Friday, July 17, 2009

Review: The Street of a Thousand Blossoms



Set against the backdrop of World War II, Gail Tsukiyama’s “Street of Thousand Blossoms” delves deep into the lives of two brothers – Hiroshi and Kenji, who live in Tokyo.

Hiroshi and Kenji’s lives were touched by separation and sorrow even before the World War started. They lost their parents in a boating accident when they were very young and were now living with their old but loving grandparents. They have happy and content childhoods with dreams and aspirations. Hiroshi, always the protector of the family, aspires to become a successful sumo wrestler and his dedication and skill catches the eye of the most prestigious trainer - Tanaka. The shy and silent Kenji is fascinated by the masks he sees in a shop window and gravitates towards the art of mask making and Akira Yoshiwara, a famous mask maker for the Noh Theater. Kenji starts working for Akira as his apprentice in his mask shop. Unexpectedly, World War II interrupts their near-perfect lives and for the next few years, all that the boys and their grandparents can think of is surviving with what little they manage to have.


At the end of World War II, when Japan struggles to rebuild itself, Hiroshi and Kenji make a heroic attempt to redeem their childhood dreams and actually succeed in their attempt. The book is more than just about their professions, of course. You are drawn into the personal and professional struggles of both brothers and without realizing it, you smile at their joys and successes and cry with them at their losses and failures.


The book is an absolute joy to read. Tsukiyama gives us a good view of Japan’s two prized gems – Sumo Wrestling and the Noh Theater. We learn about the daily rituals and the lives of Sumo wrestlers in Japan. Until I read the book, I didn’t care much for Sumo wrestling. To me, it was just two fat men in their underwear trying to push each other out a teeny tiny circle. But as I read the book, I learnt to appreciate the dedication, the skill and the strength that is associated with Sumo wrestling. I started seeing it for the art it is. I actually started liking Japan’s most loved sport. The Noh masks are at the opposite end of the spectrum. It is a small, intricately carved mask where the face changes expression based on which angle you look at it. Thanks to google I found many videos and articles on both Sumo wrestling and the Noh Theater to satisfy my craving for more knowledge once I was done reading the book.

Both Hiroshi and Kenji are endearing and lovable in their own ways and the love and respect they have for each other is enviable. I enjoyed the way Tsukiyama seamlessly weaved the world war II and its after effects into the lives of Hiroshi and Kenji while describing their professional and personal lives completely.

I really enjoyed reading this book and I would definitely recommend it to everyone. It is a very enjoyable read and it has only one short coming – it is very addictive. There’s no way you are putting it down until you’ve turned the last page.

Have you already read this book? Did you enjoy it as much as I did??

17 comments:

Jo-Jo said...

I haven't read this one yet, but it sounds like one that I would thoroughly enjoy. Thanks for the review Ramya.

bermudaonion said...

This sounds fabulous!

Diane said...

I think this author is great. This is one book that I plan to read; glad u enjoyed it so much.

Veens said...

Sounds really good!
I would definitely give this one a try! Thank YOU !

Sathej said...

Seems very nice. Thanks for the review :) Shall try picking this one up sometime. The only thing being the rate of buying books might earn the reprimand of people at home :)

Nooyawka said...

At this moment there is a Basho (sumo tournament) going on in Japan. It is covered daily on the blog of Japantimes.com I am fascinated at the struggle of personalities and styles. The underlying story is that sumo might disappear since no native Japanese are at the top rank anymore and the top rank is dominated by non-Japanese (Mongolians, mostly, and a Bulgarian, although some Russians are on the way up). Young Japanese kids no longer follow sumo the way their ancestors did. There are more stoies here.

Trish said...

I haven't heard of this one but it sounds really lovely. The Japanese Lit Challenge starts in a few weeks so I'll be checking out this book to see how it will fit. I've been reading a lot of WWII books lately, but none of them have been from the Japanese perspective. And sometimes addictive isn't so bad--until you come to the last page of course!

Sowjanya said...

Hi, Ramya..gud review...i recently watched old Japanese classic movies and simply loved them..im thinking of reading a book on Japanese culture ...and now got the one...Thanks for that

Meera said...

Well i was panicking when u dint blog.. it is good to have u back!!!

Pratima said...

Hey..good to see u back! I have an award waiting for you HERE :)

Divya said...

nice.. I will add it to my TBR list

PM said...

sounds nice ...will use it for my OT challenge :)

katrina said...

Sounds a great read, will have to add it to my bookmooch wishlist.

Did you know that the Orbis short story mini challenge has started - there's still plenty of time to join in if you're still interested
http://katrinasreads.blogspot.com/

Thoughts of Joy said...

I have this one on my TBR Shelf. It's great to see another positive review. However, unlike you, I can't imagine myself liking Sumo wrestling. It'll be a powerful book if that turns out to be the case. :)

Anonymous said...
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Alex said...

Have just stumbled across your blog.
This is my favourite book. I bought it in the Singapore airport in 2009 before flying home to New Zealand. I couldn't tear myself away from it's pages.
It's the most beautiful story and paints such vivid images in my mind.
I'm glad other people love it as much as I do!

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