• Stranger in the Shogun's City

  • A Japanese Woman and Her World
  • By: Amy Stanley
  • Narrated by: Joy Osmanski
  • Length: 10 hrs and 1 min
  • 4.3 out of 5 stars (200 ratings)

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Stranger in the Shogun's City  By  cover art

Stranger in the Shogun's City

By: Amy Stanley
Narrated by: Joy Osmanski
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Publisher's Summary

Finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Biography

Winner of the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award

Winner of the PEN/Jacqueline Bograd Weld Award for Biography

A “captivating” (The Washington Post) work of history that explores the life of an unconventional woman during the first half of the 19th century in Edo - the city that would become Tokyo - and a portrait of a great city on the brink of a momentous encounter with the West.

The daughter of a Buddhist priest, Tsuneno was born in a rural Japanese village and was expected to live a traditional life much like her mother’s. But after three divorces - and a temperament much too strong-willed for her family’s approval - she ran away to make a life for herself in one of the largest cities in the world: Edo, a bustling metropolis at its peak.

With Tsuneno as our guide, we experience the drama and excitement of Edo just prior to the arrival of American Commodore Perry’s fleet, which transformed Japan. During this pivotal moment in Japanese history, Tsuneno bounces from tenement to tenement, marries a masterless samurai, and eventually enters the service of a famous city magistrate. Tsuneno’s life provides a window into 19th-century Japanese culture - and a rare view of an extraordinary woman who sacrificed her family and her reputation to make a new life for herself, in defiance of social conventions.

“A compelling story, traced with meticulous detail and told with exquisite sympathy” (The Wall Street Journal), Stranger in the Shogun’s City is “a vivid, polyphonic portrait of life in 19th-century Japan [that] evokes the Shogun era with panache and insight” (National Review of Books). 

©2020 Amy Stanley. All rights reserved. (P)2020 Simon & Schuster, Inc. All rights reserved.
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Categories: History

What listeners say about Stranger in the Shogun's City

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  • Overall
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  • JS
  • 07-26-21

Lovely microhistory

In the dusty letters of a servant woman which she discovered in an archive, Stanley uncovers a gripping, emotional microhistory. She reads aggressively and convincingly against the ideological grain of the letters she uncovered, showing that Tsuneno was not a disobedient and problematic daughter as her relatives saw her, but a strong-willed woman willing to work as hard as she could to lighten the burden on her family and make a life that she could call her own in Edo. If you already know early modern Japan you will find that the text is a bit padded with generic information, but some of the context is eye-opening and the underlying microhistory packs an emotional punch.

5 people found this helpful

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Makes the past come alive!

As a professional tour guide specializing in Japan, I so appreciate the vivid details of everday 19th century Japanese life rendered thoughtfully and relatable. Bravo!

5 people found this helpful

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Excellent Read

This is a thoroughly researched piece of historical writing that is delightful to read/listen to. Tying history to one woman’s journey is an ingenious conceit that works extremely well here. Brilliant and beautifully rendered!

4 people found this helpful

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Learn about the Japan you never knew existed.

Wonderfully evocative of the Edo period and beyond in Japan. using archived documents, the author reveals the world of a woman who broke rules in order to live her own life.

3 people found this helpful

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Evocative Story of 19th century Japan

I very much enjoyed this book. The reader is terrific. I learned a lot, too. I felt like I was with our heroine as she navigated life in Edo.

1 person found this helpful

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Vividly Captivating

Tremendous work from the author painting the backdrop of this story and making you feel connected with subject.

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I tried to like this book but gave up.

Interesting content so I kept trying - waiting for it to really start. Finally broke at yet another unending list of examples when three would have made the point elegantly but EIGHT just delayed the work and irked me.

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An Empathetic Glimpse Into The Past

So I have been planning a trip to Japan for a little while now. As a result, I like to dive headfirst into understanding the culture and its history as best I can. This was an excellent story to help me get some understanding of Japanese culture at a very tumultuous time in the 1800s. I thought the narrator was fantastic. Enjoy.

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Too much filler

It seems like there wasn't a lot of source material for the author to use in writing this book. In order to make up for that she spends a lot of time filling in the world around the main character. Listen to this book if you want an idea of what life in Japan was like during the protagonist's era -- not for a gripping narrative.

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Interesting but should have been a novel

The author is too tied to "showing her work". The constant references to what got documented in the subject's family archives are tedious. The overall history of Japan is woven into the story but it is done clumsily. On balance this book would have been much stronger if the author had turned it into a novel and conveyed the history with more grace.