Unsung Heroes of Old Japan

Unsung Heroes of Old Japan

Isoda Michifumi
Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter

Japan Library series
Japan Publishing Industry Foundation for Culture


¥3,200 + tax

ISBN 9784916055767
210 mm x 148 mm / 208 pp. / March 2017

“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.

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.

*information as of time of publication

Japan Library series

Japan Publishing Industry Foundation for Culture

¥3,200 + tax
ISBN 9784916055767
210 mm x 148 mm / 208 pp. / March 2017

ISBN 9784866580029 (ePub)
ISBN 9784916055897 (PDF)

Preface to the English edition / 1. Kokudaya Jūzaburō (1719–1777) / 2. Nakane Tōri (1694–1765) / 3. Ōtagaki Rengetsu (1791–1875) / References / About the author




Original Japanese Edition


磯田道史 著

文藝春秋 刊


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