Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Samurai Shortstop” as Want to Read:
Samurai Shortstop
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Samurai Shortstop

3.90  ·  Rating Details  ·  530 Ratings  ·  94 Reviews
Tokyo, 1890. Toyo is caught up in the competitive world of boarding school, and must prove himself to make the team in a new sport called besuboru. But he grieves for his uncle, a samurai who sacrificed himself for his beliefs, at a time when most of Japan is eager to shed ancient traditions. It?s only when his father decides to teach him the way of the samurai that Toyo g ...more
Paperback, 288 pages
Published February 14th 2008 by Speak (first published May 18th 2006)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about Samurai Shortstop, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about Samurai Shortstop

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 867)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
This is another book I chose by its cover. Our school had just received a shipment of new books and teachers were allowed to pick through the collections to add to their libraries. I liked the cover and I've been intrigued by Japanese historical fiction since reading "Memoirs of a Geisha" so I took the book home to read over the weekend.

I finished it in one evening. I couldn't put it down.

It's gory. It's detailed. I wish it weren't based on true stories but it is and, let me tell you, life in Ja
Dec 21, 2014 Charli rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
SLJ review:

Grade 7 Up–Toyo Shimada, 15, watches his beloved uncle, Koji, commit seppuku (hara-kiri) the day before he begins his first year of boarding school. This act sets into motion a story that is firmly grounded in the transition between traditions and modern values in Japan, a place where samurai are no more and where, according to Toyo's father, Western influences are eroding Japan's cultural heritage. Harsh and sometimes brutal incidents in Toyo's school echo the larger upheaval and con
David Rustyfox
Aug 16, 2013 David Rustyfox rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I picked this book up for summer reading, and I was skeptical about it, but it looked interesting none the less. I picked it up one day and started reading the first 11 pages, and that had to be the best opening to a book ever. Hands down. It is also the only sports book I liked that I read, which is surprising because I don't like the genre to begin with. I recommend this to anyone who likes sports books or a vast helping of Japanese culture
Feb 04, 2016 Martha rated it really liked it
“Toyo watched carefully as his uncle prepared to kill himself. … To honor his promise to bear witness, he forced himself to watch as his uncle’s insides spilled onto the floor of the Shinto shrine, the body deflating like a torn rice sack.”
So begins Alan Gratz’s fascinating historical novel Samurai Shortstop, which takes place in 1890’s Tokyo during the Meiji Restoration when “[a]lmost overnight, Japan went from the Middle Ages to the modern era,” and the emperor outlawed the sumarai culture tha
Jun 16, 2013 Jamie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A surprisingly readable historical fiction sports book. Well-researched, about late 19th century Japan, where the samurai way has just ended and baseball really does exist. The relations between the boys seems timeless, as does the baseball action.
Oct 25, 2015 Rachie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Japanophiles, baseball lovers, history lovers
Recommended to Rachie by: grabbed this off the teen section in the library, I couldn't bear to weed it
Shelves: historical, japan
I read this is in one sitting. Though this is aimed at teens I think anyone with an interest in history, Japan, or baseball would find this to be a worthwhile read. There are complicated themes presented in this book, such as honor, loyalty, and a young boy trying to find his place in a rapidly changing world. I think it would be good to have some idea of Japan at this time of upheaval and the author provides a bit of backstory in his notes. This is certainly a fascinating time in Japan, 1890, a ...more
Toyo is attending one of the most prestigious high schools in Japan. He loves playing shortstop and wishes to be on the school's besoboro team.

Toyo has a lot going on in his personal life. His family have always been samurai but now Japan is moving into the modern culture. Toyo's uncle committed suicide because of the changes retain tradition. His dad is thoroughly old school making it difficult for father and son to connect.

Toyo must find a way to understand how baseball, samurai, and all the
After reading this book I'm not sure if the book is really about baseball in Japan or about the breath-taking change from its middle ages to its modern era that occurred overnight. Set in Tokyo, this story is about a samurai's son and nephew coming to grips with being a commoner as he starts at the elite school, Ichiko. As the book opens Toyo also has to make sense of the suicide of his beloved and honorable uncle that he witnesses. Through baseball and his study of bushido, Toyo resolves how to ...more
Jan 04, 2010 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: young-adult
I had been attracted to the cover of this book for a long time when I finally grabbed it during "historical fiction" month at my school. It was a much better book than I had expected! The story begins with the seppuku (suicide) of Toyo's uncle. Toyo lives in "new" Japan but comes from a history of samurai, which has been outlawed in turn-of-the-century Japan. When Toyo struggles to understand the reasons behind his uncle's suicide and the preparations for his dad's seppuku, his dad decides to te ...more
This is a book I can definitely see myself recommending, since the pace, setting, plot, and mood of the book have tremendous teen/tween appeal.

Toyo, the fifteen-year-old son of a samurai, enters Japan's elite Ichiko academy, where he must balance 'besuboro' (baseball) practice with academics as well as training in the way of the samurai. Then there are the seniors, who come in the middle of the night to the new students' rooms to bloodily initiate them.

