Isami's House: Three Centuries of a Japanese Family

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University of California Press, Oct 7, 2005 - History - 314 pages
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In this powerful and evocative narrative, Gail Lee Bernstein vividly re-creates the past three centuries of Japanese history by following the fortunes of a prominent Japanese family over fourteen generations. The first of its kind in English, this book focuses on Isami, the eleventh generation patriarch and hereditary village head. Weaving back and forth between Isami's time in the first half of the twentieth century and his ancestors' lives in the Tokugawa and Meiji eras, Bernstein uses family history to convey a broad panoply of social life in Japan since the late 1600s. As the story unfolds, she provides remarkable details and absorbing anecdotes about food, famines, peasant uprisings, agrarian values, marriage customs, child-rearing practices, divorces, and social networks. Isami's House describes the role of rural elites, the architecture of Japanese homes, the grooming of children for middle-class life in Tokyo, the experiences of the Japanese in Japan's wartime empire and on the homefront, the aftermath of the country's defeat, and, finally, the efforts of family members to rebuild their lives after the Occupation. The author's forty-year friendship with members of the family lends a unique intimacy to her portrayal of their history. Readers come away with an inside view of Japanese family life, a vivid picture of early modern and modern times, and a profound understanding of how villagers were transformed into urbanites and what was gained, and lost, in the process.
 

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User Review  - JessicaMarie - LibraryThing

This book tended to be a little dry at times and definitely a little confusing due to all of the family members that you have to keep track of. Just to prove how difficult keeping track can be Gail ... Read full review

Contents

1 The House Isami Built
21
2 Kissing Cousins
36
3 Father of the Village
48
4 Strong Wives
66
part two going out into the world
81
5 Urban Studies
83
6 The Marriage Pipeline
97
7 Frugality and Fancy Schemes
109
10 Hard Times on the Home Front
146
11 Surviving Hiroshima
159
12 Missed Fortunes
169
part four love and other forms of compensation
193
14 Absent Husband
195
15 Couples and Uncouplings
205
16 Mothering
217
Kin Work
233

part three empire war and defeat
121
8 Outposts of Modernity
123
9 Isamis Children in Harms Way
137
notes
243
index
269
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About the author (2005)

Gail Lee Bernstein is Professor of History at the University of Arizona. She is the author of Haruko's World: A Japanese Farm Woman and Her Community (1996), editor of Recreating Japanese Women (California, 1991), and coeditor of Public Spheres, Private Lives (2005) and Japan and the World: Essays on Japanese History and Politics (1988).

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