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The Street of a Thousand Blossoms Hardcover – September 4, 2007

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 432 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press; 1st edition (September 4, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312274823
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312274825
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #494,280 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In her ambitious sixth novel (Dreaming Water; The Samurai's Garden), Tsukiyama tackles life in Japan before, during and after WWII. The story follows brothers Hiroshi and Kenji Matsumoto through the devastation of war and the hardships of postwar reconstruction. Orphaned when their parents were killed in a boating accident, the boys are raised by their grandparents in Tokyo. In 1939, Hiroshi is 11 and dreams of becoming a sumo champion, and soon Kenji will discover his own passion, to become a master maker of Noh masks. Their grandparents, Yoshio and Fumiko Wada, are vividly rendered; the war years and early postwar years, centered in their home on the street of the novel's title, are powerfully portrayed. Hiroshi and Kenji reach pinnacles of success in their chosen fields as well as in love, and while Tsukiyama's close attention to historical and geographical detail enriches the narrative, she isn't as successful when describing Hiroshi's wrestling career; the matches all begin to blur together. The lingering effects of war, on the other hand, are clear, and these, combined with a nation's search for pride and hope after surrender comprise the novel's oversized heart. (Sept.)
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From Booklist

Tsukiyama is a mesmerizing storyteller who focuses on family, tradition, and the solace of nature and art. Of both Chinese and Japanese descent, she has explored the history and culture of both lands, here imagining life in Japan during its most catastrophic time as experienced by the orphaned brothers Hiroshi and Kenji. Raised by their loving grandparents in Yanaka, a residential area of Tokyo, they are opposites. Big, strong, and confident, Hiroshi believes he is destined to be a sumo wrestler. Slight, quiet, and artistic, Kenji discovers his love for mask making and Noh theater by accident. They each secure mentors, but just as the good brothers embark on their demanding apprenticeships, war breaks out. Tsukiyama's spare prose reflects the clean-lined, distilled-to-the-essence aesthetic of Japanese art as she writes appreciatively and informatively about the arts of sumo and Noh, and piercingly about the horrific deprivations and tyranny of war, the firebombing of Tokyo, the American occupation, and the rapid evolution of modern Japan. As her endearing characters attempt to adjust to the new while preserving the old, Tsukiyama evokes a classic vision of a blasted world returning to life. Tsukiyama's historically detailed and plot-driven story of resilience, discipline, loyalty, and right action is popular fiction at its most intelligent, appealing, and rewarding. Seaman, Donna

More About the Author

Gail Tsukiyama is the bestselling author of ?ve previous novels, including Women of the Silk and The Samurai's Garden, as well as the recipient of the Academy of American Poets Award and the PEN Oakland/Josephine Miles Literary Award. She divides her time between El Cerrito and Napa Valley, California.

Customer Reviews

The characters are developed gradually and deeply.
William C. Mead
Reading this book is an artistic as well as emotional experience, as the writer creates a delicate story and lovely characters.
Anne M. Hunter
Interesting and historical period during World War II, seen from the Japanese point of few.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

64 of 67 people found the following review helpful By Pamela S. Jones on May 14, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Our CHATTER Reading Group reads literary works of fiction and nonfiction. Based largely on the 4.5-star rating other readers had given it, we read and discussed "Street of a Thousand Blossoms". Knowing that everyone else had rated this book on average 4.5 stars, it was difficult for us to go against the grain. We even discussed WHY others might have liked it so much. Certainly, it was interesting to consider Japan during the WWII period and realize that the "enemy" of the U.S. is a country made up of people just like us and that they suffered.

Also, if asked ahead of time, "How would you like to read a book about Sumo Wrestling?", we certainly would have said, "No, thanks." Yet, it was also extremely interesting to read about this sport, admittedly previously unknown to us. The same goes for Noh Mask Artistry. I researched and shared photographs of masks and information about how they are made with the group. We also shared a sumo wrestling video. So, again, this book gets points for its educational aspects, which lead to a very interesting book club discussion.

Our group thought it was necessary to include our opinion of the book as a warning to the uninformed reader who might think, "this must be a real page-turner with reviews like that!" The writing style felt predictable and left us wondering about a few things (such as, why include that bit about Aki catching the caretaker in the middle of the night - what was the purpose of that?) After a slow beginning, the book did pick up a little. But, quite frankly, if it had not been a reading group book, it would have been hard for us to get all the way to the end before giving up (some members didn't even make it that far).

This book was voted an average of 3 stars by the 6 reading group members who finished reading it.
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Format: Hardcover
Tsukiyama returns with a novel that spans pre-World War II Japan, the devastating bombings, occupation and the gradual recovery of a country battered by the forces of war and defeat. As young boys, Kenji and Hiroshi Matsumoto, orphaned grandsons of Yoshio and Fumiko Wada, are early attracted to the lifestyles they will pursue. Hiroshi wants nothing more than to become a sumitori; Kenji dreams of crafting the otherworldly masks used in the Noh Theater as taught by his sensei, Akira Yoshiwara. Watching proudly as their grandsons grow into responsible young men, the threat of impending war interferes with the family's plans for the future, the citizens of the Yanaka district of northeastern Tokyo consumed with surviving ever decreasing rations, old and young males called to serve their country on the front lines. While Kenji's sensei escapes to the mountains and Hiroshi delays his training with the master, Sho Tanaka, people gather in homemade bomb shelters, hoping to survive each new attack.

The eventual bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki throws the country into chaos, Tanaka's wife lost to her children during the conflagration, Aki and Haru returning to their father alone. The wounds are slow to heal after such devastation, but Hiroshi and Kenji renew their separate passions, Hiroshi training diligently, one eye on the growing Aki, Kenji opening his own mask shop, married and content with every aspect of his life but one. Time passes, one generation giving way to another, parents and grandparents bequeathing the future to their children. Finally free of the grief of the past, Kenji and Hiroshi deal with the challenges of every day existence, the small, but painful tragedies and fragile victories that define them in the world.
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21 of 23 people found the following review helpful By D. Obal on October 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Early this morning around 2 AM, I finished The street of a Thousand Blossoms by Gail Tskiyama. Once again she took me in showed me the Asian culture but this time Japan right before WW II,thru the war and the dropping of the bombs and how Japan recovered. It could have been gory but this author has in incredible way with words,so lyrical,even when telling about the horror of the nuclear holocaust.. i give this book a 4.5/5. my favorite by her still is The Samurai's Garden.when I finish one of her books, i am so immersed by her that i wonder if i will ever be able to read another book right away!
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Barbara C. Steele on December 5, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Third book I have read by this author. Each book has taught me something about the asian cultures for which they were written. This book however is my favorite. Those of us who remember WW2 receive a new picture as to the suffering of the Japanese families who were as much a victim of the times as Americans were. A very worthy read and a book I will pass on to friends.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Dizziey on November 16, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Gail Tsukiyama's "The Street of a Thousand Blossoms" centered around two brothers in pre World War II Japan, Hiroshi and Kenji who lived with their grandparents as their parents died when they were young. Hiroshi and Kenji were as different as night and day; Hiroshi, the stronger of the brothers was talented in sumo wrestling while Kenji's interests lie in the art of mask making for Noh actors. The author skillfully portrayed the intersection of their lives with others in this difficult period prior to the war.

This was a wonderful read for me as the author was able to bring to life the different characters in this book. The characters were well-developed and she was able to display their complexities. It was also interesting to read about Japanese who were left behind while the men were involved in the wars abroad. For those interested in learning about the Japanese culture and history, this would be a great read too. Highly recommended.
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