Woman in the Crested Kimono

The Life of Shibue Io and Her Family Drawn from Mori Ogai's Shibue Chusai

Edwin McClellan

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“The life of Shibue Io and her family, a kind of Japanese Buddenbrooks, may be unknown in the West, but her rich and engaging story marks the intersection of a remarkable woman with a fascinating time in history.”—Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha

 

“It stands clichÈs about traditional Japan on their heads. . . .Together with the people she knew, Io lives on in this literary album of old family pictures. It is well worth looking at.”—Ian Buruma, New York Times Book Review

 

“A most engaging book. Seeing Shibue Io through the various lenses of her husband, her son, Tamotsu (from whom much information is gleaned), the novelist Ogai, and the biographer McClellan is an interesting, moving, disarming experience.”—Donald Richie, Japan Times

 

“McClellan. . . has created a lively world, populated by women of various classes, samurai, doctors, poets, merchants, juvenile delinquents, and old eccentrics. The various incidents in which these people become involved provide a vivid picture of late Tokugawa society. This is a remarkable accomplishment.”—Nakai Yoshiyuki, Monumenta Nipponica

 

“An engrossing, informative, and extremely useful book. . . . Woman in the Crested Kimono is not simply the account of one unusual Tokugawa woman. It is an evocation of a family, and through a family the entire samurai class, going from the comparative affluence of the late Tokugawa period through the turmoils of the restoration and beyond.”—Susan Napier, Journal of Asian Studies

 

Daughter of a merchant family in nineteenth-century Japan and wife of a distinguished scholar-doctor of the samurai class, Shibue Io was a woman remarkable in her own right for her exceptionally keen mind and fearless spirit. Edwin McClellan now draws on the biography of her husband, written by Mori Ogai, to tell the story of Shibue Io, her society, and her times.

 

 

Edwin McClellan is Sumitomo Professor of Japanese Studies at Yale University. 

"An eloquent evocation of a remarkable woman of nineteenth-century Japan which seamlessly blends the voices of time: her story recalled by her children, recounted in Ogai's historical novel about her husband, and now masterfully reclaimed—and honored—by McClellan in a tale as spare as it is moving."—Carol Gluck, Columbia University

"The story of the Shibue family, recounted here with enormous skill and sensitivity by Edwin McClellan, is a uniquely moving record of what it was like to live through Japan's nineteenth century upheaval. Chusai, his Io, his children and family friends are not famous. They are quite ordinary, which makes their story all the more convincing, all the more accessible, and-paradoxically-all the more extraordinary. Usually great events are shown through the lives of the great, but not here. Instead we can see people whose lives are completely disrupted by events beyond their control. Through their experience we are offered a glimpse of what the Meiji Restoration cost those caught up in it."—Harold Bolitho, Professor of Japanese History, Harvard University

"This elegantly crafted book makes quiet but important contributions to the history of society, of medicine, and of women in the last century of Tokugawa rule. Professor McClellan has plucked the life course of an extraordinary woman from Ogai's biography of her doctor husband, from service in a baronial residence to courageous wife and quiet household manager. I know of nothing that quite illumines the social history of its times so well."—Marius B. Jansen, Professor Emeritus Japanese History, Princeton University

"Edwin McClellan's book is a superb portrait of a woman living through the dramatic transition from late Edo to Meiji Japan as well as a work of distinguished literary and historical scholarship. It illuminates her complex society for a modern reader, beyond the scope of Mori Ogai's classic biography."—Howard Hibbett, Professor of Japanese literature, Emeritus, Harvard University

"The life of Shibue Io and her family, a kind of Japanese Buddenbrooks, may be unknown in the West, but her rich and engaging story marks the intersection of a remarkable woman with a fascinating time in history."—Arthur Golden, author of Memoirs of a Geisha

"This is a richly informative statement about the culture of Japan at a critical transitional period in its history.  It is also a delight to read."—Keith Brown, University of Pittsburgh

"The recollections of her son and Mori Ogai's biography of her husband enable McClellan to describe the life of Shibue Io (1816-84), the spirited daughter of a wealthy merchant, wife of a scholar-doctor in feudal service, and mother of children whose career prospects were completely altered by the Meiji restoration (1868) that abolished the domains and opened Japan to the West. Io, her close friends and relations, and the sophisticated urban culture of the samurai class are vividly and sympathetically portrayed.  This book should attract general readers as well as Japanese specialists."—Evelyn S. Rawski, Library Journal

"It stands cliches about traditional Japan on their heads. . . . Together with the people she knew, Io lives on in this literary album of old family pictures.  It is well worth looking at." —Ian Buruma, New York Times Book Review

"The portrait of an exceptional woman who refused to accept inferiority by gender."—Asiaweek

"A most engaging book.  Seeing Shibue Io through the various lenses of her husband, her son, Tamotsu (from whom much information is gleaned), the novelist Ogai, and the biographer McClellan is an interesting, moving, disarming experience. . . .In McClellan as in Ogai, the past lives once again."—Donald Richie, Japan Times

"McClellan has thus successfully turned the esoteric work into an English biography. . . .  He has created a lively world, populated by women of various classes, samurai, doctors, poets, merchants, juvenile delinquents, and old eccentrics.  The various incidents in which these people become involved provide a vivid picture of late Tokugawa society.  This is a remarkable accomplishment."—Nakai Yoshiyuki, Monumenta Nipponica

"Professor McClellan has done a splendid piece of work in selecting and translating the numerous passages in Mori's work relating to Io and has provided precisely the right amount of linking and explanatory material for those not acquainted with the Japan of her period."—Asian Affairs

"An engrossing, informative, and extremely useful book. . . .  Woman in the Crested Kimono is not simply the account of one unusual Tokugawa woman. It is an evocation of a family, and through a family the entire samurai class, going from the comparative affluence of the late Tokugawa period through the turmoils of the restoration and beyond. 

Woman in the Crested Kimono breaks fresh ground among Western studies of the era by presenting a richly detailed picture of a class that was far more representative of that era than the demimonde of Saikaku and was also interesting and appealing in its own right."—Susan Napier, Journal of Asian Studies

 

"With Ogai, McClellan has shown us how a meaningful history is made."—Paul Anderer, Journal of Japanese Studies

Named a Notable Book of 1985 by The New York Times Book Review
ISBN: 9780300046182
Publication Date: October 11, 1998
208 pages, 5 1/2 x 8 1/4