Uh-oh, it looks like your Internet Explorer is out of date.

For a better shopping experience, please upgrade now.

Storm Rider

Storm Rider

by Akira Yoshimura, Philip Gabriel (Translator)

See All Formats & Editions

Based on real characters and events, Storm Rider is a vivid historical portrait of Japan and America in the mid-nineteenth century, as well as an exciting high-seas adventure and a moving story of a man lost between two cultures.

At the age of thirteen, Hikotaro is orphaned and left to a life at sea. When the merchant vessel he sails on is caught in a violent


Based on real characters and events, Storm Rider is a vivid historical portrait of Japan and America in the mid-nineteenth century, as well as an exciting high-seas adventure and a moving story of a man lost between two cultures.

At the age of thirteen, Hikotaro is orphaned and left to a life at sea. When the merchant vessel he sails on is caught in a violent storm on the Pacific, an American ship comes to the rescue and takes the young boy to San Francisco. With trepidation and hope, the boy-now dubbed Hikozo-accepts his new country. Still, he dreams of returning to Japan, but shogunate policy forbids reentry to Japanese who have been abroad. He tries anyway, only to be refused and returned to America, where a wealthy American adopts Hikozo and introduces him to a world of influence and power. Some ten years later, Hikozo returns to a Japan stirred into violence by the opening of the country. At the same time, America is in the midst of its bloody Civil War, and Hikozo finds that there is no place he can call home.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Set in the mid-19th century, this fourth of Yoshimura's novels to be translated into English tells the astonishing story of a 13-year-old Japanese boy who becomes a castaway, is rescued by an American ship and brought to San Francisco, and finally returns years later to his native land. Unfortunately, while the circumstances the narrative covers-storms at sea, unspeakable privations, violent rebellions on several continents, amazing coincidences and ironic reversals-are dramatic and surprising, the novel itself is written (or perhaps translated) in dry circumstantial detail, wooden in affect. Born in a small village on an island on the Inland Sea, Hikotaro, aka Hikozo and Joseph Hiko, traverses more than oceans in a lifelong voyage. He faces the cultural dislocations of an alien in American society and the violent enmity of his countrymen when he returns to Japan as a Westernized employee of the U.S. consulate. His life spans the Taiping Rebellion in China, the U.S. Civil War and the turbulent period before the Meiji Restoration in Japan. Along the way he meets three U.S. Presidents-Pierce, Buchanan and Lincoln-travels with Commodore Perry's fleet, is promised a job by Secretary of State William Seward and crosses paths with many other notable people. After returning to his homeland, he founds Japan's first newspaper and uses his skill in English to succeed in several businesses. But beneath his achievements lies the sadness of a man without a country. Readers can't fail to find the novel's historical details fascinating, but its protagonist and his shipmates, whose exhaustively detailed experiences are also interpolated into the narrative, lack emotional depth, and Yoshimura's matter-of-fact prose fails to sustain dramatic tension. Agent, Al Zuckerman. (May 4) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Yoshimura follows One Man's Justice with another work of historical fiction. Here he brings us to the mid-1800s, where he tracks the real life of Hizoko, a Japanese boy orphaned by his mother at 13. When Hizoko follows in his stepfather's and stepbrother's footsteps and becomes a sailor, he is caught in a violent storm and shipwrecked. As a castaway, Hizoko is found and brought to America, where he is baptized as Joseph Heco. When he takes a difficult journey back to his homeland some nine years later, he experiences the loneliness of a man caught between two separate cultures who has to face the disappointment of not fitting into either one. Yoshimura narrates this story with great attention to detail. Hizoko's story has the potential to appeal to a wide cross section of readers; with its fluid prose and descriptions of Hizoko's life at sea, this work might be likened to the early portion of James Michener's Hawaii. A definite purchase for public and academic libraries already carrying titles by Yoshimura and a good choice for those libraries desiring to build up their historical or Asian fiction collections.-Shirley N. Quan, Orange Cty. P.L., Santa Ana, CA Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Here's something different from the prizewinning Japanese author (One Man's Justice, 2001, etc.): a historical novel about a preadolescent boy who leaves his homeland and loses his nationality. Thirteen-year-old Hikotaro joins the crew of a merchant ship captained by his stepfather, following his mother's death in 1850. Having transferred to another vessel, he survives a violent storm, is rescued by an American ship, and lands in San Francisco, where (having been renamed "Hikozo" by American shipmates) he learns that Japan's ruling Shogunate's "national seclusion policy" may prevent him from ever returning home. Indeed, throughout the next two decades his life consists of gradual assimilation into American culture (aided primarily by a kindly Baltimore revenue officer) and repeated attempts to make his way back to Japan-initially aboard a warship commanded by Commodore Perry, later as an increasingly Americanized (and expertly bilingual) clerk and interpreter employed by various governmental and commercial interests. Both increasing samurai violence against Westerners and closed opportunities caused by the US Civil War keep Hikozo (by now a naturalized American citizen, hence a.k.a. "Joseph Heco") dangling unhappily between his native and adoptive countries-until he finally returns to Japan and eventually dies there. Storm Rider, the fourth of Yoshimura's novels to be translated into English, is a hastily narrated and curiously muted story, burdened with excess exposition and awkward construction (e.g., his tendency to flatten scenes with interpolated summaries of peripheral characters' subsequent histories). Its action is tediously redundant (though not at all uninteresting).Furthermore, Hikozo is an essentially opaque character who appears to lack sexual or romantic feelings, or any emotions beyond homesickness-and has a Zelig-like capacity for briefly encountering historical characters who have little to do with the story of his life on which we wish Yoshimura would concentrate more fully. Much less dramatic and satisfying than Yoshimura's tightly plotted earlier fiction. A disappointment. Agency: Sobel Weber
From the Publisher

