Monday, February 26, 2007

C for Concubine

The Concubine's Tattoo by Laura Joh Rowland is a 1998 novel set during the Tokugawa Shogunate period (a.k.a Edo Period) of Japan. The hero is Sano Ichiro, a detective in the employ of the shogun, Tokugawa Tsunayoshi (who ruled from 1680-1709). Sano must quickly solve the murder of one of the shogun's concubines, who suddently (and violently) dies in her chamber, interrupting Sano's wedding ceremony.

The book is pulp fiction, set in historical Japan. I typically enjoy reading pulp fiction which centres on a subject that I'm fascinated with (which is why I like reading Michael Crichton.) I'm fascinated by Japan so I thought I'd really enjoy the book. However, I was left less than satisfied with the writing style. (The story would make a great movie though.)

I discovered something new about Japanese culture from this book - the burakumin. This is a minority group in Japan that has historically (and perhaps still presently) been discriminated against. I'll let you read the above Wikipedia entry if you're interested. Interestingly, in another book I'm currently reading (Adult Manga: Culture and Power in Contemporary Japan by Sharon Kinsella,) the burakumin are thought to perhaps be some of the original creators or purveyors of manga in the early 20th century. Also, in the 60s and 70s, there was a prevalent theme in manga associated with the rights of the lower classes, including a number of stories featuring Burakumin protagonists.

Another Sano Ichiro detective book sits on my shelf, S for Samurai... I mean, The Samurai's Wife. Both books were gifts, so I'm bound to read them. I hope Rowland's writing improved for her next detective novel.


Sean O'Hagan said...

Thanks to Robert Manny ( for the music.

Sean O'Hagan said...

The play button in this post is a "widget" from JamGlue, a site dedicated to recording and mixing original audio content.

Kathleen said...

Cool ongaku yo! :)