by Amy Stanley
16 Jul 2020
A vivid, deeply researched work of history that explores the life of an unconventional woman in Edo - now known as Tokyo - and a portrait of a great city on the brink of momentous changeThe daughter of a Buddhist priest, Tsuneno was born in 1804 in a rural Japanese village and was expected to live a life much like her mother's. But after three divorces - and with a temperament much too strong-willed for her family's approval - she ran away to make a life for herself in one of the largest cities in the world: Edo, a bustling metropolis at its peak. With Tsuneno as our guide, we experience the drama and excitement of Edo just before the arrival of Commodore Matthew Perry's fleet, which would open Japan up to trade and diplomacy with the West for the first time.
During this pivotal moment in Japanese history, Tsuneno bounces from tenement to tenement, marries a masterless samurai and eventually ends up in the service of a famous city magistrate. An extraordinary woman at an extraordinary time, Tsuneno's life provides a window into nineteenth-century Japanese culture - and a rare view of a woman who sacrificed her family and her reputation to make a new life for herself, despite social conventions. Immersive and gripping, Stranger in the Shogun's City is a revelatory work of history, layered with rich detail and delivered in beautiful prose, about the life of a woman, a city and a culture.