“Haunting and austerely beautiful . . .Makes you wonder why it took so long for an American publisher to discover him.”—THE NEW YORK TIMES

Product Details

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
Edition description:
First Edition
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x (d)

Read an Excerpt

HIKOTARO SAT ON THE BEACH, clutching his knees close, and gazed out at the sea. A long, narrow strip of white stretched far away on the gravelly beach, right at the water's edge-the line of shells washed up whenever the surf grew rough.

The early autumn sky was serene, without a cloud. The smell of the sea wafted toward him on the faint breeze. To the left Awaji Island was visible, to the right Shodo Island and two large ships in a row sailing from west to east. Behind them a smaller boat slowly plowed its way through the water.

After his mother died, Hikotaro stopped attending the local temple school and spent most of his time like this, staring out at the sea. Even when it rained, this is where he could be found. What he saw before him was not the sea, though, but his mother's pale, beautiful face. It was hard for him, at thirteen, to believe that she was gone.

He was born August 2 in the third year of Tempo (1837) in the village of Komiya in the province of Harima, on the shores of the Sea of Harima in the Inland Sea. His father died when Hikotaro was still an infant, and he had no memories of him. He and his mother lived alone after that, but several years later his mother, an attractive woman, remarried a man named Kichizaemon from the nearby village of Hamada in Honjo Village. Kichizaemon's wife had died, and he'd been living with his son. Kichizaemon was the captain on a large ship that plied the waters between Hyogo and Edo, and more often than not he was away from home.

Hikotaro felt uneasy at his mother's remarrying, but it turned out his fears were groundless. His stepfather loved him as if Hikotaro were his own child, and was always sure to bring home presents from Edo that were bound to please the boy. His stepbrother too, Unomatsu, was happy to have a younger brother and always looked out for him.

Unomatsu was a happy-go-lucky sort of person and often went out to have fun with friends and didn't come home until late. Worried about his son's future, Kichizaemon had Unomatsu apprenticed to his uncle when he turned sixteen; the uncle was captain of a large vessel that sailed between Osaka and Edo. Unomatsu enjoyed being a sailor, learned his trade quickly, and in three years rose to the rank of second officer.

Whenever Hikotaro's stepfather and stepbrother came back from a voyage, they brought with them the smell of the sea, and after days spent in the brilliant sun and glare of the water, their faces were sleek and tan.

When Unomatsu returned from a voyage, he would regale Hikotaro and his mother with tales of what he'd seen and done, and would go to the neighbors, too, to recount his adventures. Most of the villagers had never set foot in the outside world and were spellbound by his tales. Secretly jealous of his stepbrother, Hikotaro dreamed of becoming a sailor. His stepfather and stepbrother were so manly, he thought, always taking on the sea, traveling to faraway places and meeting fascinating people. And the pay was certainly part of the attraction.

In the spring of his tenth year, Hikotaro told his mother that he wanted to be a sailor.

"Don't be stupid," his mother said.

To rise from common deckhand to captain takes years of grueling training, she told him, and when it storms at sea, life belowdecks is a living hell-the sea shows no mercy when it comes to swallowing up human life. Every time his stepfather and stepbrother left, she prayed they would return safely. "Two people is more than enough for me to worry about," she said, frowning.

"I'd like you to work in a shipping agency in Hyogo," she said. "That's why you have to go to the temple school and learn to read and write and calculate with an abacus."

Thinking that her explanation made sense, Hikotaro applied himself more than ever to his studies at school.

Three years passed, and in the beginning of March Hikotaro's cousin on his mother's side pulled into harbor in his small ship and stopped by the house. He was on his way to Marugame with nine passengers from Edo who were going to visit the Kompira Shrine in Shikoku.

"I'll take you with me," his cousin said.

"My mother won't allow it," Hikotaro replied. "She hates ships." But his cousin promised he would take Hikotaro to the Kompira Shrine and nowhere else. Finally his mother relented and Hikotaro went on board.

