A Daughter of the Samurai
Madame Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto
Much of the material of this book originally appeared in Asia but has been thoroughly revised for book publication.
COPYRIGHT, 1925, BY DOUBLEDAY, PAGE & COMPANY. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES AT THE COUNTRY LIFE PRESS, GARDEN CITY, N. Y.
WITH RESPECT AND LOVE AND DEEPEST GRATITUDE I DEDICATE THESE SACRED MEMORIES
MY TWO MOTHERS
WHOSE LIVES AND ENVIRONMENTS WERE FAR APART, YET WHOSE HEARTS MET IN MINE
NANCY VIRGINIA AUSTEN
Whose pleasant friendship, energetic spirit, and practical knowledge encouraged me to believe that a little Etsu-bo, with a heart full of love for old Japan, could gather the falling fragments of samurai spirit and weave them into a fragrant chain for the readers of to-day.
|Winters in Echigo
|Days of Kan
|The Old and the New
|A Sunny New Year
|The Wedding That Never Was
|The Story of a Marionette
|The Day of the Bird
|My First Journey
|How I Became a Christian
|Sailing Unknown Seas
|Flower in a Strange Land
|In Japan Again
|Our Tokyo Home
|A Lady of Old Japan
|The White Cow
|The Black Ships
THERE are many happy adventures for those who work in the strange world of printers’ ink; and in some lucky moment of inspiration, several years ago, I asked Mrs. Sugimoto to write, for my column in a Philadelphia newspaper, some little memories of her girlhood in Japan. The story of the dog Shiro, whose prosperity in a future life she endangered by giving him her own cushion; her childish sadness about her curly hair; her pensive trouble when she discovered that American women were not really more modest than Japanese—these and a few other charming episodes first found their way into print in that newspaper, and gradually led to this beautiful and thrilling book. It is an honour to be asked by Mrs. Sugimoto to say a word of introduction here. I only wish that I knew how to make it ceremonious enough. For the inner suggestion of her book is surely that life in its highest moments is a kind of ceremony in honour of the unknown gods. “The eyelids of a Samurai,” Mrs. Sugimoto tells us, “know not moisture.” But the “red barbarians,” who have not learned the old stoic art, may be forgiven if they feel occasionally, among her tender paragraphs, that dangerous prickling that great truth conveys.
What a lovely book it is, and how much it has to teach us. I have a secret notion that it will go on for years and years, making friends for itself and for the brave woman who wrote it, and also—this would please her most—friends for Japan. Is it not a perfect book for children to read? I don’t know any collection of fairy tales more entrancing. And for parents too: is it not the subtlest kind of treatise on education? For the pure art and humour and simplicity of the narrative: where is there a more charming short story than that of Mr. Toda? A great American writer, who was in many things as far as possible from the old Samurai codes (Walt Whitman), said, “As soon as histories are properly told there is no more need of romances.” This book is a history properly told. Some of us may think that Mrs. Sugimoto has been even a little too generous toward the America she adopted. But she came among us as Conrad came among the English; and if the little Etsu-bo, the well-loved tomboy of snowy winters in Echigo, finds beauty in our strange and violent ways, we can only be grateful.
Among her delicate and significant anecdotes, each a gem of artistic thought and feeling, she tells of the Japanese fiancée whose betrothed had a plum-blossom as his family crest, and therefore the young woman must pay particular honour to that flower, and could not even eat plum jelly, which would be disrespectful to the emblem of her future husband. In the same way I feel obscurely that I must not write too much about Mrs. Sugimoto: because I honour her greatly, to write fulsomely here would be disrespectful to her beautiful book. I can only say that this story of a Japanese girlhood and of the brave child who found a seed of liberty stirring in her heart seems to me one of those rare triumphs where two diverse worlds speak openly to one another and both are profited.
One of my pleasantest memories of a time when Mrs. Sugimoto, in her Japanese costume, accompanied as a great lady should be by her daughter and a loved companion, came far downtown in hot weather to visit me in a New York newspaper office. She felt, though surely too generously, that I had tried to be courteous; and this required, on her part, a gesture of appreciation. I have never forgotten it: her gay little figure, charming as a bird or flower in her vivid robe, brightening for a few minutes that busy, noisy place. What the expedition may have cost her, in weariness or alarm or secret distresses, I hesitate to conjecture. Only a brave and great-minded person would have ventured it. That she is brave and great minded and a true daughter of the Samurai no reader will ever doubt. How startled, I suppose, some of her knightly ancestors would be to find her putting her private thoughts on paper for all the world to see. Then indeed the shrines would be pasted up and there would be horrified silence. But it was that old, hard and feudal code that gave her strength to break through paper formalities when she felt it needful. She has given us here a unique picture of the exquisite complexity and beauty of all human life. She is a great teacher, and I would not willingly even tread on her shadow.
This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was published in 1925, before the cutoff of January 1, 1929.
The longest-living author of this work died in 1950, so this work is in the public domain in countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 73 years or less. This work may be in the public domain in countries and areas with longer native copyright terms that apply the rule of the shorter term to foreign works.
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