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The Street of a Thousand Blossoms
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The Street of a Thousand Blossoms

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  6,221 ratings  ·  711 reviews
"Just remember," Yoshio said quietly to his grandsons. "Every day of your lives, you must always be sure what you're fighting for."

It is Tokyo in 1939. On the Street of a Thousand Blossoms, two orphaned brothers are growing up with their loving grandparents, who inspire them to dream of a future firmly rooted in tradition. The older boy, Hiroshi, shows unusual skill at the
ebook, 432 pages
Published September 4th 2007 by St. Martin's Press
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I love Gail Tsukiyama's peaceful tone. She does a fabulous job of depicting life in Japan, spanning from the pre-World War II era through to the post-War revival. The characters in this story are wonderful, engaging, and alive. Her descriptions are so real; during the most intense moments of the war, I had to stop to catch my breath because I was so emotionally engaged in the story. I sped through this 420-page book and loved every minute of it.
K.D. Absolutely
Non-fussy storytelling. Tsukiyama tells the story in a straight manner devoid of gimmicks. Reading this book is like having a friend sitting with you on a park bench in a cool Sunday afternoon. Your friend is a Japanese woman who knows the tale by heart and you have the snow-capped Mt. Fuji at your back. It is springtime and the cherry flowers are in their full bloom. Picture this in your mind as you leaf through the pages of this book and you will know what I am trying to say.

Particularly in th
A tender and sometimes heartbreaking story of two brothers, Hiroshi and Kenji, coming of age in Tokyo near the beginning of World War 2 and striving to achieve their dreams up into the 60’s. One has the ambition to become a champion sumo wrestler and the other to become a master at making wooden masks for the Noh theater, goals which are supported by the nurturing grandparents who raised them after their parents died when they were young.

The affinity of these brothers for traditional culture and
Jennifer D
if we could give half-stars here, i would say 3.5-stars right now. but i also feel like this is one of those novels that sits with you for a while and improves with distance. so i rounded up.

this is a melancholy story - early on i wasn't sure if i was really getting into the novel and whether what i was feeling was a bit of ennui at the fault of my own disposition or because of the writing. but as i kept going tsuyikama's writing made it worthwhile and i realized that her style was very purposef
It is clear what Gail Tsukiyama wants to communicate in her newest novel, The Street of a Thousand Blossoms. The book strives to convey love, loss, coming-of-age, the horrors of war, the rebuilding of a nation--and throw in a little instruction in Japanese culture to boot.

Spanning more than thirty years immediately before, during, and after World War II, Blossoms follows the lives of the residents of Yanaka, a suburb of Tokyo. It finds its main characters in Hiroshi and Kenji Matsumoto, two youn
Jan 15, 2008 Fran rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Fran by: Catherine deCuir
Gail Tsukiyama's generational saga follows two sets of families in Japan prior to World War II, through the war, and through the mid-60s. Two young men's parents are killed in a boating accident and they are raised by their grandparents. One becomes a famous sumo wrestler and the other a Noh mask maker. Two sisters, daughters of a sumo master, lose their mother and the book primarily entertwines between these two families. I had a hard time getting into this book, but once I did, I literally cou ...more
I wish I could give it 4.5 stars.

There are books that are so rich, so full of the essence of a place and its people, that they do not lend themselves to being merely "summarized" or "described." Books that do not follow merely one or two characters and their experiences, but truly try to examine a cross-section of humanity and how their lives intertwine. For me, this was such a book. And while the Japanese brothers Hiroshi and Kenji are at the crux of this amazing novel, we also come to know and
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
At first I wasn't sure I'd like this because of the sumo wrestling stuff. Grunting, glaring fat men sporting diapers and topknots just don't send me anywhere I care to go. Fortunately, there's much more to the book than just sumo, and I ended up liking it quite a bit. I learned a lot about Japanese culture and history. I didn't know that the U.S. had occupied Japan for seven years after WWII ended. That would explain all the Japanese "war brides" our soldiers brought home. But then they should r ...more
Neil Crossan
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
There are time I wish I was an editor. Or, failing that, that I could have been in on the discussions between author and editor while a novel takes shape. This is a great book, with a completely unnecessary prologue that overshadows the story. If you can forgive the prologue (or better, skip it), this book is rich with moments of beauty, and some very subtle explorations of themes, along with a good story.

