The Samurais Garden

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My greeting was returned with giggles. The two girls glanced at each other, before they turned back to me and bowed quickly. I could see the taller girl was the older of the two, her face narrower and her giggling more controlled. She eyed me with a shy, yet inquisitive glance. They shared some resemblance, but the shorter girl had a fuller, younger face. She probably wasn't much older than Pie, who at twelve always seemed much older than her age. How do you do. My name is Stephen Chan," I said, bowing deeply again, careful not to do anything that might frighten them away. The taller girl returned my bow and said, "Hajimemashite.

My name's Keiko Hayashi, and this is my sister Mika. Mika had apparently made up her mind to leave, but Keiko hesitated, then planted her feet in the sand against her sister's urging. Mika giggled. But Keiko nodded her head, and in a clear, high voice answered, "Yes, we live in the village. She shook off Mika's grip. She had a pleasant, pretty face and spoke with assurance. A few families in town," she answered. Keiko bowed but said nothing more.

In the next moment, she and Mika were running back to the dunes and away from me. I waited until they were completely out of sight and their voices had faded in the cool, calm air. Then I turned around and ran to the water, forgetting to take off my clothes. Once I was safely back in the garden, I took off my wet clothes and left them in a heap by the front steps. By the time I put on dry clothes, I found Matsu in the kitchen cleaning a fish and humming to himself in a relaxed, happy manner I was unaccustomed to. It wasn't far from what I felt myself after finally making contact with Keiko and Mika.

At least I knew they weren't a figment of my imagination. During the height of my illness in Hong Kong, I would sometimes see spirits that couldn't be explained or identified. I was frightened by these apparitions, though they always approached me as harmless young children. I wanted an explanation as to why they stood quietly by, watching me. I would be in my room or sitting in the warm sun of the courtyard. These spirits would be there one moment and gone the next. I felt them waiting, and I wondered if it could be true that they would soon take me with them.

Ching said it was the fever, and my mother blamed it on the tricks of a creative mind. I tried not to pay attention to them, but the spirits only left when my health improved. Until now, I didn't dare let myself think that these ghosts had returned. Matsu laughed. Are you free tomorrow, or will you be meeting your new friends? I lay in bed and waited for the first sounds of Matsu preparing breakfast in the kitchen before I got up, and dressed in a clean white shirt and my beige cotton slacks.

When I slid open my door, the delicious smells coming from the kitchen were not those of our usual salted fish or pickled vegetables. The doorway of the kitchen had become my usual place to stand since the kitchen wasn't large and I didn't want to get in Matsu's way. It seemed like a long time since I'd eaten bacon and eggs. Before my illness, when all of us were home from school on vacation, my parents would often take us to Western hotels for brunch.

The long tables held something special for each one of us. Pie would race through her entrees so she could get to the miniature cream puffs and puddings, while Henry and I concentrated on the bacon and sausages, and Anne nibbled on the salads. My family has always taken care of this house.

Even when we were young, my sisters and I ran little errands and I helped my father take care of the garden. When my parents became too old, I took over for them," Matsu answered. I watched as he cracked two eggs into a clay bowl, mixed them thoroughly, and poured them into a hot skillet. Then while the eggs were cooking, he laughed hoarsely and continued, "The first time I made your oj -san his breakfast, I was afraid I couldn't make his eggs the way he liked. I must have gone through half a dozen eggs before he came into the kitchen and showed me how he wanted them cooked.

He died before I had a chance to really know him. I only remember his carved cane and the tall hats he wore. He knew what his assets were and sometimes liked to flaunt them. Everyone in Tarumi liked your oj -san. He was a very generous man. Unlike your o-t san, who is more serious about his work, your oj -san seemed to relax immediately once he was here. I pulled out a wobbly wooden stool from under the table and quickly sat down as ordered. Matsu filled a plate for himself and sat down next to me. He leaned toward the counter and brought back a pot of tea, filling the two cups in front of us.

