviews to newspapers including the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, and Newsday.
Several years ago, deep in the stacks of the New York Society Library, she happened across a slim green volume titled A Japanese Interior, by Alice Mabel Bacon. It was shelved among dusty Victorian volumes written by peripatetic missionaries or ambassador’s wives, people who had spent a couple of months in Japan a hundred years ago and published their diaries when they got home. Bacon’s book was different: a sharp-eyed account by an unmarried woman who had lived for an extended period in Tokyo in the late 1880s and taught English at the exclusive Peeresses’ School, sharing a house with Japanese women who seemed to be intimate friends of hers, though there was no explanation of how this odd circumstance had come about.
Alice Bacon’s story felt oddly familiar: she came from New Haven, where Nimura had spent her college years; she moved to Tokyo and lived not among expats but in a Japanese household, as Nimura had; she taught at one of Japan’s first schools for girls, founded within a year of the one Nimura attended in New York a century later. Following where Bacon led, Nimura discovered the entwined lives of Sutematsu Yamakawa Oyama, Bacon’s foster sister and Vassar’s first Japanese graduate; Ume Tsuda, whose pioneering women’s English school Alice helped to launch; and Shige Nagai Uriu, the third of the little girls who arrived with the Iwakura Mission in 1872 and grew up in America.
Nimura lives in New York with her husband and two children.