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Five Women Who Loved Love: Amorous Tales from 17th Century Japan [Paperback]

Saikaku Ihara , W.T.De Bary

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Product details

  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; Third Printing edition (22 Dec 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804801843
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804801843
  • Product Dimensions: 20 x 13 x 2 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 174,674 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
Five Women Who Loved Love was written by a citizen of Osaka for the amusement of the townspeople in the new commercial centers of seventeenth-century Japan. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Amazon.com: 4.4 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life is short. Love is long 26 Feb 2008
By Zack Davisson - Published on Amazon.com
Ihara Saikaku understood his modern world. A writer of the Genroku Period, considered the golden age of the Edo era, he lived in the perfect flicker of a moment when peace was reigning, arts and leisure were refined, and the flower of the modern era was slowly starting to unfold into what would be the strife that would follow. Ihara knew that the time of the martial masters, the samurai and the daimyo, were over, and the merchant and the golden coin were the true rulers of Japan. Instead of the aristocracy, with their strict Confucian codes of honor and filial piety, he wrote of the townspeople, the rascals and pleasure seekers, the ones who did most of the real living and dying in Japan.

Like in his The Life of an Amorous Man and This Scheming World (Tuttle Classics of Japanese Literature), "Five Women who Loved Love" is about these average folks, specifically of the lives of five woman who were so bold as to seek love and pleasure, in spite of social attitudes about such things. They are not always admirable women, and their loves are not always beautiful. These are not role models for romanticists, and some of them are little more than aggressive pleasure seekers.

But their stories and real. Saikaku often based these stories off of real accounts, writing up semi-fictional versions of them, in order to flesh out the tale and make sure that a nice little moral lesson was included. This was important, as in order to get by the Shoganate censors it was necessary that all the characters were punished for their breaking the rules of society. But these little moral come-uppances are often just tagged on at the end, and one gets the feeling that Saikaku doesn't really feel that the punishment is fitting the crime. The only crime, in fact, is that these woman wanted love, by whatever definition they applied it.

This Tuttle Press version is also nice in that it contains the original illustrations that were included with Saikaku's version from 1686. There is also a good essay in the back, by Richard Lane, where the original stories of Saikaku's Five Women are told, and the real facts are sifted from the fiction. It provides a nice background to the book, and was very enjoyable.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lovely 30 April 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
These stories are beautifully written, with lively characters, witty plots, and a good mix of humor and tragedy. Moreover, the translation is masterful. This book is an under-recognized gem.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Loved to death 4 Sep 2004
By wiredweird - Published on Amazon.com
As the title suggests, this is a set of five short stories, related in theme. In each a woman is carried away by her passion for the wrong man; in most, the woman dies or comes to a bad end. Only one of the stories has a happy finish, the one in which the leading lady 'cures' a man who loved other men.

The moral tone is clear: punishment surely follows from wantonness. Either civil law or heaven's law may execute the sentence. Suicide, wasting away, execution, or monastic poverty, the general result was the same. The moralistic tone may seem natural, given a society with many conservative elements and given that Saikaku did much of his writing after taking holy orders.

The tone rings just a little false, though. On the whole, Saikaku's writing sounds sympathetic towards the people involved. He was very well aware that men and women are flawed beings, and had a monk's awareness of how material concerns can control a person. Also, Saikaku's "Life of an Amorous Man" must be taken as part of the stories' context. In that book, the wastrel hero ends up an old man, happy, and still seeking the next day's material happiness. The women in four of these stories end badly, even though their equally guilty men sometimes do not. It's never said in quite these words, but Saikaku seesm to hold women and men to different standards of behavior.

Like some of Saikaku's other writing, these stories have a drifting quality about them. The plots, to my Western eye, wander where they will. I don't read these for their stories, though. I read them for their travelogues and impressions of people and events.

4.0 out of 5 stars Excellant 11 May 2014
By Darlene - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
tI was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this book. It came in very good position. If you like old books, you'll love this one.
4.0 out of 5 stars Five interesting liveskkk 10 July 2013
By barbara ohata - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is a classic by writer/poet Saikaku, famous for his tales of life in Japan during the Classical era. Good translation,
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