The Samurai's Garden

by Gail Tsukiyama

Paper Book, 1994





New York : St. Martin's Griffin , c1994.


Shortly before World War II, a Chinese man, sent to Japan to recover from tuberculosis, meets a lovely Japanese girl and four older residents, in a story of passion and sacrifice.

Media reviews

Tsukiyama's writing is crystalline and delicate, notably in her evocation of time and place. This quiet tale of affection between people whose countries are at war speaks of a humanity that transcends geopolitics.

User reviews

LibraryThing member webreader
In this wonderful, evocative story, Stephen goes to Tamuri to recuperate from a serious illness at his grandfather's beach house. He has left his mother and sister at home in Hong Kong; left his college in Canton, along with his best friend; and his father remains in Kobe, where he lives and conducts his business--and other matters that impact the family.

Stephen arrives an immature college student yearning for company. He longs for company and conversation and is disconcerted by the isolation and the retic ence of the cottage caretaker, Matsuko. Eventually, they become friends who share a long-time secret that brings another important friend into Stephen's life. And Stephen also finds romance on the beach.

But the Japanese invasion of China affects this idyllic recovery period and brings Stephen maturity and insight as more is revealed to him than he ever expected to find in a sleepy vacation place on the shore.
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LibraryThing member Beth350
An interesting novel that takes a Chinese national into pre-WWII Japan to stay in family property while recovering from a bout of tuberculosis. During the time he is there, the Japanese began their takeover of much of China, including Nanking and Canton. Although their countries are at war, Stephen (Chinese with a wetern name) becomes good friends with Matso the caretaker of the property and with Sashi, a woman with leporasy who lives a life of exile in a leper colony village.

It is a story filled with personal growth, love and acceptance.
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LibraryThing member CarolynSchroeder
This is an interesting, pensive little novel taking place in a Japanese seaside village over a year, through dairy entries by Stephen, a young Chinese man recouperating from tuberculosis during WWII. Back in China, the Japanese "devils" are dominating his homeland, yet Stephen befriends the quiet Japanese villagers, including his wealthy family's home caretaker, and slowly becomes a part of their lives (and vice versa). People who should be enemies because of the war become close friends. He learns about the outbreak of leprosy in the area, various forms of gardening and how illusive the creative spark can be (he is a painter). This is really quite a beautiful novel and the reader floats along as if by the sea where it is situated. However, it does get slow in spots, especially near the end, as the stories of the villagers unfold. But the characters, the time and the beauty of the area, the flowers, food and education, quickly won me over and kept me until the end. Highly recommended, but not for those looking for action and adventure.… (more)
LibraryThing member Beamis12
A wonderfully written and poignant story. Stephen is sent from China to his grandfather's beach house in Japan. It is here that is life becomes entwined with Matsu and Sachi, a leper colony and a young first love with a Japanese girl. He learns about the Japanese invasion of China from radio broadcasts and letters from home. The characters are amazingly fleshed out, I felt like I really knew them by the end of the book. It ended the only way I believe it could have ended. This is a coming of age story, a love story and a story about the true meaning of beauty as well as a historical novel. This is an amazing novel, one which I highly recommend.… (more)
LibraryThing member strandbooks
This novel started a little slow for me as I found the narration awkward. Once I got used to it I really got involved in the story.

The story revolves around a Chinese boy visiting his father's beach house in Japan during the Japanese invasion of China. He meets other characters who teach him the true way to live his life with honor and that an outsider can always find a place to fit in.

I found the history and differences between the chinese and japanese cultures very interesting.
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LibraryThing member marytoelke
This was the first book I read by Gail Tsukiyama. It was recommended by bookstore staff so I thought I would give it a try. I have read everyone of her other books since and would highly recommend them all. It is a story of friendship between a young Chinese aristocrat and a gardener at his family's summer home which takes place during the Japanese invasion of China. The young man learns much from this simple man and we are given a history lesson as to the invasion's effect on the Chinese population. A good read!… (more)
LibraryThing member moonbridge
Slow, beautiful and unusual story of a young Chinese man recovering from illness in a tiny remote town in Japan near to a leper's colony. As the Japanese army moves closer to his Hong Kong home, the boy finds a sense of relationship and belonging within the enemy's land. A book to be savored.
LibraryThing member lepapillonvert
Fiction, A good story with well written characters. Their lives, beliefs, ethics and friendships are on the surface what seems to be simple. As the reader shares their worlds these characters prove to be courageous, caring people.
LibraryThing member lwa
A little slow to start, but what a rewarding read. Rich full characters and wonderful sense of a time and culture.
LibraryThing member papsheen
This is just a beautifully written book--as you read it you think it might just be a story about a young boy at war time, but it is so much more!!!
LibraryThing member neelloc
On the surface, this is a beatiful love story. Deeper, the relationship of Japanese and Chinese character's in the book during the Japanese invasion of China - examine's a human and individual side of conflict. The author is half Japanese and Chinese - is this her examination of her history?
LibraryThing member BCCJillster
Absolutely loved this book, its simplicity, the characters, the message of the garden.
LibraryThing member mostlyliterary
The Samurai's Garden is among my favorite novels. The images and tone and quiet but profound relationships between the characters continue to stay present with me. Gail Tsukiyama is a master at communicating subtleties in human relationships by showing, not telling.
LibraryThing member woosang
A delightful story of a chinese teen, sent to japan on the eve of WW2 to recuperate after getting tuberculosis. He meets his father's servant who he gets to know and the locals, finding them friendly and welcoming even with the war. He finds the simple way of life, instead of being boring, fills his days and he is bereft when the war forces him to leave.