Then hewaited for me to begin to eat first. I picked up a strip of bacon and took a big bite. At first it felt strange to be eating in the small, crowded kitchen with Matsu, but it didn't take more than two mouthfuls before I was perfectly at ease. It seemed like a good time to bring up another subject that had been on my mind. It felt like forever until he looked up and said gently. It would only embarrass her. Matsu cleared his throat and didn't say anything more. I took the gesture to mean yes, but knew better than to stress the point.

Matsu said very little during our walk to Yamaguchi. I wasn't sure if he was upset at my bringing something to Sachi, but he had smiled his approval when I showed him the charcoal sketch I'd drawn down at the beach after breakfast. I had hoped to run into Keiko and Mika again, but the beach remained empty. When the road ended, we followed a dirt path that gradually wove its way up the mountain. Since the path was too narrow for two to walk comfortably, I followed Matsu, who remained lost in his own thoughts.

Nothing seemed to deter him, while I jumped over rocks and overgrown shrubs along the way. Matsu walked ahead, sure-footed, turning back only once to see if I was still there. Under one arm, he carried several newspapers and magazines. And in the other, a package wrapped in brown paper. He never even noticed when I stopped to catch my breath.

When we reached Yamaguchi, the village was relatively quiet. Most of the villagers were inside eating lunch. I could see shadows move about darkened doorways as we walked by. Once in a while, a gruff, loud voice acknowledged our presence with a spirited hello. I felt a twinge of nervousness when Sachi's house came into sight.

I carried the rolled-up charcoal sketch in my sweaty hand. It wasn't my best work, but I thought I'd captured some endless, serene quality about the sea which I hoped Sachi might appreciate. Matsu knocked on the door and waited. I expected to see the same shy smile greet us from under her black scarf, but a few moments passed and no one answered. Matsu took a step back and knocked louder. When there was still no answer, he turned to me and said calmly, "She must be in the garden. He swung open a tall bamboo gate and stepped to the side, allowing me to enter first. In place of the greens, browns, and flashes of color which punctuated Matsu's garden, the spareness of Sachi's garden stunned me.

There were no trees, flowers, or water, only a landscape made of sand, stones, rocks, and some pale green moss which covered the shaded areas. I took a few minutes to take it all in. On the rugged, sloping earth, Sachi had created mountains from arranged rocks, surrounded by gravel and elongated stones flowing down like a rocky stream leading to a lake or the sea. The flat surface of water was formed by smooth round pebbles, raked in straight and encircling lines to suggest whirlpools and waves. Only then did I even remember he was behind me. It was the first time I saw him so disturbed.

Matsu quickly walked back to the front of the house, but Icouldn't move. I took another long look at Sachi's garden before I turned around and followed. Matsu had already begun walking to the village when, in the distance, I saw Sachi hurrying toward him. Her dark blue kimono swept across the dirt as she walked. Matsu stopped and waited, as she approached and bowed. He reached over and took her packages as they walked back to the house. With one hand Sachi held her scarf close to the left side of her face. I returned Sachi's bow and smiled. I didn't realize it would take so long," Sachi continued to apologize.

Matsu handed Sachi the newspapers and magazines, then took the rest of the packages to the kitchen. I handed her the soiled, rolled-up drawing, wishing I had wrapped it in another piece of paper. Sachi bowed timidly. She turned away from me and unrolled it slowly. When she saw that it was a charcoal sketch of the sea, she quickly turned back to me and bowed again, exposing the scarred side of her face.

I wanted to bring you a token of my appreciation. I didn't know what to say, and was saved when Matsu, lifting up his brown package, said loudly from across the room, "And I have brought you a chicken! Her hand patted it gently just once before she turned back to me. We ate lunch at the low table in Sachi's dining room.

She had prepared fish cake, rice, thin slices of raw fish, marinated eel, and pickled vegetables. It all came in a black bento box, divided into separate sections. While Matsu and I ate, Sachi nibbled at her food, poured tea whenever we had sipped from our cups, and was ready at any moment to go back into the kitchen for more food. She slowly rose to collect the empty boxes.

