Unsung Heroes of Old Japan

Unsung Heroes of Old Japan

Isoda Michifumi
Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter

Published by JPIC | Hardcover | ISBN 978-4-916055-76-7 | 208 pages | 210mm (h) x 148mm (w) | March 2017


磯田 道史 著
文藝春秋 刊



About the Book

“I have waited eagerly for the day when Unsung Heroes of Old Japan would be translated into English and made available to people around the world. I wrote the book with the faint hope that people might one day become more like the men and women portrayed here. Whether humanity has any universal values, I can’t say. But looking back over the sweep of human history, I am convinced that values like those shown here result in happiness for the individual and society.”
(From ‘Preface to the English edition’ by the author)

True stories of three little-known Japanese of the Edo period who lived lives of sublime selflessness and purity, blurring the boundary between self and others.
Merchant Kokudaya Jūzaburō comes up with a brilliant scheme to rescue his dying town from poverty. He and others go deep into debt, risking all to raise money for the cash-strapped daimyo and receive annual interest in return.
Prodigious scholar and former Zen monk Nakane Tōri refuses a government post and elects to live in abject poverty, weaving sandals. Though perhaps the age's greatest poet, he throws his works into the fire and ends his days teaching in a country village.
Ōtagaki Rengetsu, a noted beauty in Kyoto, loses two husbands and five children. She becomes a Buddhist nun and devotes her life to poetry and pottery. With her savings she feeds the hungry and builds a bridge across Kamo River.

About the Author

ISODA Michifumi

Michifumi Isoda received a Ph.D. in history from Keio University and is currently a professor at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto. He re-creates the spirits and minds of significant figures from Japan's past through his unceasing appraisal of historical materials and extensive knowledge of socioeconomic history. Hist bestselling novel Bushi no kakeibo: Kaga han gosanyōmono no bakumatsu ishin (A samurai's account book: The accounting officer of the Kaga Domain on the eve of the Meiji Restoration) won the 2003 Shinchō Document Prize, and was subsequently turned into a movie. He has written numerous other works, many of which have received literary awards.