Hitoshi and Kenji, orphaned as babies, are raised by their grandparents in pre- and post-WW
This one was OK, but disappointing compared to Tsukiyama's previous books. And very long, so about halfway through I realized I wasn't going to love it, but I couldn't quit because I had already invested so much time in it. So I was restless and acutely aware of the large stack of books remaining for me to read after this one.
The book was set in Japan spanning about 30 years around WWII. The war part was great but not much happened all of the other years. The part that really irritated me was
I really enjoy Gail Tsukiyama's style of writing. In this novel I read the first half slowly, savoring the stories one by one as it grew. The second half went into a can't put down mode because I grew to love the characters and was anxious to see what would develop. I have never read a book written about the time of WWII from the perspective of a Japanese life during that time. Wow. A needed story to be told. With all that has recently happened to Japan, this story helps in understanding the sto ...more
This tells of a family who loses their parents and are raised by grandparents. One boy is very strong and pursues sumo wrestling; the other boy is shy and artistic and is enthralled by maskmaking.

The family is followed through the horrors of WWII...and slowly rebuild their lives.

On the whole I found it tedious.
Lise Petrauskas
I've been wavering between three and four stars, but the more I think about it, the less I actually like this one. It started out well but became scattered. It spans too long a period of time. Perhaps if it had ended at about the halfway point (in time) but had the same number of pages? I guess, my taste is not so much for a novel made up of short vignettes (usually ending with a sentence that indicates drama and meaning but leaves it mostly unsaid) followed by a jump into a future time and into ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Typically, you won’t catch me reading a book that has a main character who is a sumo wrestler. Typically. However, this is no typical book.

Tsukiyama has written a novel that truly presents the reader with a cross-section of normal Japanese citizens before, during and after WWII. I enjoyed her honest approach and the inner-conflict that the characters expressed about the war; was the government telling them the truth? Should they be supportive of the Emperor? Did they know what they were fighting
In this book, we follow a handful of characters, all related in some way, primarily between the 1940s and early 1960s. While some background is provided, the book really starts to dig in during World War II, with some chilling accounts of what life was like for people living in Japan at that time. It is a side of the war that we don't hear all that much about, and while it bears striking similarities to the experiences of other countries, from rationing and propaganda to the London blitz and the ...more
Molly Watson
This book was excellent, and started me on a track of reading about the impact of war on the civilians not directly involved with it. Poetic, sweet, and haunting, the story follows the history of two families living just outside of Tokyo at the beginning of World War II. The tragedies of the war are heart-breaking, although somewhat expected (as William Sherman said, "war is hell"), but what makes this particular story so special is that it continues to follow the struggles of these families (an ...more
May 21, 2009 Tifnie rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tifnie by: Sue
Shelves: fiction
I enjoyed reading The Street of a Thousand Blossoms, however, I wasn't captivated by it. About 50 pages into the story, I glanced at the back cover, wondering where this story was going. Although it flowed nicely, it lacked the "art" that her other books germinated in your imagination.

Gail Tsukiyama is also the author of The Samurai's Garden which was so beautifully written that it was very relaxing to read. Dreaming Water is another book that was, again, beautifully written, leaving the reader
Gathering my thoughts about this book was interesting. The story takes place in Japan in the 40's. The storyline outlines the lives of two orphan boys who end up living with their grandparents during the war. The characters around these two boys give us a good look into the life of a sumo wrestler and a mask maker. Great information with many details in the making of these two very interesting arts evolving from youth to an accomplished wrestler/mask maker. The elderly grandparents add wisdom wi ...more
The one thing that stopped me from really liking this book was the fact that the main characters, who I will define as Hiroshi and Kenji, never get the happy ending that I prefer. They attain career success and a certain amount of happiness here and there in their personal lives, but are generally denied something they want or have the rug pulled out from under them. The book itself ended with Hiroshi thinking positively about his chances for future happiness which was not enough to satisfy me. ...more
This was my "light" book as I also read the Kingsolver non-fiction. I had never read any of this author before -- but may seek out some more of her books. She reminds me of Amy Tan - but blending the old and new and telling of ancient traditions in Japanese families/culture rather then Chinese.

