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Autumn Bridge

Autumn Bridge

4.5 12
by Takashi Matsuoka

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In the year 1311, in the highest tower of Cloud of Sparrows Castle, a beautiful woman sits by the window, watching as enemies gather below and fires spread through the night. As she calmly awaits her fate, she begins to write, carefully setting down on a scroll the secret history of the Okumichi clan…of the gift of prophecy they share and the extraordinary


In the year 1311, in the highest tower of Cloud of Sparrows Castle, a beautiful woman sits by the window, watching as enemies gather below and fires spread through the night. As she calmly awaits her fate, she begins to write, carefully setting down on a scroll the secret history of the Okumichi clan…of the gift of prophecy they share and the extraordinary destiny that awaits them.

For six centuries, these remarkable writings lay hidden—until they are uncovered by an American woman, a missionary named Emily Gibson, who arrived in Edo harbor in 1861, in flight from a tragic past. Soon an extraordinary man would enter her life: Lord Genji of the Okumichi clan, a nobleman with a gift of prophecy who must defend his embattled family—and confront forbidden feelings for an outsider in his midst. Emily, too, soon finds herself at a turning point; courted by two westerners, she knows her heart belongs to the one man she cannot have. But Emily has found a mission of her own: translating Genji’s ancestral history, losing herself in an epic tale of heroism and forbidden love.

For here is the story of Lady Shizuka, the beautiful witch-princess who has enchanted Okumichi men for generations…of Genji’s ancestors, Lord Hironobu and Lord Kiyori, and of the terrible betrayals that befell them…and of Genji’s parents: a wastrel father and his child bride whose tragic love has shaped Genji as a leader and as a man. As Emily sifts through the fragile scrolls, she begins to see threads of her own life woven into the ancient writings. And as past and present collide, a hidden history comes to life, and with it a secret prophecy that has been shrouded for centuries, and may now finally be revealed. Takashi Matsuoka’s spellbinding novel is infused with spectacle, intricately woven, magically told. Autumn Bridge is a feast for the senses, a work of truly dazzling storytelling.

From the Hardcover edition.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Stretching back and forth through the centuries, Matsuoka weaves a timeless tale of intrigue and romance."

"Matsuoka’s rich, authoritative storytelling makes this an engrossing read."
--Publishers Weekly

"Offers one of the most impressive feats of storytelling to come along in years.... told in all the rich and exotic detail that made [Cloud of Sparrows] such a delight."
--San Francisco Chronicle Books

From the Hardcover edition.

Publishers Weekly
East collides with West in this complex, epic tale by Matsuoka (Cloud of Sparrows), in which the ability to see the future is transferred from generation to generation in a Japanese clan. The mid-19th-century inheritor of the clan's visionary powers is Lord Genji, a powerful samurai warlord who favors western style modernization for Japan but faces fierce opposition from the antiforeigner element. Compounding his political troubles is his peculiar love affair with a beautiful young American Christian missionary. Emily Gibson has been in Japan for six years, doing her missionary work, trying to hide her feelings for Genji and translating a series of mysterious scrolls recounting the history of the clan. As she reads the scrolls, she discovers inexplicable references to her own life and her association with Genji's family. Meanwhile, flashbacks describe centuries of tangled relationships and events that result in Genji's rise to power, focusing particularly on beautiful Shizuka, Genji's 14th-century forebear, who has the sharpest vision of the clan's future. The convoluted tale is bursting with too many characters and jumps around in time too much to be a smooth read-a 13th-century Mongol invasion, assassination, clan warfare, romantic rivalries and an estranged son and heir to Genji's rule round out the packed narrative-but Matsuoka's rich, authoritative storytelling makes this an engrossing read. Agent, Candice Fuhrman. (Aug. 3) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
In this follow-up to his debut, Cloud of Sparrows-a People Page-Turner of the Week-a woman sits in a castle writing a story of medieval Japan as enemies gather below. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-The characters in this epic tale of shogun-era mysticism fairly leap from the pages. Time lines cross, uncross, and converge in the tangled history of one of the great families of the age. Each great lord of the Okumichi clan comes to be known as a prophet who is often driven quite mad by his visions. What no one outside the family knows is that Lady Shizuka, who lived at Cloud of Sparrows castle until 1311, is the true visionary, and that she "visits" her descendants with knowledge of the future. In the 1800s, Lord Genji plays host to American Christian missionary Emily Gibson. She is charged not only with trying to convert the heathen Buddhists, but also with translating the scrolls that chart the history of the clan. Among the scrolls, Emily finds a hidden history of prophecy and knowledge seemingly written just for her: Lady Shizuka's writings, known as Autumn Bridge. The book is intricately plotted on a grand scale; the samurai code of duty, loyalty, and honor shines throughout. The heroism of individuals may be overshadowed by the arc of history, but it is the individual details that create the wonderfully complex atmosphere of feudal Japan. Although this is a sequel to Matsuoka's Cloud of Sparrows (Delacorte, 2002), it stands on its own. Teens interested in history, different cultures, or fantasy should enjoy Autumn Bridge.-Charli Osborne, Oxford Public Library, MI Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Characters from Matsuoka's bellicose Cloud of Sparrows (2002) return for the calmer tale of an aristocratic family's extra-sensorily perceptive inheritance. Time folds in and out of itself, and characters chat across the centuries as members of the lordly Okumichi clan cope with the family curse: an ability to see, but not to change, the future. The prognosticatory DNA spliced itself into the gene pool in the 14th century when Go, a turncoat Hun whose mother always said she was a witch, crossed over from the seemingly invincible Mongol invaders to cast his lot with the samurai. Go's daughter, Lady Shizuka, endures a childhood made hellish by the madness of unsorted futuristic visions, then when she outgrows them focuses her forward look on a long-term relationship with 19th-century descendant Lord Kiyori, grandfather of Genji, the brilliant samurai who understands that it is Japan's fate to become modern. As the Japanese nation copes with the problems of the New, Lord Genji must cope with the perplexities of Love and Race embodied in exquisite American ex-missionary Emily Gibson. Christian sensibilities notwithstanding, Miss Gibson has it bad for Lord Genji. Since the collapse of her evangelical denomination, Emily has busied herself working on the translation of recently unearthed Okumichi family scrolls, missives from the past that hint at Emily's own arrival and family involvement. Genji, by the way, is the member of his generation who has inherited the view of the future, but rather than seeing everything he has only three visions, teasingly revealed over the stretch of the story. Such tension as there is in this pretty but rather slow drama comes from the plottings of Lord Genji'smany reactionary enemies, pressures on Emily to choose an American husband, Genji's own end, and the fate of his son, a native of San Francisco. Pleasant Asian take on the always reliable Aga saga. Agency: Helen Heller Agency

