BOOKS / 出版物

Unsung Heroes of Old Japan

Unsung Heroes of Old Japan

Isoda Michifumi
Translated by Juliet Winters Carpenter



Published by JPIC | Hardcover | ISBN 978-4-916055-76-7 | 208 pages | 210mm (h) x 148mm (w) | March 2017

About the Book

“I have waited eagerly for the day when Unsung Heroes of Old Japan would be translated into English and made available to people around the world. I wrote the book with the faint hope that people might one day become more like the men and women portrayed here. Whether humanity has any universal values, I can’t say. But looking back over the sweep of human history, I am convinced that values like those shown here result in happiness for the individual and society.”
(From ‘Preface to the English edition’ by the author)

True stories of three little-known Japanese of the Edo period who lived lives of sublime selflessness and purity, blurring the boundary between self and others.

Merchant Kokudaya Jūzaburō comes up with a brilliant scheme to rescue his dying town from poverty. He and others go deep into debt, risking all to raise money for the cash-strapped daimyo and receive annual interest in return.

Prodigious scholar and former Zen monk Nakane Tōri refuses a government post and elects to live in abject poverty, weaving sandals. Though perhaps the age's greatest poet, he throws his works into the fire and ends his days teaching in a country village.

Ōtagaki Rengetsu, a noted beauty in Kyoto, loses two husbands and five children. She becomes a Buddhist nun and devotes her life to poetry and pottery. With her savings she feeds the hungry and builds a bridge across Kamo River.

About the Author

ISODA Michifumi

Michifumi Isoda received a Ph.D. in history from Keio University and is currently a professor at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies in Kyoto. He re-creates the spirits and minds of significant figures from Japan's past through his unceasing appraisal of historical materials and extensive knowledge of socioeconomic history. Hist bestselling novel Bushi no kakeibo: Kaga han gosanyōmono no bakumatsu ishin (A samurai's account book: The accounting officer of the Kaga Domain on the eve of the Meiji Restoration) won the 2003 Shinchō Document Prize, and was subsequently turned into a movie. He has written numerous other works, many of which have received literary awards.


「『無私の日本人』が英語に翻訳されて、世界中の人々の手に届く日を、私は待ちわびていました。なぜなら、この本は、いつの日か、人類がこうなってくれたら、という淡い希望を胸に抱いて、書いた本だからです。人類普遍の価値というものが、あるのか、どうかはわかりません。しかし、永い歴史に鑑みて、このような価値観をもったほうが、人と社会は幸せになりやすい、というものは、はっきり、あるように思います。」 (磯田道史「英語版に寄せて」より。)
















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Original Japanese Version / 原書情報



磯田道史 著

文藝春秋 刊