Actually, most school events, and a large
Samurai Shortstop has been in my to-read pile for years. I just happened on the audio and listened to it. It is stellar.

Set at the cusp between old, isolated Samurai dominated Japan and Commodore Perry's seeming 'invasion' of Japan bringing western inventions and values with him.

The book starts with a graphic description of Toyo's Uncle Kogi's seppuku assisted by young Toyo and his father. The book continues with equally graphic descriptions of intense bullying at the boarding school Toyo atte
May 24, 2010 Ari rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The only thing that really bothered me about this novel were all the mentions of peeing. I mean really? I know it's a book about guys, but does it need to be mentioned in every other chapter (they "make rain"). The sexism in the novel bothered me, but it can be overlooked since the author was being authentic to the time period. Life at Ichiko is a little bit like Lord of the Flies because the boys govern themselves; they dispense punishments, cook, etc. The idea is that Ichiko is training future ...more
Gavin Reed
Nov 08, 2010 Gavin Reed rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Set in Japan, this is a story of Toyo Shimada he is starting the first day of his new boarding schools in Japan. It is a school that turns kids to the future of Japan.All while he is mourning over the recent seppuku of his Uncle Koji. Not only did he have to witness it, but he had to assist with certain parts. If that wasn’t enough, he fears that he father is going to do the same.

Sotaro was a samurai, the same as his brother Koji. But in Japan, the new Emperor has declared that there are no more
Mar 08, 2008 Gloria rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm going to hold off on my review until the FMS Reading Challenge is over.... But I thought it was quite good, and as someone who spent alot of her undergraduate years studying the transition from the Tokugawa to the Meiji Restoration period.... I was impressed.

Gratz had done what I think is a masterful introduction to a complex time period, with all the conflicting values and pressures that a young adult would feel, all seen through the lens of "besubaru"; his impetus for writing was an old 19
Jaakko Kuoppamaki
Oct 05, 2011 Jaakko Kuoppamaki rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Samurai Shortstop
By: Alan Gratz
number of pages: 280

This book takes place in Tokyo, Japan in the year 1890.

This book is about a boy called Toyo who goes to a new school called Ichiko. Recently, his uncle Koji committed Seppuku, an honorable suicide. He did this because the emperor of Japan told him to, because he didn’t give up his Samurai swords even after the emperor said the time of Samurai is over. Toyo's father also sent a request to commit Seppuku, but was denied. Toyo now fears his fat
Brad Larson
Sep 15, 2010 Brad Larson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Samurai shortstop is a good book. it pulls you in and keeps you there. Readers, you will get engrossed by the young samurai have to find his own way in life and making his "besuboru", or baseball, team one of the best.
In 1890 the emperor of Japan says everyone is neither a samurai nor peasant he/she is a commoner. But some don’t like this, like Toyo's uncle Koji. In fact Koji doesn't like it so much he commits seppuku. Seppuku is where a samurai kills himself for honor.
Toyo get accepted to fir
Charlene Olson odu
I picked this book for two reasons: baseball and Japan - baseball is my favorite sport, and I lived in Japan for 3 years. Shortstop Samurai tells the story of Toyo Shimada, a young man who loves besuboru (baseball) while also discussing the transition of Japan from a feudal society to a modern one. The story also includes the usual struggles between parent and child. The setting is Tokyo, Japan, in 1890s, and the story opens with Toyo and his father attending the seppuku (ritual suicide) of Koj ...more
Jul 02, 2008 Mr.G rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Samurai Shortstop begins with a young Japanese kid witnessing his uncle's ritual suicide. His father, have just decapitated his brother turns to the son and says, "You'll be doing this for me soon.
Set in Japan in the 1880's, the novel follows the young boy as he is tutored in bushido in preparation for his role in his father's imminent seppuku. The boy immediately applies his samurai training toward his real passion: baseball.
At this point in Japanese history, the culture is in the period of sei
May 05, 2009 Joe rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 60626-ya
This book has several aspects that would appeal to teens. For one, there is hazing. Going to a new school is never easy, so it would be even more appealing to students who have gone through similar situations. To go with this, there is the historical aspect of the book. From reading about samurai to learning about seppuku, the reader learns about cultural traditions. Finally, there is the aspect of baseball, while baseball fans may be more drawn to the book, those who don't follow baseball shoul ...more
Elizabeth Plav
Jun 24, 2011 Elizabeth Plav rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic story about a boy growing up in Meiji Era Japan. The Meiji Era was on fraught with social change, as Japan opened its doors to the West -- and suddenly old Japan and new Japan collide. The story opens up with Toyo's uncle, by order of the Emperor, must commit sepiku (the samurai form of suicide). Toyo is confused obviously affected by this -- especially when his dad says that he (his dad) will be next.

As he starts his first year at an elite high school, we can see the changes of Japan
Mar 14, 2009 Sara rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up for Theo during a quick run through the library - how great a book about 2 of his very favorite things. Happily, I gave it a quick preview before handing it off. While I couldn't put it down for the rest of the afternoon, the book would have been too much for his 8 year old self. The main character is 16 years old, and I'm guessing this is a book for about that age range.

