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Reference Series

To read TOYO PRess’s Reference Series is to rediscover the great classics on Japanese travel, history, culture, and folklore. Enjoy the quality treatment these timeless works deserve, with thoroughly re-edited and modernized texts, glossary, and index.


Samurai Trails: Wanderings on the Japanese High Road

Lucian Swift Kirtland (1881–1965), walking Japan’s ancient Tõkaidō and Nakasendō highroads on the eve of the First World War, is still very much the late-nineteenth century traveler, pith helmet and all. And while, like so many of his contemporaries, he is prone to the unabashed Orientalism of his day, he is thankfully free of the “eczema of reformers.” Despite his determination to be of “extreme magnitude in the perspective,” Kirkland soon falls head-over heel for Japan’s irresistible charm, surprising us with his evocative, unprejudiced observations—of a group of men in conversation, of a whistful girl at a barber shop dreaming of another life.

With Kirthland we discover a Japan that has by now all but disappeared, a rural and mystical landscape occupied by abandoned temples, thatched cottages, old inns that once hosted feudal lords on their way to the capital. It is a landscape inhabited by quintessentially Japanese characters—a white-bearded pilgrim leaning on his staff, a fairy-like girl carrying a barrel-sized basket on her back, her eyes fixed on some wild flowers in her hand.

As to every visitor, past and present, Japan to Kirtland proves a country full of wonderful contradictions. Thus, lost in the mist among the mountains on the Nakasendō, he and his companions encounter a peasants in traditional rush grass cape, terrified at the sight of aliens, while at the next inn a maid sits down at the foot of his bed for a cigarette and a casual conversation about marriage.

158 pp, 6 x 9, soft
Map, glossary, index
Travel / Japanese history 
ISBN: 978-9492722010


An Artist’s Letters from Japan

LuciaJohn la Farge (1835–1910), traveling Japan’s interior in the summer of 1886, sees Japan in a way only he can: through the eyes of a painter, observing a vast canvas in which he discerns every color, every shade, every nuance, every remarkable detail.

With La Farge we visit the Tokugawa tombs at Nikkō, the Daibutsu at Kamakura, the many temples of the ancient capitals of Kyoto and Nara. We learn of the people and traditions that produced these sites that still draw millions to Japan. With him we marvel at the ingenuity of the architecture, the exquisite detail of the sculptures, the refreshing “simplicity of attitude” as expressed in the paintings.

Coming face to face with a profoundly different culture, La Farge is at times perplexed, bewildered, even frustrated, but he is always admiring—of its ingenuity, of its tenacity, of its close relationship with nature as expressed in all its manifestations.

An Artist’s Letters from Japan is full of sensitive descriptions, of the pleasant domesticity of city life, of the hustle and bustle on Japan’s great thoroughfares, of everyday people going about their everyday lives. It is a marvelous panoramic view of a Japan still firmly rooted in its traditions, but already in the thrall of Westernization. It is, in short, a work of art.

178 pp, 6 x 9, soft
Map, glossary, index
Travel / Japanese history 
ISBN: 978-9492722034



Traveling Japan’s deep Interior

Isabella Lucy Bird (1831–1904), the English author, photographer, and explorer, is one of the most intrepid foreigner to have traveled Japan’s interior during the late nineteen seventies, not long after Japan’s forced opening to the Western powers.

Overcoming her initial fears Bird sets out on a journey that lasts the better part of a year. The result is more than impressive. Enduring considerable hardships, she puts behind her a stunning twelve hundred miles in her pursuit of “the unbeaten track,” much of it through Japan’s unexplored northern regions. On the final leg of her journey Bird crosses over to the northern island of Hokkaido, where she stays with the native Ainu, recording their ancient customs.

On her long journey Bird witnesses landslides, a bridge being swept away by swollen rivers, a boatmen being drowned in a rapid’s swirling waters. Though not all is drama. She observes a matsuri in Kurokawa, joins a school class in Nikkō, attends a wedding in Kubota, and ends up in a mixed-sex bathhouse in Nakano.

While Western in her attitude, Bird is always curious, always learning, always willing to take the Asian perspective. Among Japan’s early Western visitors, Bird’s account now stands out as perhaps the most insightful, the most understanding, and the most comprehensive record of a Japan that has all but vanished.