The sun was overhead, which lightened the color of the rocks, setting them aglow. Matsu was the one who insisted I have a garden. He showed me that life is not just from within, it extends all around you, whether you wish it to or not. And so, this garden has become a part of my life. Her garden was a mixture of beauty and sadness, the rocks and stones an illusion of movement. What could she have possibly done to deserve such a fate? Didn't her family ever try to help her? I looked at the slim, shy woman standing in front of me and wanted all my questions answered, but I kept quiet and could only hope the answers would be given to me in time.

I held my jacket tightly closed against the cold wind. The branches and twigs snapped beneath our feet as we walked. He was just a step ahead of me and in a good mood. Matsu cleared his throat, slowed down, and turned to me. In the beginning, I tried to get her to come down, but she was too ashamed. Matsu shook his head, then said, "It wasn't so simple. It was a question of honor. Once she became afflicted with the disease, it was Sachi who chose not to dishonor her family any more than she had.

Finishing it was like saying good-bye to my family again and being cast adrift on some endless sea; I felt that empty. A small replica of his garden sat propped on the easel drying. I stood by the painting, eager for some kind of reaction from him; a simple smile of recognition, or at the least, a lingering gaze. Instead, Matsu stepped into the room wiping his mud-stained hands with an old rag. He took no more than a moment to glance at the painting, then grunt his approval before he turned to leave again. My fingers closed tightly around one of my grandfather's brushes. The strong, sharp smell of the paints filled the room.

Then, as if he knew my thoughts, Matsu stopped and turned to ask, "I have to go into town now, would you like to come along? Yet, even when we came to Tarumi as children, we seldom left the house and beach. It was always Ching or the other servants who walked the mile back and forth to buy food and whatever else was needed. I never thought of it as much more than a few scattered buildings, but now the prospect of seeing the village seemed like a good way to spend the afternoon.

Tarumi was not far from the train station, lying in the opposite direction of our beach house. When Matsu and I approached the small station and worn tracks, a train had just pulled in. People had begun to disembark as we walked toward town. I felt their stares follow me.

I knew it was not only because I was a Chinese face in their village, but I also realized there were very few young men in Tarumi. Most of the women were dressed in dark, padded kimonos, but a few younger girls had on Western dresses and coats. I was mesmerized being around so many people again; the subtle sweet and sour odors of perfume and sweat, the high andlow of different voices. If I closed my eyes, I could almost pretend I was back in Kobe. Tarumi looked tired and faded in the gray light.

The buildings which lined each side of the dirt road were built of dingy brown wood. The village consisted of a store, post office, and teahouse. Their large, bold characters were carefully painted on signs above each building. Farther down the road were smaller houses where the townspeople lived.

Bits and pieces of their lives could be seen in the bicycles and toys leaning against the mismatched bamboo fences. Dogs roamed freely down the road, as the bobbing figures of women and children walked back to their houses. I couldn't help but wonder which house belonged to Keiko and Mika. I followed him across the road to the teahouse. At the door we were greeted by a thin man with a white towel draped over his shoulder.

His eyes were dark and sharp, and I watched as he lifted his right hand against the dull light from the street.

The Samurai's Garden: A Novel - Gail Tsukiyama - Google книги

I wondered when you would stop by," he bowed. Matsu turned, grabbed my shoulder firmly and pulled me forward. He's also the man who gets me bacon and whatever else I need. When my eyes adjusted to the dim light inside, I noticed that besides us, there was a lone old man sitting in the far corner.

The neat rows of tables were separated by simple wood panels, while sturdy wooden beams ran across the ceiling. The room felt comfortable and inviting. On each panel was printed a large white character, which when read together meant, "Great Harmony. This teahouse belonged to his family. Kenzo came to your oj -san's house while I was working with my father in the garden. Unlike me, Kenzo had always been very popular. He was the last one I had ever expected to see. I remember being covered in dirt.

