A remarkable and true tale of loyalty, vengeance, and ritual suicide… In the spring of 1701, the regional lord Asano Naganori wounded his supervising official, Kira Yoshinaka, during an important ceremony in the ruling shogunate’s Edo Castle and was at once condemned to death. Within two years, in the dead of winter, a band of forty-seven of Asano’s retainers avenged him by breaking into Yoshinaka’s mansion and killing him. Subsequently, all the men were sentenced to death but allowed to perform it honorably by seppuku.
In 1415, the English forces under Henry V inflicted a terrible defeat on the French army. After the battle, under a heap of dead soldiers, they found and captured a young man who turned out to be Charles, duc d’Orléans (1394-1465). He was taken to England and placed in honorable captivity, but Henry V ordered that he not be ransomed, so he remained in England until his release in 1440. During his 25 years in England, he learned English and wrote a great deal of well-regarded poetry in that language, and when he finally returned home it was remarked that his English was better than his French.
The Emergency Detention Act, Title II of the Internal Security Act of 1950, is the only law in American history to legalize preventive detention. It restricted the freedom of a certain individual or a group of individuals based on actions that may be taken that would threaten the security of a nation or of a particular area. Yet the Act was never enforced before it was repealed in 1971.
The term samurai brings to mind disciplined, well-trained warrior-soldiers, skillfully wielding swords and following a strict military-ethical code of honor and sacrifice. Michael Wert, an associate professor at Marquette University who specializes in Japanese history, seeks to dispel this popular depiction in his fascinating short history of the samurai.
Japanese literature isn’t always neatly accommodated by the buckets often set out to categorize novels. Yoko Ogawa’s The Memory Police, about an island where entire classes of things, and the memories that go with them, just disappear, a state of affairs enforced by a malevolent and menacing special police force, could be placed in several different buckets, or none at all.
We first meet Kazu Mori, the protagonist of award-winning Japanese author Yu Miri’s newly translated novel Tokyo Ueno Station, after his death. Unable to move fully into the afterlife, Mori seems condemned to merely observe his former abode, its visitors and its inhabitants. Through his eyes we learn about the park’s history as, variously, a battleground, a disembarkation point for immigrant workers from its train station and, in modern times, a hub for museums and galleries.
Yone Noguchi: The Stream of Fate is the first full-length biography of the pioneering international Japanese poet Yone Noguchi (Noguchi Yonejiro, 1875-1947).