290 pp, 6 x 9, soft
Map, glossary, index
Travel / Japanese history 
ISBN:  978-9492722041



Japan’s Critical Years: As Witnessed by an English Diplomat

Ernest Mason Satow (1843–1929), a British scholar, diplomat and Japanologist, spent his young years as a translator and interpreter at the British Japan Consular Service between 1862 and 1883. Arriving in Yokohama in the wake of the Namamugi Incident, in which a British merchant was cut down from his horse along the Tôkaidô by samurai. Satow’s life in Japan becomes a long string of adventures in which he often finds himself at the center of events.

Sailing with the allied force sent out to enforce passage through the Shimonoseki Straits, he lands with British troops at Dannoura and, in the course of two heady days, sees action on several occasions. He also witnesses at close quarters the fighting between the shôgun’s army and the Satsuma-Chôshû alliance.

Due to his superb command of Japanese, he becomes privy to the intense negotiation between the foreign powers, the ancient Bakufu regime, and the small group of rising young statesmen from Japan’s most western provinces. In the course of these Satow’s gains a fascinating insight into the workings of a staid feudal society amidst the urgent need for modernization.

Satow’s memoir is a mesmerizing account of Japan’s initial struggles with belligerent foreign powers, the rise of the Satsuma-Chôshû alliance, the downfall of the Bakufu, and the eventual restoration of imperial authority and the establishment of a fledgling democracy, an event now known as the Meiji Restoration.

414 pp, 6 x 9, soft
Map, glossary, index
Travel / Japanese history 
ISBN: 978-9492722065



Hearn’s Japan, Vol 1: Writings from a Mystical Country

Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), the son of an Irish Surgeon-Major and a Greek woman of noble lineage, who settled in Japan after a checkered career in journalism in Cincinnati and New Orleans, is still considered by many the most astute interpreter of the country and its people.

In the first part of this series, we follow Hearn as he arrives in Yokohama in the spring of 1580 and is immediately taken with its 'sun-steeped ways, ' the ubiquitous kuruma with their oddly gesticulating runners, the narrow streets with their 'profusion of Chinese and Japanese characters in white, black, blue, or gold decorating everything'--all to Hearn is 'unspeakably pleasurable and new.'

His unquenchable curiosity leads him outside the town's European quarter. Starting with local temples and shrines, he soon wanders farther afield, to Kamakura, home of the famous Engaku-ji, Kenchô-ji, Hasedera, and the great Daibutsu statue. From there, he visits the island of Enoshima and its Dragon Cavern. Then to Yokohama again to visit a Bonichi, attend a Bon Matsuri, observe a Bon Odori. And then to Matsue, the place to which his name has become so inextricably linked.

Led, introduced, and informed by guides and friends, with each experience, Hearn's love for the Japanese grows, his understanding for their ways deepens. And it is this pairing of love and insight that make his Writings From a Mystical Country so compelling and enchanting--even now, more than a century after his death.

414 pp, 6 x 9, soft
Map, glossary, index
Travel / Japanese history 
ISBN: 978-9492722089



Hearn’s Japan, Vol 2: Writings from a Mystical Country

Lafcadio Hearn (1850-1904), the son of an Irish Surgeon-Major and a Greek woman of noble lineage, who settled in Japan after a checkered career in journalism in Cincinnati and New Orleans, is still considered by many the most astute interpreter of the country and its people.

In the second part of this series, we join Hearn in Matsue in Izumo province, the place to which his name has become so inextricably linked. We are introduced to his samurai dwelling (yashiki) and its three gardens with exotic flowers, birds, and insects. And we meet his fellow teachers and eager students at the two schools at which he takes up his new position of teacher, a role in which he would support his new Japanese family for the rest of his life.

We join him on yet more excursions, to the neighboring province of Hôki (Tottori), and by ferry to the Oki archipelago to visit and explore its many varied islands and communities. There, far away from ‘the far-reaching influences of high-pressure civilization,’ he learns more about the Japanese soul, about ghosts and goblins, and about the enigmatic Japanese smile, which seems always on display, even in the most wretched of times.

Led, introduced, and informed by guides and friends, with each experience, Hearn’s love for the Japanese grows, his understanding for their ways deepens. And it is this pairing of love and insight that make his Writings From a Mystical Country so compelling and enchanting—even now, more than a century after his death.

414 pp, 6 x 9, soft
Map, glossary, index
Travel / Japanese history 
ISBN:  978-9492722096



Content sample of Samurai Trails

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