I barely said a word. Kenzo stood so straight, dressed in clean, starched clothes. Even as a boy, he was very proud and self-assured," Matsu said. I was so surprised, I only mumbled that I would stop by his house and take a look. In the end, I didn't accept his father's job. My own father wanted me to spend more time on my studies.

But soon afterward, Kenzo began to speak to me at school and we became good friends. Matsu shook his head. They were very popular.


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Most of the time they were off whispering and laughing, never paying much attention to me. It must have been hard for anyone to believe that Tomoko and I were from the same ry shin. I looked down and didn't know what to say. He should have gone off to the city like the others.

[Book Review] The Samurai's Garden

He would be a rich man by now if he had. Being the only son, he felt it his responsibility to care for his mother when his father finally died. We were about seventeen at the time. He placed it on the table and carefully distributed a bowl of rice crackers, a large brown bottle of beer for Matsu, and a pinkish colored cold drink for me. Then Matsu gestured for him to take the seat next to me.

Kenzo took the towel from his shoulder and wiped up the water beading on the table. He leaned over and arranged the bowl of rice crackers so that it was exactly in the middle of the table. When he slipped into the chair next to mine, he brought with him the oily smell of cooking, mixed with tobacco smoke. Matsu had already poured out his beer, quick to drink down half a glass in one large swallow.

Kenzo pointed to the glass in front of me. I smiled and bowed my head. The glass felt wet and cold in my hand as I sipped the pinkish drink. It tasted sweet and flowery. Kenzo smiled and turned to Matsu. Then, before anything else was said, both Matsu and Kenzo burst into laughter. I took another swallow of the too-sweet drink.

Each sip let me know something new; it tasted more and more like flowers, with a strong scent of roses. But it was Matsu who laughed and answered, "It's his secret recipe that no one wants. In the dim tearoom, I once again saw Matsu as if for the first time, like someone I didn't know, light and playful. I imagined they knew each other's every move. Matsu was always the one who made the water marks, while Kenzo dutifully wiped them up.

I listened while their low, rough voices filled the open room. Muramoto- san just came to tell me the news," said Kenzo. I was grateful when Matsu changed the subject and spoke of the weather, business at the teahouse, his garden. My own thoughts began to take over. I knew deep inside that it was true that Shanghai would soon fall to the Japanese. Then they would continue south, destroying everything that stood in their way. I tried to change my thoughts, thinking how there might be a chance of my running into Keiko and Mika if I went for a walk.

I was just about to excuse myself when Kenzo's questions drew me quickly back into their conversation. He quickly reached across the table and snatched the note from Matsu's hand, placing it carefully into his shirt pocket. Kenzo smiled, then looked toward Matsu. Kenzo bowed and put his hand over his shirt pocket to make sure the note hadn't slipped out. He stood just a moment at the doorway of his teahouse, then disappeared back inside. Matsu slowed down and turned to face me.

We all knew each other when we were young. After she left for Yamaguchi, she would no longer see him. It never failed to amaze me how much one post office was like another in different places, even if every other custom varied. Tarumi's post office was identical to ones I'd seen in Hong Kong and Canton. A small, wiry man sat behind a caged window and became the messenger of words.

The bare room was crowded with people who waited in line and whispered in low voices. Matsu gestured brusquely for me to wait while he went to collect the mail. I watched him hurry to the back of the room, down a narrow hallway, and stop halfway at what must have been his box. I hoped I hadn't offended him by asking too many questions. When he returned, Matsu didn't say anything, simply handing me an envelope which had my name on it. I could tell right away just by the heavy smell in the air. The sky was a dreary gray that hung so low and thick it felt suffocating.

Matsu kept looking out the back door and up at the sky with such an intensity, it seemed as if it were night and he was looking for a particular star. He then mumbled something I couldn't hear and returned to the table saying nothing. After breakfast, I went out to the garden and read my mother's letter over again. I had hoped that something overnight might have changed its contents. In it, she asked if I'd known anything about a woman my father was keeping in Kobe. The shock and disbelief I felt yesterday now gave way to a stabbing pain that moved through my body as I faced her words again.