When the ship began to pull away, he could barely contain his excitement, for it was the first time he'd ever left his village. They passed right by Shodo Island, the one he could always see from the beach, wended their way among numerous other islands, and arrived at the harbor at Marugame. Hikotaro and his cousin saw the Kompira Shrine, then went to Miyajima, where they visited the famous Itsukushima Shrine.

On the return voyage they dropped off the passengers at Muronotsu, then returned to Hamada. Hikotaro's mother hugged him tight and told him she'd never let him go again.

Later that same day she collapsed. Hikotaro had gone to the neighbors to tell them all about his trip to the Kompira Shrine and Itsukushima Shrine, when a man from the neighborhood ran in and said his mother had taken ill. Hikotaro had just been talking with her and couldn't believe it. He raced home.

His mother was in a coma when he arrived. The doctor was already there and said she'd had a stroke; he'd prepared some medicine, but she had already lost consciousness. Her joy at Hikotaro's return had been too great a strain, and she'd burst a blood vessel. Hikotaro ran to the local shrine to pray, but four days later, on the eighteenth of May, his mother died.

Hikotaro's stepfather and stepbrother were out at sea, so it was left to him, at the age of thirteen, with help from his maternal grandmother, to make the preparations to lay his mother to rest. Following tradition, they laid her body in a large washtub filled with water whose temperature was adjusted by adding hot water (instead of normal bathwater, which started out hot and was adjusted by having cold water added), and as they bathed the corpse for burial, Hikotaro was racked with sobs.

They bound his mother's knees with rope so she was in a sitting position, and placed her in an upright coffin, which was then lowered outside from the veranda. Holding an incense burner, Hikotaro joined the funeral procession.

The procession headed down a path through the cotton fields, where the flowers were just beginning to blossom, to the communal graveyard. The coffin was lowered into the hole that had been dug, dirt was filled in and a large stone placed on top. Hikotaro knelt at the grave and wept loudly.

That night, he joined his relatives as, torches in hand, they went back to the graveyard. This, too, was part of tradition, done to make sure that the deceased had not come back to life and was not tapping on the inside of the coffin. But the grave was silent.

His grandmother and the others sobbed, saying over and over how very sad it was, their hands clasped together in prayer. Hikotaro couldn't say a thing.

Half a month later his stepfather came home. Returning by ship from Edo to Hyogo, he'd received the letter informing him of his wife's death. Kichizaemon was beside himself with grief. He dressed in mourning for the hundred-day period and spent his time shut in his house, lamenting.

Ten days had passed now since the mourning period ended, and Hikotaro's relatives gathered for a meal. His stepbrother had also returned home. Hikotaro couldn't stand being at home now that his mother was gone, and day after day he went to the beach to gaze out at the sea. Sometimes he would make his way down the path through the cotton fields, now covered with white flowers, to the graveyard, where he would kneel for a long while beside his mother's grave.

In the sea to the east the sails of a large ship appeared. A banner with a crimson circle flying from the stern marked an official ship of the Tokugawa shogunate.

Hikotaro heard footsteps, and someone sat down beside him. He didn't turn to see who it was, but he knew it was his stepfather.

Kichizaemon was silent for a while, also gazing out at the sea, then asked, "What do you plan to do, Hikotaro? Your grandmother says she'll look after you, so will you stay at home and attend school? Or would you like to work with me on the ship? You're thirteen now, we could hire you as an apprentice cook." Kichizaemon's tone was serious. Worried about what would become of his stepson, he had clearly thought long and hard about this.

These words caught Hikotaro off guard. He had decided to obey his mother, who so strongly opposed his becoming a sailor, but he couldn't shake the dream of going to sea and seeing with his own eyes the unknown world that lay beyond. The trip that he took on his cousin's ship to visit the shrines had been more wonderful than he ever imagined, and his yearning for the sea had grown.

His stepfather continued. "My ship is owned by a sake brewer in the Sea of Sesshu, a large 1,600-koku-capacity one called the Sumiyoshi Maru. I received a letter from the owner telling me to return to Hyogo as soon as the mourning period is over. I leave tomorrow."

Hikotaro turned to his stepfather and said, "Take me with you."

"I see. That's what we'll do, then," Kichizaemon said quietly, looking again at the water. "You'd better go home and pack." He turned and began walking home. Hikotaro stood up and hurried after him.

On the morning of September 13, Hikotaro left his home with his stepfather and paid a visit to his mother's grave. He felt more than a twinge of guilt that he was going against her wish that he not become a sailor, but he couldn't very well live alone. She might worry about him when it was hell belowdecks, as she'd put it, but he found the idea of plowing through stormy seas thrilling. On a ship he'd experience new worlds, and his future would open up in ways he could not even imagine.

© 1999 by Akira Yoshimura
English translation copyright © 2004 by Philip Gabriel

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Meet the Author

Akira Yoshimura is the prize-winning author of twenty novels and short-story collections, many of them bestsellers in Japan. One Man's Justice is his third novel to be translated into English.

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Post to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews