Leila, a reader in Yemen, sent an e-mail: "Your Tokaido Road is great. It's not flattery. Truly, it's the best that I've ever read. Thank you very much that you wrote such a book."
Author Donna Meredith added:
"I just finished The Tokaido Road and what a rollicking ride it was! I
loved your plucky heroine and the density of your research permeates the pages.
This is an account of Japan's most famous revenge story set in 1702.
This is how Lady Asano has felt since the forced suicide of her father. Adrift in a dangerous world, she vows to avenge her fatherís death and restore his name to honor. To do so, she will have to travel the Tokaido Road.
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"Intoxicating... Engrossing... Recreates the colorful people, stunning landscapes and arcane customs of feudal Japan... Robson keeps the story moving deftly through the separate worlds of courtesans, warriors, priests, peasants, poets and actors, with an eye to the complex rules that govern them all." --San Francisco Chronicle
"Robson delights us... She revels in the language and reveals the Japanese as a poetic, witty people." -- The Washington Post
"Breathtaking... Intriguing... It reminds us that the Japanese regard eroticism as an art, a skill as cultivated as flower arranging and pouring tea." --Boston Sunday Herald
"People often ask me which of my books is my favorite. I usually dodge the question by saying that's like asking a parent which child she favors. But sometimes I admit the truth, that The Tokaido Road is the one I like the best. (It's my mother's favorite too). That's because the Japanese culture and history are so alien, exciting and exotic that researching it was the most fun. Set in 1702, the background for TOKAIDO is Japan's most famous revenge story, the fate of the 47 ronin or lordless samurai."
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The Tokaido Road
With her legs folded demurely under her and the toes of one white-clad foot overlapping the other, Cat sat back on her ankles. The cool, tight weave of the thick tatami mat gave slightly under the pressure of her toes and knees. Cat leaned forward almost imperceptibly to study her guest.
At first she had thought, with relief, that he had passed out from drinking too much of Old Jug Face's watered sake. That would have been fortuitous. He was one of those guests in whom unconsciousness was the most desirable trait.
Cat had planned to leave him there, but that was when she had assumed he would waken the next morning with nausea writhing like a tangle of squid in his stomach and the rueful realization that he would have to pay a great deal for the privilege of feeling so bad.
The heavy robe of wadded yellow cotton was bunched up under him, revealing bowed, hairy legs sprawled carelessly. Saliva oozed in a froth from his half-opened lips and dangled in a thin rope from his chin. His wiry black topknot was askew. His eyes were open.
Cat laid two pale, slender fingers on his neck. Nothing. Not a flutter of a heartbeat. The customer had left his homely body, never to return. The next occupants would be small, white, and legless. Already a hardy fly, an emigre from the privy, was circling solicitously.
Cat felt panic rising from the seat of her soul, behind her navel. She drew several deep breaths. She needed to be calm. She needed to think.
Soon the watchman would strike midnight, the hour of the Rat, on his wooden clappers. At midnight Centipede would close the small door in the Great Gate. He would lock the corpse into the pleasure district and into Cat's company until cock's crow.
Cat was sure the guest had been murdered. The murder weapon, or what was left of it, lay on the lacquered tray that also served as a table. The blowfish had been cleaned carelessly for a deadly purpose.
Only a single slice of fugu, blowfish, remained. It was paper thin and transparent enough for Cat to see the deep blue waves painted on the porcelain platter under it. Unless cleaned correctly, a speck of the poison in the fish's liver could kill a person.
As the numbness spread through his body, the guest had been able to think clearly, but unable to talk. He probably had known he was dying when he'd lost control of his arms and legs and then his lungs and sphincter.
With a chopstick Cat poked the last slice of fugu. Not often did death arrive in such a lovely package. The filmy slices of pale flesh had been artistically arranged in the form of a flying crane. It was the sort of ironic gesture that Lord Kira would make. The crane was the symbol of longevity. Cat knew the fish had been meant for her.
Kira, Cat thought. He won't be content until he's killed me.
Lucia at the grave site of the 47 ronin in 1970.
There are many places along The Tokaido Road that have not changed much since the early 1700s. Lucia lived in Japan in 1970 and made three more trips in the late 1980s to research this book.
Research is an odd exercise because you just never know what you'll find. Isn't it strange that the guidebooks never mention this extremely manly shrine? There's at least one for women, too.
See the "Letters From Japan" page for more Japanese background.
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The German edition:
The Dutch edition:
email Lucia directly: firstname.lastname@example.org
©Lucia St. Clair Robson 2001 - 2010
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