In this I have never found fault in your father. He has always provided us with everything we needed. What he does during his life in Japan has always been his own business. But I have just learned through Mr. Chung at The Royal Hong Kong Bank that your father has been withdrawing large sums of money in the name of a woman residing in Kobe, Japan. Chung felt the need to tell me when your father asked to borrow against our Hong Kong house. It has been a great shock to me, Stephen.

But my first concern must be for you children. Now that you are getting better, perhaps you should just return to Kobe early. You're old enough to understand these things, and you've always been the closest to your father. Maybe you can find out what this is all about. Everyone in Hong Kong was fine, and Pie would write soon. I sat, stunned by her words each time I read them over again. I swallowed hard and let my eyes wander away from her straight, neatly written characters. I knew my mother's even tone masked the embarrassment she must have felt, and part of me wished I could be in Hong Kong to comfort her.

I tried to imagine my mother after she first heard the news. She might have been standing on the front balcony of our house, overlooking the Hong Kong harbor, her fan moving the heavy air from side to side, her other hand raised to block out the sun's glare. From the courtyard, the high, whiny voices of our servants could be heard, while Pie might be running in and out asking her question after question.

All the while, I knew my mother could only have one thing on her mind: Who was this woman who had stolen my father's love? I put the thin sheets of paper back into the blue envelope and closed my eyes. The wind had begun to blow, stirring the heavy air. I wanted to cry. My mother was wrong, I didn't feel old enough to understand any of it. My father never told me of another woman in his life. He was simply the man who wore immaculate dark suits, worried about my health, and sat on the beach waiting for me to listen to his calm voice.

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I never saw him give money to other women. I only knew one thing for sure, I wasn't ready to leave Tarumi yet. The wind started to blow harder by late afternoon. I sat at my grandfather's desk trying to write a letter back to my mother when I heard the angry wind whistling through the house. It rattled the shoji walls and shook the floor beneath me.

Matsu had disappeared after lunch without saying a word about where he was going. At the time I was happy to be left by myself, but as I stood up, I felt the floor vibrate and I began to worry. All of a sudden I heard Matsu calling from the garden. I went to the front door and saw him hurrying through the garden to the house. He came into the genken and told me to follow him. In a small storage space next to the kitchen, Matsu began pulling out several large wooden boards. We placed the wooden panels over the front shoji windows first. It began raining and the wind had increased so we could barely walk straight.

I couldn't imagine Matsu having to do this by himself. We moved as quickly as we could around the house, until all the shoji panels were covered and the house appeared entombed. We were soaking wet, running around securing everything we thought might be washed away. When I stopped to catch my breath, I could hear the ocean rise up and crash against the road in front of the house.

Matsu stood at the open gate, watching the waves thunder up and over the dunes onto the road. Sometimes the storm just dies down," Matsu said, turning back to watch the road. It seemed like the storm would last forever, as it steadily grew in strength. The wind and rain continued, and the noise of the violent sea was deafening. With a wire net, Matsu carefully scooped up his fish from the overflowing pond into a wooden barrel.

I watched as the waves crept closer and closer to the house, sliding under the bamboo gate and into the garden. Each time a wave receded, it left a foamy white line marking each advancing step. He nodded his head in acknowledgment. I started toward the house, then stopped and turned quickly back to help Matsu catch the last of his fish. Just then the first wave crashed over the fence, drenching us. I saw several of his fish washed out of the barrel, squirming on the dirt. The next wave was even more powerful, and the one after that roared over the bamboo gate so fast and strong that neither of us had the chance to hang on.

The wall of water swept us both off our feet, knocking us solidly against the house. I hit the house so hard the air was knocked out of me. I tried to get up, but the next wave slammed me back down before I knew what was happening. I grabbed onto a post by the genken and tried to stand up again. I could hear Matsu yelling to me, but he sounded strangely far away, like we were already lost, deep under the water.

I opened my eyes to the dim light of a flickering oil lamp. My wet clothes were on the floor next to me.


