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The Street of a Thousand Blossoms

3.96  ·  Rating details ·  8,517 ratings  ·  879 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 t
Hardcover, 422 pages
Published September 4th 2007 by St. Martin's Press
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Rating details
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K.D. Absolutely
Dec 21, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: asian, war
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
Sep 11, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.
Mar 30, 2017 rated it really liked it
The two orphaned Matsumoto brothers are living on the Street of a Thousand Blossoms with their loving grandparents. The story begins in 1939 when Japan is at war with China and becomes a major force in World War II. It is a time of deprivation as most of the food goes to the neighborhood military police who prey upon the people of Yanaka and sell the goods on the black market. Hiroshi, the older and stronger brother, has dreams of being a sumo wrestler. Kenji, shy and artistic, is mentored by an ...more
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
Jul 03, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Jednoznačně KNIHA ROKU! Myšleno nejlepší kniha, kterou jsem letos četl. Kniha vyšla v roce 2009 a u nás 2011. Ale já se k ní dostal se zpožděním a jelikož se odehrává v minulosti, tak to nijak nevadí.
Kniha je v podstatě rodinnou ságou, která začíná pár let před vypuknutím války v Pacifiku a končí pokud si dobře pamatuji v roce 1965. Kde sledujeme osudy jedné rodiny a především dvou bratrů, z nichž starší se chce stát sumotorim (zápasníkem sumo) a druhý propadne kouzlu výroby masek pro tradiční d
Jul 05, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013-books, owned
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
Neil Crossan
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 03, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, japan
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
Corinne Edwards
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
Molly Watson
Apr 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 18, 2015 rated it it was ok
This book began promisingly but the longer it went on the more its weaknesses were revealed. After the war ended all conflict seemed to leave the plot and half the book just seemed like a catalog of happenings with no real storytelling. The book begins with the story of two boys who are being raised by their grandparents after their parents die in an accident and this part is well told with interesting characters. However, as the story progresses the author attempts to tell things from too many ...more
Jan 15, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Rebecca McNutt
Jul 27, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: history, fiction, japanese
I liked this book's general plot and its well-written 1930's setting, but it's a very typical, generic story and the characters are dull at times.
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
Jul 22, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: japan, fiction
3.75 stars

A lovely story about the sorrows and joys of two families in the transition from pre-war to post-war Japan. This was the first book that I’ve read about WWII from a Japanese perspective, and the chapters about the lives of ordinary people during the war were the most compelling for me. The slow starvation of Japan’s citizens (many of whom knew little about the war) and the horrors of the firebombing of Tokyo paint a very different picture than the typical caricatures of militant Japan
Mar 03, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-2011
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
Tim Lepczyk
Oct 22, 2007 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people that like Japan
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
Aug 08, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Heather Clawson
Aug 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
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
Julie Christine
Feb 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Julie Christine by: Chris K.
I'm left with a series of impressions after reading this quiet, somber novel: the sounds of bombs destroying a city and the rustle of deer in a forest park, the brilliant silks of kimono and the muted neutrals of shoji and tatami, the feel of sticky summer heat and chill winter rains, the taste of savory sukiyaki and the pang of hunger. The novel weaves together the threads of several lives, showing through their experiences the rise and fall and rise again of Japan from the end of its feudal cu ...more
Oct 02, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Jul 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was ok
I know this was written by an American for the English speaking people, not for Japanese. The story was interesting somewhat but the author should have researched the Japanese culture a little bit more. It was distracting that some illustrations of the everyday scene were so wrong that it never happened especially in that time period, 1940's. For someone grew up in Japan in 1960's, to finish this book was very hard because the real Japanese do not step in Tatami room with slippers on one's feet, ...more
Feb 17, 2008 rated it it was ok
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.
Camille McCarthy
Apr 01, 2018 rated it it was ok
This book seemed promising at times but became very dull around halfway through. I almost never do this, but instead of finishing the book I just flipped to the end and worked my way backwards, skimming to see what happened to the characters. Even though the writing was all right and the setting was interesting, I was not drawn in to the story. There wasn't much of a hook, as it was all somewhat predictable. The author changes viewpoints for each of the characters but they still all end up feel ...more
Mar 26, 2018 rated it liked it
Gail Tsukiyama gives us a thorough lesson on the arts of sumo wrestling and Noh mask-making through the 27-year saga of brothers Hiroshi and Kenji. She takes us through the horrors of war and reconstruction and their effect on the Japanese people. Hiroshi reaches the highest rank in Sumo while Kenji becomes mask-maker to the stars, but neither has a very satisfying or happy personal life. Much tragedy befalls the other characters: death by firestorm, sudden infant death, infertility, death by tr ...more
Jul 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I can always depend on an enriching experience when I read a novel by Gail Tsukiyama. This was a beautifully written book with well developed characters and a story that spanned the years just before WW II and following the bombing of Hiroshima. The human toll that war inflicts, the death and destruction of culture, values, emotions is vast and heartbreaking and Ms. Tsukiyama tells the story poignantly, yet clearly. Powerfully yet sensitively. The story reminds us, especially in today's divided ...more
May 31, 2017 rated it really liked it
This really is a wonderful book, but I wish I hadn't read the prologue before reading the rest of the book. I agree with the reviewer who felt that it really gives away too much and doesn't really help the reader enjoy the book. I have never thought too much about how the war affected the Japanese people, and this book does a beautiful job of portraying that through the family members who are the main focus of the book. It was also enlightening to understand a little about the Japanese culture a ...more
Dec 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
Een vier: voornamelijk voor het eerste deel... daarna verwatert het wat voor mij. De mooiste zin staat dan wel weer eerder achteraan p. 288 in mijn uitgave (hoofdstuk 17): " Ik vind het prettig om met mijn rug tegen de muur te staan. Dat geeft me een gevoel van veiligheid."
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Around the Year i...: The Street of a Thousand Blossoms, by Gail Tsukiyama 1 13 Apr 16, 2017 05:39PM  
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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).
“Even a snail will eventually reach its destination.” 132 likes
“Everything seems simpler from a distance.” 88 likes
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