I’m pleased to welcome wonderful author Patricia Kiyono back to Child of Yden, as she discusses how her rich family heritage found its way into her latest release. Enjoy!
~ S.G. Rogers
Thank you so much for having me on your blog today, S.G! I’m very excited about the release of The Samurai’s Garden. In writing this, I drew on my own Japanese heritage, and I thought today I’d share a little bit about it.
Growing up, we celebrated American holidays like our friends and neighbors did. My dad, though he was of Japanese descent, was born and raised in America, so our home looked much like everyone else’s, except for a few touches that my mom, who lived in Japan until she married her Japanese-American soldier, insisted on. In our living room, beautiful kimono-clad dolls posed in glass cases. In various places of the house, streamers of origami cranes attested to her belief in their ability to grant wishes. And occasionally, when I got home from school, I’d hear the stereo playing recordings of traditional Japanese songs.
In one corner of the living room was a small case with a picture of my deceased grandparents. It had a candle in front of it, and every day mom would put fresh water and fruit. Sometimes she would put a small bowl of rice there, too. She would bring the food and water, ring a little bell, and then bow. This was the family shrine, or obutsudan. I didn’t know much about the traditions surrounding these rituals. Maybe it’s because I didn’t ask. My brothers and I just accepted these actions as part of mom’s life.
Now that I have a home of my own, I realize these rituals were an important part of who mom is. My living room also has touches of Japan. I have a two-foot tall Japanese doll in a glass case—a wedding gift from my relatives. She stands in a place of honor, next to my piano. She’s a reminder of where I came from. This reminder was one of the reasons I needed to write a story full of the traditions and history of the land of my birth. And so The Samurai’s Garden came to be. I hope you’ll enjoy reading about them, and about the characters who bring these traditions to life.
Hiro Tanaka prepared for a life as a samurai warrior. But his world changed when Japan’s feudal system was abolished by the Emperor. Now, he must find a new vocation. Disillusioned with fighting and violence, he travels alone, going north to the island of Hokkaido. Many other samurai wander through the country and are known as ronin. Some have forsaken their honorable way to prey on the less fortunate.
Hanako Shimizu experienced first-hand the devastation caused by these disreputable wanderers. The previous winter, they raided her farm and killed her husband. Now, she needs to rebuild but has no money and no prospects — except for the dubious intentions of the town merchant.
When Hiro, tired of his wandering, encounters Hanako in the market, arguing with the merchant, he poses as her late husband’s cousin then offers to help her on the farm in exchange for a place to stay. Working on the land, Hiro finally finds the peace he has been seeking. But the reappearance of the rogue ronin, led by an unscrupulous leader from Hiro’s past, forces him to take up his swords again. But now, the stakes are higher.
This time, he’s fighting from the heart.