The story spans about 30 years and follows the lives of 2 orphaned boys who are raised by their loving and traditional grandparents. You hear about the cruelty and deprivation duirng the 2nd world war, Ame
The book starts in a suburb of Toyko in 1939. Two boys who have been orphaned are living with their grandparents. Their grandparents love their grandsons and want them to find their passions. The elder brother, Hiroshi is becoming quite good at the national obsession, sumo wrestling. Just as the war starts he is accepted for training at a facilty run by Sho Tanaka. The younger brother is more creative and interested in carving masks for the Non theater.

World War II intervenes. Tsukiyama paints
Tim Lepczyk
I picked this book up from my public library because it had a blurb by Michael Chabon. Usually, I don't do that, but I thought, I love his work, maybe I'll love this too. The novel follows the lives of two brothers who are orphans and live with their grandparents. It starts before world war II in Japan and progresses through the mid-sixties. One of the brothers is interested in sumo and becoming a wrestler, while the other brother's interest lies in creating Noh masks for the theatre. The beginn ...more
While a worthy read for its portrayal of the the "other," Japanese individuals and their families, the non-warriors, caught up in the disruption of World War II, the book is slow moving and the characters fail to engage the reader. Two stories of two brothers that involve the culture of sumo wrestling and the mask tradition of the Noh theater, both complex elements of the Japanese culture and psyche,are intertwwined as the saga of the Wada family unfolds. The importance of family, interpersonal ...more
Sep 14, 2014 Candace rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in Japan
This is the first book I've read by Tsukiyama. Most reviewers say they were disappointed and recommended her "The Samurai Garden" instead, so I'm putting that on my reading list. The story is told from the perspective of Japanese civilians before, during, and after the war. Since it is set in Tokyo, of course it includes the harrowing fire bombing. In some ways it is similar to my own novel of postwar Japan, "The Earthquake Doll," but mine is set in Sapporo just as the Occupation ended. Hokkaido ...more
This book is about two brothers growing up in pre- and post-WWII Japan and some of the people that they interact with. The storylines were interesting enough, however, the style of the book was VERY abrupt and did not flow very well at all. Many of the chapters (which were very short to begin with) were fragmented into separated blocks of text that would be anywhere from a paragraph or two, to two pages. In most literature, the use of separations like this in chapters usually si ...more
This is Tokyo before, during, and after the fire-bombings of WWII, and the survivors of these horrendous experiences. The U.S. could well imagine the potential devastation of fire on a city built of paper and wood. The book was educational but not entertaining. Each separate chapter covered one year, from 1939 to 1966, so that is 27 long and choppily written chapters. Not only did Tsukiyama jump from one character to another with startling regularity, but the characters names were too similar fo ...more
A little disappointing. I think the author does a nice job of character development, but the characters just seem to leap from tragedy to tragedy. I listened to the audio book and the narrator's Japanese pronunciation was fair, but there were some very basic and glaring mistakes in Japanese grammar and word usage ("hai" is incorrectly used as a direct translation of "yes" and "doozo" is laughably used by a pan handler to ask for money) show that the author, in spite of her Japanese last name, ha ...more
Once again Gail Tsukiyama delivers a compelling read!

From back cover:

"Japan, 1939. Two orphaned brothers are growing up with the loving grandparents who inspire them to dream of a future firmly rooted in tradition. The older boy, Hiroshi, shows early signs of promise at the national obsession of sumo wrestling, while Kenji is fascinated by the art of Noh Theater masks. But as the ripples of war spread, the brothers must put their dreams on hold-and then forge their own paths in a new Japan.

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Born to a Chinese mother and a Japanese father in San Francisco, Gail Tsukiyama now lives in El Cerrito, California. Her novels include Women of the Silk (1991), The Samurai's Garden (1995), Night of Many Dreams (1998), The Language of Threads (1999), Dreaming Water (2002), and The Street of a Thousand Blossoms (2007).
More about Gail Tsukiyama...
The Samurai's Garden Women of the Silk The Language of Threads A Hundred Flowers Night of Many Dreams

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