An Imperial Concubine's Tale: Scandal, Shipwreck, and Salvation in Seventeenth-Century Japan

Kobo ebook | December 11, 2012

byG. G. Rowley

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Japan in the early seventeenth century was a wild place. Serial killers stalked the streets of Kyoto at night, while noblemen and women mingled freely at the imperial palace, drinking saké and watching kabuki dancing in the presence of the emperor’s principal consort. Among these noblewomen was an imperial concubine named Nakanoin Nakako, who in 1609 became embroiled in a sex scandal involving both courtiers and young women in the emperor’s service. As punishment, Nakako was banished to an island in the Pacific Ocean, but she never reached her destination. Instead, she was shipwrecked and spent fourteen years in a remote village on the Izu Peninsula, before being set free in an amnesty. Returning to Kyoto, Nakako began a new adventure: she entered a convent and became a Buddhist nun.

Recounting the remarkable story of this resilient woman and the war-torn world in which she lived, G. G. Rowley investigates aristocratic family archives, village storehouses, and the records of imperial convents to re-create Nakako’s life from beginning to end. She follows the banished concubine as she endures rural exile, receives an unexpected reprieve, and rediscovers herself as the abbess of a nunnery. As she unravels Nakako’s unusual tale, Rowley also profiles the little-known lives of samurai women who sacrificed themselves on the fringes of the great battles that brought an end to more than a century of civil war. Written with keen insight and genuine affection, An Imperial Concubine’s Tale tells the true story of a woman’s extraordinary life in seventeenth-century Japan.

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Japan in the early seventeenth century was a wild place. Serial killers stalked the streets of Kyoto at night, while noblemen and women mingled freely at the imperial palace, drinking saké and watching kabuki dancing in the presence of the emperor’s principal consort. Among these noblewomen was an imperial concubine named Nakanoin Naka...

G. G. Rowley teaches English and Japanese literature at Waseda University in Tokyo. She has written and/or translated several biographies of Japanese women, including Yosano Akiko and The Tale of Genji and Masuda Sayo's Autobiography of a Geisha.

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Format:Kobo ebookPublished:December 11, 2012Publisher:Columbia University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0231530870

ISBN - 13:9780231530873

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface and Acknowledgments
Introduction
Chapter 1. A Courtier's Life, in and out of the World
Chapter 2. The Year 1600: A World Again at War
Chapter 3. At the Court of the Dragon
Chapter 4. Scandal
Chapter 5. The Tale of Kazan
Chapter 6. Shipwreck
Chapter 7. The Long Reprieve
Chapter 8. Salvation
Epilogue
Principal Characters
Glossary
Abbreviations
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Editorial Reviews

An Imperial Concubine's Tale is a most welcome contribution to our understanding of the lives of women in early modern Japan.