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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 really deserve: 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 

Content sample of Samurai Trails

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