A wonderful piece of prose, this haunting story of the simple people and their tragic lives is a page turner.
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LibraryThing member BullPoint
Chinese man during outbreak of WWII in Japan
LibraryThing member Pmaurer
Gentle loving book about a young man with tuberculosis that is sent to his family's rural home to heal. Set in the background of the war between the Japanese and the Chinese, it also discusses the shared life of a woman with leprosy and the older man who takes care of both the village and the sick man. Additional story is the discovery that his father has a long term mistress. I want to read more by this author.… (more)
LibraryThing member miss_read
Seventeen-year-old Stephen leaves his home in Hong Kong just as the Japanese are poised to invade China before World War II. He is sent to his family's summer home in Japan in order to recuperate from tuberculosis. He meets Matsu, the house's caretaker and his friend Sachi. Stephen's friendships with Matsu and Sachi give him wisdom as he learns about love, honor, and loss. I was particularly interested in Sachi's story, which was deeply moving. Sachi lives in a mountain village leper colony - this was fascinating after recently reading The Island, which dealt with a similar subject. Although the story's main character is Stephen, I felt more interest in Sachi and her life. The love triangle between Matsu, Sachi and Kenzo is an extremely complicated one, and is handled beautifully. This definitely made me want to read more of Tsukiyama's works.… (more)
LibraryThing member bblum
Slow moving like a Japanese garden about a young Chinese man who moves to his grandfather's beach house in Japan to find the cure for taburculois. Leprosy and the Japanese war in China serve as the antagonists.
LibraryThing member Lissa28
I love this book, and this story. A love story on many levels. And a coming of age story. Historical. Beautiful. It reads like a classic; timeless and true.
LibraryThing member TPLThing
This is a story set in the late 1930’s, in a small coastal village in Japan with the backdrop of Japan at war with China. Stephen, a Chinese student recuperating in Tamuri, identifies with the complex love story involving 3 friends. One can feel the physical & spiritual growth of Stephen as his life gets entwined with the other characters. Gail Tsukiyama’s characters are always deep and she makes the reader feel, that they have the qualities of the samurais –loyalty, self discipline and respectful behavior and a strong code of ethics. I loved the description of the gardens with the plain almost ugly rocks symbolizing the life of the female character, a leper. As this short story about longing & isolation progresses, you get involved with it.… (more)
LibraryThing member bookworm12
I struggled with this one. The main character, Stephen, is sent to a small Japanese town to recover from tuberculosis in 1937. He’s a young Chinese man and during his stay he finds himself getting to know the past through the family’s servant, Matsu, and dreading the future approaching war.

Stephen doesn’t make an interesting character. His dialogue and actions fall flat, but it’s the supporting cast that eventually hooked me. Matsu is an older man now, but in his youth leprosy swept through their small town. He lost his sister to the disease and has watched a sweet friend, Sachi, suffer from it for years. Matsu and Sachi were lovely characters and the book is well worth reading for their plots.

BOTTOM LINE: Despite an incredibly slow start, the supporting cast makes the story an interesting read.
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LibraryThing member a_forester
When a story comes back to you after many years that means it left an impression. Gathering good books again and building a library of them to study this one resurfaced. The gentle weaving together of characters becomes a powerful meditation on the meaning of love, family and culture. Able to reach across time and space, this book touches strong emotions and provides the stepping-stones to help the reader imagine places we have never been and times we have never seen. Like a skilled gardener, Tsukiyama takes her time and leads one through an experience that does some of the great things literature is capable of.… (more)
LibraryThing member nicole_a_davis
A really subtle and sweet story in which the settings became characters themselves. I liked the ideas about our conflicting attachments to different places and the sadness we feel about leaving and moving from a place that has been an important factor in our lives.
LibraryThing member dbsovereign
Love and lessons learned growing up during war-time Japan. Sand, a garden, storms, and recovering from TB. Understated, lovely story filled with poignant wisdom.
LibraryThing member fromthecomfychair
This book has a "read more than once" tag because I did read it more than once. When I got to the last third of the book, it started to sound more and more familiar. It is a good story; just not one that I would have read twice had I realized!




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