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Publisher's Summary

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.

©2015 Janice P. Nimura (P)2015 Audible, Inc.

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What listeners say about Daughters of the Samurai

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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Need a different narrator

Narrator is not familiar with pronunciation of Japanese names making it difficult for me to understand places and names.

3 people found this helpful

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Wonderfully woven, insightful history

This book is such a delight, as it works on so many levels. The story takes us through the naive innocence of young girls, to the discovery in young womanhood and finally through to the triumphs, tragedies and regrets as mature adults. And throughout, there are the interwoven themes of class, gender, and ethnicity that must be navigated. And the book is not overly sentimental or unfairly charitable. The young women, at times, can come off as entitled and elitist, as products of their upbringing, both Japanese and American, but at other times can appear inspiringly strong and defiant. These are real people with real strengths and real shortcomings.

Of particular note was the effort for equitable distribution of praise and blame of the best and worst elements of cultural influence. The treatment of these young ladies in America, while certainly sexist and racist in fair measure, is tempered by the notion that the pre-Meiji, Tokugawa shogunate had little in the way of progressive philosophies on those counts, either. Even the lives of privileged women was limited. It is however a bit curious that while American attitudes of womanhood are held up as enlightened, it's important to note that American women had only secured the right to own property a few decades earlier, and wouldn't be given the vote for several decades in the future. But it is all relative, I suppose. The one poignant moment in the book is the reaction of one of the girls to Chinese in San Francisco. Having received elite American "refinement", she's filled with disdain, without any sense of irony, over their ethnic inadequacy. This from her now adopted American perspective, and clearly not primarily a Japanese born prejudice. This is the weaving together of the class and ethnic identities which makes the book so unique and insightful.

Although I thoroughly enjoyed the book, it's worth mentioning a few things. There is a period, for about the first 6 chapters, or the first third of the book, where the young ladies are supporting characters in their own story. I'd feared it would continue, but as the story proceeded, they became more prominent. I was a bit surprised at how short the time in America was covered. It seemed no sooner had they arrived, and had their academic challenges and triumphs, when they were on their way back.

And with regard to another review about Japanese pronunciations... there's no problem. A few place and newspaper names might be a bit off, but by and large, the names of people were perfectly fine and understandable. In fact, I found more strange pronunciations in the English. But certainly nothing to distract from this wonderful book.

1 person found this helpful

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Women who overcome

While the audio performance is a bit stilted the story of 3 Japanese girls sent to the US to be educated and their adult life in Japan is easy to enjoy. A story of lifelong friendships and perseverance in the face of cultural obstructions tells how these women, along with their American friends and supporters have an impact on women's education, society, and their lives in Japan.

1 person found this helpful

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Engrossing Well Researched

Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

Yes. Nimura makes this time period spring to life by focusing on several women's lives and experiences.

1 person found this helpful

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Wonderful

It starts slow but after coupe pages you can't get enough. Excellent narrator and the story out of this world.