Excerpt from The Concubine's Tattoo by Laura Joh Rowland, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Concubine's Tattoo

by Laura Joh Rowland

The Concubine's Tattoo
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Dec 1998, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2000, 384 pages

  • Rate this book


Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Chapter One
Edo Genroku Period, Year 3, Month 9
(Tokyo, October 1690)

"It is my privilege to open this ceremony in which Sosakan Sano Ichiro and Lady Ueda Reiko shall be united in marriage before the gods." Pudgy, nearsighted Noguchi Motoori--Sano's former superior and the go-between who had arranged the match--solemnly addressed the assembly gathered in Edo Castle's private reception hall.

On this warm autumn morning, sliding doors stood open to a garden resplendent with scarlet maple leaves and brilliant blue sky. Two priests, clad in white robes and tall black caps, knelt at the front of the hall before the alcove, in which hung a scroll bearing the names of the kami--Shinto deities. Below this, a dais held the traditional offerings of round rice cakes and a ceramic jar of consecrated sake. Two maidens, wearing the hooded cloaks of Shinto shrine attendants, stood near the priests. On the tatami to the left of the alcove knelt the bride's father and closest associates: stout, dignified Magistrate Ueda and a few relatives and friends. To the right, the groom's party consisted of Shogun Tokugawa Tsunayoshi, Japan's supreme military dictator, dressed in brocade robes and the cylindrical black cap of his rank, attended by several high officials; Sano's frail, elderly mother; and Hirata, Sano's chief retainer. All eyes turned to the center of the hall, the focus of the ceremony.

Sano and Reiko knelt side by side before two small tables--he in black ceremonial robes stamped with his family's gold flying-crane crest, his two swords at his waist; she in a white silk kimono and a long, white silk drape that completely covered her face and hair. They faced a flat porcelain dish containing a miniature pine and plum tree, a bamboo grove, the statues of a hare and a crane: symbols of longevity, pliancy, and fidelity. Behind them, Noguchi and his wife knelt at a table reserved for the go-between. As the priests stood and bowed to the altar, Sano's heart pounded. His stoic dignity hid a turmoil of emotion.

The last two years had brought him continuous upheaval: the death of his beloved father; the move from his modest family home in the Nihonbashi merchant district to Edo Castle, Japan's seat of power; a dizzyingly rapid rise in status and all the associated challenges. At times he feared his mind and body couldn't withstand the relentless onslaught of change. Now he was marrying a twenty-year-old girl he'd met exactly once before, more than a year ago, at the formal meeting between their two families. Her lineage was impeccable, her father one of the wealthiest and most powerful men in Edo. But they'd never spoken; he knew nothing of her character. He barely remembered what she looked like, and wouldn't see her face again until the end of the ceremony. To Sano, the tradition of arranged marriage now seemed like sheer madness--a potentially disastrous pairing of strangers. What perilous turn had his fate taken? Was it too late to escape?

From her tiny bedchamber in the Edo Castle women's quarters, the shogun's newest concubine heard hurrying footsteps, slamming doors, and shrill feminine voices. The dressing rooms would be littered with opulent silk kimonos and spilt face powder, the servants rushing to finish dressing the two hundred concubines and their attendants for the sosakan-sama's wedding feast. But Harume, weary of the suffocating presence of so many other women after only eight months at the castle, had decided to skip the celebration. Privacy was almost nonexistent in the crowded women's quarters, but now her chambermates were gone, the palace officials busy. The shogun's mother, whom Harume attended, hadn't required her services today. No one would miss her, she hoped--because Harume meant to take full advantage of her rare solitude.

Reproduced from the Concubine's Tattoo by Laura Joh Rowland. © 1997 by Laura Joh Rowland, used by permission of the publishers - St Martin's Press.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: A Great Reckoning
    A Great Reckoning
    by Louise Penny
    Canadian author Louise Penny is back with her twelfth entry in the Chief Inspector Armand Gamache ...
  • Book Jacket: Homegoing
    Homegoing
    by Yaa Gyasi
    It's all very well to challenge people to be the masters of their own destiny, but when you&#...
  • Book Jacket: When Breath Becomes Air
    When Breath Becomes Air
    by Paul Kalanithi
    When Breath Becomes Air is the autobiography of Paul Kalanithi, written in the time period between ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Who Said...

You can lead a man to Congress, but you can't make him think.

Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

The Big Holiday Wordplay:
$400+ in Prizes

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.