Across the Nightingale Floor
by Lian Hearn
This tale begins with young Takeo, a member of a subversive and persecuted religious group, who returns home to find his village in flames. He is saved, not by coincidence, by the swords of Lord Otori Shigeru and thrust into a world of warlords, feuding clans, and political scheming. As Lord Otori's ward, he discovers he is a member by birth of the shadowy "Tribe," a mysterious group of assassins with supernatural abilities.
Autobiography of a Geisha
by Sayo Masuda
Masuda's account of being a geisha in rural Japan at a hot springs resort is at once intriguing and heartbreaking. There is nothing idyllic in her description of geisha training or life between the world wars. Born in 1925, Masuda was sent to work for a wealthy landowner when she was five. At 12, she was sold to a geisha house for about 30 yen, the price of a bag of rice.
by Takashi Matsuoka
East collides with West in this complex, epic tale in which the ability to see the future is transferred from generation to generation in a Japanese clan. The mid-19th-century inheritor of the clan's visionary powers is Lord Genji, a powerful samurai warlord who favors western style modernization for Japan but faces fierce opposition from the antiforeigner element. Compounding his political troubles is his peculiar love affair with a beautiful young American Christian missionary.
by Anchee Min
As one of hundreds of women vying for the attention of the Emperor, Orchid soon discovers that she must take matters into her own hands. After training herself in the art of pleasing a man, she bribes her way into the royal bedchamber and seduces the monarch. A grand love affair ensues; the Emperor is a troubled man, but their love is passionate and genuine. Orchid has the great good fortune to bear him a son. Elevated to the rank of Empress, she still must struggle to maintain her position and the right to raise her own child.
by Hayashi Fumiko
This poignant masterpiece tracks the ill-fated affair of Koda and Tomioka as they struggle to survive in the tumultuous years of WWII. Koda meets and falls in love with Tomioka while working in southern Vietnam, but the two go their own directions when the war ends. When they reunite, both changed by the devastation of warfare and the effects of time, they desperately court connection in a violently displaced world.
Madame Sadayakko: The Geisha Who Bewitched the West
by Lesley Downer
Given the name Sada at birth, she was rechristened Ko-yakko when she went to the Hamada to train to become a geisha. Enchanting and charming, she captured so much attention that Japan's first prime minister, Hirobumi Ito, bid on and won the right to her mizuage (virginity). Geishas were the celebrities of their day, so when Sadayakko decided to marry charismatic actor Otojiro Kawakami, it caused quite a stir in Japan.
Peony in Love
by Lisa See
Unusually for a girl of her time, 15-year-old Peony has been educated and revels in studying The Peony Pavilion, a real opera published in 1598. But as this daughter of the wealthy Chen family approaches an arranged marriage, she commits an unthinkable breach of etiquette when she accidentally comes upon a man who has entered the family garden.
by John Burnham Schwartz
It is 1959 when Haruko, a young woman of good family, marries the Crown Prince of Japan, the heir to the Chrysanthemum Throne. She is the first non-aristocratic woman to enter the longest-running, almost hermetically sealed, and mysterious monarchy in the world. Met with cruelty and suspicion by the Empress and her minions, Haruko is controlled at every turn. The only interest the court has in her is her ability to produce an heir. After finally giving birth to a son, Haruko suffers a nervous breakdown and loses her voice. However, determined not to be crushed by the imperial bureaucrats, she perseveres. Thirty years later, now Empress herself, she plays a crucial role in persuading another young woman a rising star in the foreign ministry to accept the marriage proposal of her son, the Crown Prince.
The Pearl Diver
by Jeff Talarigo
In 1948, a nineteen-year-old pearl diver's dreams of spending her life combing the waters of Japan's Inland Sea are shattered when she discovers she has leprosy. By law, she is exiled to an island leprosarium, where she is stripped of her dignity and instructed to forget her past. Her name is erased from her family records, and she is forced to select a new one. To the two thousand patients on the island of Nagashima, she becomes Miss Fuji. Although drugs arrest the course of Miss Fuji's disease, she cannot leave the colony. Instead, she becomes a caretaker to the other patients, and through the example of their courage, she gains insight into the deep wellspring of strength she will need to reclaim her freedom.
The Red Queen: A Transcultural Tragicomedy
by Margaret Drabble
Barbara Halliwell, on a grant at Oxford, receives an unexpected package-a memoir by a Korean crown princess, written more than two hundred years ago. A highly appropriate gift for her impending trip to Seoul. But from whom? The story she avidly reads on the plane turns out to be one of great intrigue as well as tragedy. The Crown Princess Hyegyong recounts in extraordinary detail the ways of the Korean court and confesses the family dramas. Once in Korea, Barbara meets a certain Dr. Oo, and to her surprise and delight he offers to guide her to some of the haunts of the crown princess. As she explores the inner sanctums and the royal courts, Barbara begins to feel a strong affinity for everything related to the princess and her mysterious life.
The Teahouse Fire
by Ellis Avery
In 1865, nine-year-old Aurelia Caillard is taken from New York to Japan by her missionary uncle Charles while her ailing mother dies at home. Charles soon vanishes in a fire, leaving Aurelia orphaned and alone in Kyoto. She is taken in by Yukako, the teenage daughter of the Shin family, master teachers of temae, or tea ceremony. Aurelia, narrating as an elderly woman, tells of living as Yukako's servant and younger sister, and how what begins as grateful puppy love for Yukako matures over the years into a deeply painful unrequited obsession.