cover image Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey

Daughters of the Samurai: A Journey

Janice P. Nimura. Norton, $27.95 (352p) ISBN 978-0-393-07799-5

Through the sensitive weaving of correspondence and archival papers, Nimura produces a story of real-life heroines in this masterful biography of three samurai daughters sent to the U.S. after the Civil War. They were the “first [Japanese] girls ever selected to receive a foreign education” and the first nonwhite students at Vassar College, and in 1882 they returned to their homeland determined to start a school for girls. Nimura contextualizes the vast changes in Japanese society that followed U.S. Admiral Perry’s 1853 arrival in Yokohama and notes how, upon observing the contribution American women made to society, Kiyotaka Kuroda, a forward-thinking bureaucrat, proposed that a delegation of students to the U.S. (the Iwakura Mission) include girls. The girls—aged 7 to 11—faced culture shock after disembarking in San Francisco with the American ambassador, but formed strong bonds with their new American caregivers. The trio, as young women, repatriated with some discomfort to a nation where fascination with America was waning. While their personal struggles faded over time, their legacy carries on with Tsuda College in Tokyo, named for the youngest member of the trio. As Japan continues to grapple with the status and role of its educated women, Nimura offers a testimonial to their collective strength and determination. [em](May) [/em]