The Street of a Thousand Blossoms

The Street of a Thousand Blossoms

"Just remember," Yoshio said quietly to his grandsons. "Every day of your lives, you must always be sure what you're fighting for." It is Tokyo in 1939. On the Street of a Thousand Blossoms, two orphaned brothers are growing up with their loving grandparents, who inspire them to dream of a future firmly rooted in tradition. The older boy, Hiroshi, shows unusual skill at t...

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Title:The Street of a Thousand Blossoms
Author:Gail Tsukiyama
Rating:
Edition Language:English

The Street of a Thousand Blossoms Reviews

  • Marion

    I love Gail Tsukiyama's peaceful tone. She does a fabulous job of depicting life in Japan, spanning from the pre-World War II era through to the post-War revival. The characters in this story are wonderful, engaging, and alive. Her descriptions are so real; during the most intense moments of the war, I had to stop to catch my breath because I was so emotionally engaged in the story. I sped through this 420-page book and loved every minute of it.

  • Jennifer

    if we could give half-stars here, i would say 3.5-stars right now. but i also feel like this is one of those novels that sits with you for a while and improves with distance. so i rounded up.

    this is a melancholy story - early on i wasn't sure if i was really getting into the novel and whether what i was feeling was a bit of ennui at the fault of my own disposition or because of the writing. but as i kept going tsuyikama's writing made it worthwhile and i realized that her style was very purposef

    if we could give half-stars here, i would say 3.5-stars right now. but i also feel like this is one of those novels that sits with you for a while and improves with distance. so i rounded up.

    this is a melancholy story - early on i wasn't sure if i was really getting into the novel and whether what i was feeling was a bit of ennui at the fault of my own disposition or because of the writing. but as i kept going tsuyikama's writing made it worthwhile and i realized that her style was very purposeful and deliberate. the novel is a story about endurance and recovery but it is told so quietly. covering the time in japan from world war II through until the mid- to late-60s, this book is quite a saga of two families. i enjoyed very much the way traditional customs and story-telling were woven into the plot. my heart broke a couple of times and my eyes even welled up a bit, though they didn't spill over. (and i am not one who cries when it comes to reading, so on the very few occasions when a story causes this reaction, i am surprised.) a couple of things i would have loved, as complements to the story: a) a map; and b) family trees or a character chart. mostly because i am a sucker for these things when they do appear in historical fiction.

    i think if you are a careful reader, one who doesn't mind giving focused time to a special story, you will like this novel.

  • Connie G

    The two orphaned Matsumoto brothers are living on the Street of a Thousand Blossoms with their loving grandparents. The story begins in 1939 when Japan is at war with China and becomes a major force in World War II. It is a time of deprivation as most of the food goes to the neighborhood military police who prey upon the people of Yanaka and sell the goods on the black market. Hiroshi, the older and stronger brother, has dreams of being a sumo wrestler. Kenji, shy and artistic, is mentored by an

    The two orphaned Matsumoto brothers are living on the Street of a Thousand Blossoms with their loving grandparents. The story begins in 1939 when Japan is at war with China and becomes a major force in World War II. It is a time of deprivation as most of the food goes to the neighborhood military police who prey upon the people of Yanaka and sell the goods on the black market. Hiroshi, the older and stronger brother, has dreams of being a sumo wrestler. Kenji, shy and artistic, is mentored by an artist who makes Noh masks for the theater. Tokyo is fire bombed near the end of the war, although most of the people in Yanaka survive.

    After the war, Hiroshi begins training in sumotori. The story also follows the lives of the two daughters of the sumo master. Some of the characters have a strong passion for the traditional arts of Japan, while others are looking to the future of a prosperous new Japan when they make their career and lifestyle choices.

    I enjoyed the look at Japanese culture, especially the Noh theater, and the training and rituals practiced by the sumotori. I just loved the boys' grandparents who both possessed an inner strength and warm hearts. Tragedy after tragedy touched the lives of the people who were important to Hiroshi and Kenji, especially in the post-war years. But the writing was so calm and controlled that the tragic events hardly raised an emotional response as I was reading. So while I loved the immersion in Japanese culture, it seemed like some situations needed a little more emotional fire.

  • Michael

    A tender and sometimes heartbreaking story of two brothers, Hiroshi and Kenji, coming of age in Tokyo near the beginning of World War 2 and striving to achieve their dreams up into the 60’s. One has the ambition to become a champion sumo wrestler and the other to become a master at making wooden masks for the Noh theater, goals which are supported by the nurturing grandparents who raised them after their parents died when they were young.

    The affinity of these brothers for traditional culture and

    A tender and sometimes heartbreaking story of two brothers, Hiroshi and Kenji, coming of age in Tokyo near the beginning of World War 2 and striving to achieve their dreams up into the 60’s. One has the ambition to become a champion sumo wrestler and the other to become a master at making wooden masks for the Noh theater, goals which are supported by the nurturing grandparents who raised them after their parents died when they were young.

    The affinity of these brothers for traditional culture and values contrasts with the modern quest of their country for world domination and the cataclysmic end of that illusion. The brothers’ stories are intertwined with that of two sisters, daughters of Hiroshi’s sumo master. They all were affected profoundly by the fire bombing of Tokyo, which killed more than 100,000 people.

    The linked stories of these characters is touching and moving, but the package is a bit precious for my jaded sensibilities. I found myself wondering where are the selfish and manipulative people that impact most people’s lives. No significant character has any serious character flaw or misguided ambition to struggle against. Nor did the prose achieve revelations or capture wisdom that would lead me to write down a quote or two. There are some tragedies along the way, which are moving for sure, but I found my feelings had a bit of same hollowness I get from splurging on a viewing of a Hallmark Hall of Fame movie.

  • K.D. Absolutely

    Non-fussy storytelling. Tsukiyama tells the story in a straight manner devoid of gimmicks. Reading this book is like having a friend sitting with you on a park bench in a cool Sunday afternoon. Your friend is a Japanese woman who knows the tale by heart and you have the snow-capped Mt. Fuji at your back. It is springtime and the cherry flowers are in their full bloom. Picture this in your mind as you leaf through the pages of this book and you will know what I am trying to say.

    Particularly in th

    Non-fussy storytelling. Tsukiyama tells the story in a straight manner devoid of gimmicks. Reading this book is like having a friend sitting with you on a park bench in a cool Sunday afternoon. Your friend is a Japanese woman who knows the tale by heart and you have the snow-capped Mt. Fuji at your back. It is springtime and the cherry flowers are in their full bloom. Picture this in your mind as you leaf through the pages of this book and you will know what I am trying to say.

    Particularly in the first half of the book, Tsukiyama's prose is breathtaking in its simplicity and honesty. As a Filipino, I grew up watching WWII movies with Japanese soldiers killing my fellow-Filipinos and raping our women. When I was a toddler, I also heard stories from my parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles about the atrocities of the Japanese forces in our little island. They were not as barbaric as those I read from the book but for a child like me, hearing stories of pregnant woman dying from bomb shrapnels and/or trying to put back her intestines inside her abdominal cavity while riding the motorboat, or with babies bayoneted after being thrown out on the air were harrowing enough for me to think that Japanese people were heartless monsters.

    When I was working in a US multinational chemical company, I had the chance to visit Japan (Nagoya & Tokyo) thrice. At one point, I joked about them killing my forefathers. One of them responded: "Don't believe everything that you heard or read, most of them could be untrue or exaggerated." I did not respond back anymore not because I believed him but I felt that that war was too distant from us already and many Filipinos were already then flocking to Japan to become work and earn Yen to support their families back home. In other words, most Filipinos have already forgotten those atrocities and have moved on with their lives.

    But do we, Filipinos, know what happened to the Japanese during the war? Do we know or did we care to know how they suffered when Hiroshima and Nagasaki were bombed by the Americans and the Allied forces? A couple of months back, I read John Hersey's

    and I really liked it.

    This book,

    chronicles the lives of two brothers before, during and after World War II in a Japanese town. Tsukiyama masterfully interweaved the political landscape with the lives of the two brothers,

    , the sumo wrestler, and

    , the Noh-mask maker. I hope many of us Filipinos read novels like this for us to appreciate the fact that Japanese people are also like us and that they were only blindly following the vision of their Emperor on "Asia for Asians" during that tumultuous period of world history.

    The only reasons why I am not giving this a 5-star rating are: (1) the prolonged "after the war" or second half of the story. That part seems anticlimactic and uneventful for me after the amazing first half and (2) taken as a whole, the book is too simple for me to be amazed.

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