“To mother, from Tsuneno (confidential). I’m writing with spring greetings. I went to Kanda Minagawa-chō in Edo—quite unexpectedly—and I ended up in so much trouble!”
This letter, hidden in an archive in Niigata Prefecture, inspired Professor Amy Stanley to write her latest work: Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World (Scribner, 2020). She traces Tsuneno’s life, from growing up in a rural community through her escape to the city of Edo, where she lives in the final decades of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
In this interview with Professor Stanley, we discuss her book: the life of its main character and its historical setting. We touch on how Tsuneno's life tells us more about life, especially the life of women, during this period of Japanese history. We also talk about what inspired her to write about this ordinary woman, and what the research process was like.
Amy Stanley is a Professor of History at Northwestern University, where she is a historian of early and modern Japan, with special interest in women's history. You can follow her on Twitter at @astanley711.
Nicholas Gordon is a reviewer for the Asian Review of Books. In his day job, he’s a researcher and writer for a think tank in economic and sustainable development. He can be found on Twitter at @nickrigordon.