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  • As my head cleared, I remembered the last thing I felt was the strong punch of the rushing water and then nothing; blackness. It was just a miracle that the house still stood, somehow having survived the crashing waves. When I tried to raise my head, I felt an intense pounding that forced me down again.

    I closed my eyes until the throbbing quieted, then opened them cautiously, hopeful that the gradual light wouldn't hurt my head. The boarded shoji windows gave no hint as to whether it was day or night. The house was completely still. There were no sounds of Matsu anywhere. Outside I could hear rain falling, but the fierce winds seemed to have died down. The strong, sweet and sour odor of the dank tatami mats filled the room. All I wanted was to steady myself enough so that I could get up and see what was going on. Very slowly, I moved my feet from the futon to the tatami mats, and with all the strength I could muster in my arms, gradually pushed my upper body into a sitting position.

    My head began to pound again.

    The Samurai's Garden Summary & Study Guide

    I gently rubbed my temples, still sticky with salt from the ocean. Behind my right ear I could feel a good-size bump. It was the sound of voices that reached me first, followed by footsteps that entered the genken. I recognized Matsu's voice immediately, but the other was barely audible. From the ease of Matsu's words, I could tell it was someone he knew well. The sound of footsteps continued down the hall until the shadowy figures stopped in front of my door. I smiled weakly up at him as he stood in the doorway. Across his left cheek was a long, white bandage. He touched his bandaged cheek.

    It felt stronger than a tsunami," Matsu said, stroking his cheek again. I lifted my weak legs back onto the futon and quickly covered my nakedness. Only then did I remember that there were two voices that had entered the house. I looked up just as Sachi stepped out from behind Matsu. In the flickering light, I caught a slight smile from behind her scarf. I tried to sit up again as the throbbing in my head became stronger. Sachi bowed. But I remember from my childhood how violent the waves can become. She turned around and glanced shyly at Matsu. I strained to keep sight of Sachi.

    I breathed in the pleasure of having her so close by, knowing it was the first time she had left Yamaguchi in forty years.

    I mumbled something about how long she was going to stay, hoping she would never leave, but my head began to pound so hard I could barely keep my eyes open. She had to go through exile because of the disease she caught. She endured the loss of her best friend, who preferred killing herself over living the rest of her life as a leper.

    The 's Garden By Gail Tsukiyama

    It is a representation of how imperfections are what make the bigger picture whole. I give the book a rating of 3. Column: Pocket Full of Books An avid reader, Maitha has always dreamt of being a recognized novelist and poet. My partner and I stumbled over here from a different page and thgought I might check things out. I like what I see soo now i am following you. Look forward to finding oout about your weeb page yet again. Stephen helps in the garden as well and paints it, his artistic outlet. Really, we decided, it could be any of the main characters except for Kenzo.

    His character was cowardly. When Sachi and Stephen are sitting in the garden, she explains the significance of the bridge to him. When you reach the top of the bridge, you can see y our way to paradise. There was a struggle to find peace in solitude for the three main characters. Our group really concluded that while they were at peace with their solitude, they came alive and grew when they were with other people.

    Matsu was fine alone, but in Yamaguchi and with Stephen he came out of his shell. Sachi needed people around her in Yamaguchi and Matsu to find peace. Stephen was okay with being alone in Tarumi but came alive when he saw Keiko and her sister. There can be an acceptance of loneliness, but with others the characters grew. It was about money during a depression when they were lucky to have what they did. The two were blaming each other for their own actions and it seemed like his mother was trying to get Stephen to her side.

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    We thought it was strange that the mother would turn to her son with something so personal to ask for help, but she really had no other options. We were all a bit surprised that he lied to his mother about the money. It seemed out of character for him. As a group, we had very few problems with this novel.

    My personal issue was with the diary format. At the beginning and end, the writing seemed like a diary to me, but that was 5 pages out of The rest felt like a narrative and I thought it would have been stronger if the whole thing was written as a narrative. And as always, feel free to leave a comment! You are commenting using your WordPress. You are commenting using your Google account. You are commenting using your Twitter account. You are commenting using your Facebook account.

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