A hearty welcome to our guest author today, Patricia Kiyono, who has a new book out called The Samurai’s Garden.
My grandfather, Zenya Seino, arrived in the United States from Japan almost a hundred years ago. He was one of a handful of Asians admitted to the U.S. that year. According to records at Ellis Island, he came with the intention of staying for only a few months. But he stayed the rest of his life.
I never met Grandpa, because he died before I was born. But I’ve seen pictures of him and remember things my dad and grandmother told me. Apparently, he was an extremely talented artist as well as a musician. I’d like to think that if he were still here he would approve of my choices of careers—both as a music teacher and an author.
Grandpa was born about twenty years after the end of the samurai era. He wouldn’t have known people like Hiro Tanaka, the main character in The Samurai’s Garden. But having learned a little bit about his background, I like to think he was raised with the same code of ethics, known as the bushido. He came to a strange country at a time when very few Asians lived here. Most Asians had difficulty finding work because it was felt they took work away from Americans. Fortunately, Grandpa already had a position—Stickly Brothers Furniture hired him to head their art department. He painted elaborate Asian-inspired designs on wood furniture.
Despite their problems, my grandparents assimilated into this new and strange society and made it theirs. I know they faced a lot of hostility and discrimination, especially during the second world war. But they became Americans because they persevered. This little family formed friendships and bonds that have lasted several generations. And this is the sort of character trait that inspired the story of The Samurai’s Garden.
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 firsthand 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.
During her first career, Patricia Kiyono taught elementary music, computer classes, elementary classrooms, and junior high social studies. She now teaches music education at the university level.
She lives in southwest Michigan with her husband, not far from her children and grandchildren. Current interests, aside from writing, include sewing, crocheting, scrapbooking, and music. A love of travel and an interest in faraway people inspires her to create stories about different cultures.
Note: To be eligible to win a copy of The Samurai’s Garden, mention in your comment about an ancestor of yours that you would like to meet.