"Five charming novellas … which have astonishing freshness, color, and warmth."-- The New Yorker
First published in 1686, this collection of five novellas by Ihara Saikaku was an immediate bestseller in the bawdy world of Genroku Japan. The book's popularity has only increased with age, making it a literary classic like Boccaccio's Decameron, or the works of Rabelais.
Each of the five stories follows a determined woman on her quest for amorous adventure:
The Story of Seijuro in Himeji -- Onatsu, already wise in the ways of love the tender age of sixteen.
The Barrelmaker Brimful of Love -- Osen, a faithful wife until unjustly accused of adultery.
What the Seasons Brought the Almanac Maker-- Osan, a Kyoto beauty who falls asleep in the wrong bed.
The Greengrocer's Daughter with a Bundle of Love -- Oshichi, willing to burn down a city to meet her samurai lover.
Gengobei, the Mountain of Love -- Oman, who has to compete with handsome boys to win her lover's affections.
But the book is more than a collection of skillfully told erotic tales, for "Saikaku …could not delve into the inmost secrets of human life only to expose them to ridicule or snickering prurience. Obviously fascinated by the variety and complexity of human love, but always retaining a sense of its intrinsic dignity … he is both a discriminating and compassionate judge of his fellow man."
Saikaku's style, as allusive as it is witty, is a challenge that few translators have dared to face, and certainly never before with the success here. Accentuated by gorgeous 17th-century illustrations. Theodore de Bary's translation manages to recapture the heady flavor of the original in this sumptuous collection of romantic tales.
About the Author: Ihara Saikaku (1641-1693) has been called "the greatest popular Japanese novelist of the 17th century." Also a poet, Saikaku founded the ukiyo-zoshi (books of the floating world) genre, which flourished between the 1680s and the 1770s.
Wm. Theodore de Bary (born August 9, 1919), is an American sinologist and East Asian literature scholar who has edited numerous books relating to primarily Japanese and Chinese literature, history and culture. He is recognized as essentially creating the field of Neo-Confucian studies.