The story captivated me. Placed in Japan in the late 1800s, just as Western influence was taking hold, the bo
Bryan Stevenson
Mar 27, 2010 Bryan Stevenson rated it really liked it
I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book. I met Alan Gratz at my son Jaron's middle school when he came to talk with them last year. Jaron thoroughly enjoyed the book, and enjoyed hearing what Alan had to say about writing and researching. I'm not up on my samurai knowledge, but the baseball side of things was well written and enjoyable. It was neat to learn more about the historical context surrounding turn of the century Japan, and Alan mixed in some actual events into the story ...more
May 03, 2013 Wanda rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Interesting combination of baseball and the ancient Japanese code of Bushido. This book takes place at the end of the 19th century at a Japanese Boarding School for boys. This was a time in Japanese history where the government under the leadership of the emperor was attempting to westernize Japan to facilitate its ability to compete in a world economic market. The samurais had been outlawed but the culture was still firmly in place. This is reflected in the boarding school where almost all of t ...more
Toyo goes to an elite boarding school in Japan in 1890, where most of the students are sons of samurai. Toyo is the son and nephew of samurai, and his uncle committed seppuko the year before Toyo came to this school. His father was less of a warrior than his uncle; he writes editorials for a Japanese newspaper decrying the new order that caused samurai to give up their swords and tried to create a more egalitarian society. Toyo's passion is baseball (besu boru) but his father has no use for the ...more
Jun 13, 2014 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ridiculous title, but an intriguing book. It deftly explores the evolution of Japanese culture just before the advent of the 20th century. It unflinchingly examines some of the darker aspects of samurai culture while at the same time lauding its more admirable virtues and traditions. I enjoyed this book much more than I thought I would.
Carol Littlejohn
This debut book by a gifted author could be a great father-son book club read because the theme is how a boy becomes a man. Can a father pass on the knowledge of being a man? Toyo Shimada, 15, is growing up in Tokyo in the 1890’s when the emperor has outlawed the samurai tradition of his ancestors. The opening begins with Toyo’s uncle performing suppuku, a ritual involving disembowelment and decapitation. Graphic violence continues throughout the book, including brutal hazing inflicted on studen ...more
Mar 10, 2008 ~Aire~ rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who is interested in baseball, or just looking for an interesting read
This book shows how difficult it may have been for the old ways of Japan to change. From Samurai to commoners, many believed the old ways forgotten while others simply stuck to old prejudices. Toyo Shimada is shortstop on his school's Besuboru team, what we would call baseball. Even though it is a sport brought to Japan by the gaijin, Americans, Toyo finds that the game is more in depth with the samurai techniques then his father believes. As his father starts teaching him private lessons on the ...more
Aug 02, 2011 Jeane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya-teen
I read this book for my book group this month, and though everyone seemed to enjoy it, I did not. I think that I would have appreciated this book much more if I a.) knew anything at all about baseball, but I don't, and b.) gave a rat's ass about baseball, which I don't. On the other hand I do like the look into the world of Japan during the transition from feudal to modern era Japan. I also liked the aspects of bushido, and knowing more about it. But then there was the baseball which just ruined ...more
Andrew R
Nov 09, 2012 Andrew R rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Samurai Shortstop is a great read for any sports fan.
It is a book about a young boy Toyo, who witnesses the suicide of his uncle, sentenced by the emperor. Toyo understands that his uncle died an honorable samurai death, but he also misses his uncle. Toyo does not like the old ways that his father follows. He fears that the his ways will take his father from him, just like his uncle.

Toyo goes to a school made especially to teach the future leaders of Japan. At the school, Toyo finds that unless
Oct 31, 2015 Kyle rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gr8-semester-1
Almost over night Japan went from a secluded traditional country into a national powerhouse with the introduction to western sciences, philosophy, and of course, sports! One boys struggle to show his father that new Japan and old Japan can coexist, without old Japan being lost forever.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 28 29 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Mudville
  • A Strong Right Arm: The Story of Mamie "Peanut" Johnson
  • Camo Girl
  • Alphabet of Dreams
  • Warriors in the Crossfire
  • Sparrow Hawk Red
  • Me & Jack
  • The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had
  • Kaleidoscope Eyes
  • Over the Wall
  • Rise of the Corpses (The Undertakers, #1)
  • A Heart For Any Fate: Westward To Oregon, 1845
  • Accidents of Nature
  • How Angel Peterson Got His Name
  • The Not-So-Star-Spangled Life of Sunita Sen
  • Cleared for Takeoff (Liberty Porter, First Daughter, #3)
  • Airball: My Life in Briefs
  • Rubber Houses
Alan Gratz was born and raised in Knoxville, TN, home of the 1982 World's Fair. After a carefree but humid childhood, Alan attended the University of Tennessee, where he earned a College Scholars degree with a specialization in creative writing, and later, a Master's degree in English education.
In addition to writing plays, magazine articles, and a few episodes of A&E's City Confidential, Alan
More about Alan Gratz...

Share This Book