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Edition description:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.50(w) x 9.20(h) x 1.40(d)
Age Range:
14 Years

Read an Excerpt


The Wraith

The Great Lord wields a sharp sword, rides a fierce warhorse, commands unruly vassals. He has taken the heads of ten thousand foes. His martial prowess is the marvel of the realm. But did he not enter this world bawling from a woman's womb? Did he not suckle helplessly at a woman's breast? And when the cold stars sparkle like ice in the winter sky, and the depth of eternity chills his heart, for what does he yearn more than a woman's embrace?



1860, cloud of sparrows castle in akaoka domain

Lady Shizuka had not changed in the slightest in all the years Lord Kiyori had known her. Her complexion was as smooth as the finest Ming porcelain, with the perfect pallor of a courtly woman of the inner chamber, unlined by the passage of time, unblemished by exposure to sunlight or hardship, without any telltale signs of inappropriate deeds, thoughts, or feelings. Her eyes, when they were not regarding him--shyly or knowingly or beguilingly, as the case may be--looked off into an imaginary distance, with an expression of imminent pleased surprise, an expression accentuated by her high, plucked eyebrows. Her hair was not arranged into a coiffure of the modern type, with its complexity of folds, stacks, waves, and accessory devices, but simply middle-parted and tied with a light blue ribbon into a loose ponytail at her shoulders, from where it continued to flow down her back in an elegance of lustrous ebony all the way to the floor. Her gowns, too, in polished and crepe silks of contrasting textures, were of the classical type, loosely fitted and layered in complementary shades of blue ranging from the brightness of a high mountain pool to the near black of the evening sky. She was the very picture of a princess of the Era of the Shining Prince. An era, he reminded himself, many centuries past.

Outside this room, the great military might of outsider nations crowded in against Japan. The gigantic steam-powered warships of America, Britain, France, and Russia now freely entered Japanese ports. Aboard those ships were cannons that could hurl explosive shells as big as men far past the shore, even beyond inland mountains and forests, and shatter armies concealed from sight before they were close enough to know who was killing them. The ocean that separated the islands of Japan from the rest of the world was no longer a defense. The navies of the outsiders had hundreds of such smoke-belching, cannon-bearing ships, and those ships could bring more than bombardment from afar. From distant shores, they could carry tens of thousands of outsider troops armed with more cannons, and with handheld firearms as well, and land them on the shores of Japan within a few months. Yet here in this room in the highest tower of Cloud of Sparrows Castle, the Japan of old lived. He could pretend, at least for a time, that this was the totality of the world.

She saw him looking at her and smiled. Her expression was simultaneously innocent and conspiratorial. How did she manage it? Even the most brilliant of geishas could rarely blend the two into a single look. Demurely, she lowered her gaze and covered her girlish smile with the wide sleeve of her antique Heian kimono.

"You are embarrassing me, my lord. Is something amiss in my appearance?"

"How can there be?" Lord Kiyori said. "You are and will always be the most perfectly beautiful being in all the realm."

A playful expression came into her eyes.

"So you say, again and again. Yet when was the last time you did me the honor of visiting me in my chambers?"

"I asked you never to speak of that again." He knew by the heat in his face that he was blushing. How shameful for a man of his dignity and years to respond like a smitten boy. "That it happened at all is a regrettable error."

"Because of the difference in our ages?"

Anyone seeing her would take her to be no more than eighteen or nineteen, in the first bloom of womanhood, a highborn lady without doubt, possibly even a virgin. Anyone looking at him would see a man of advanced years, posture unbent by age or defeat, standing in relaxed readiness, his white-streaked hair arranged in the elaborate style of a samurai lord.

The difference in their ages. Yes, there was that, too, wasn't there? It wasn't something he ever thought about anymore.

He said, "It will never happen again."

"Is that prophecy?" Her tone was mocking, but not harsh, as if she were inviting him to share in a joke rather than having one at his expense.

"You know very well it is not."

"Are you not Okumichi no kami Kiyori, Great Lord of Akaoka? Then surely you are a prophet, as is the leader of your clan in every generation."

"So people say."

"People say so because your actions are often not explicable except through foreknowledge. If you are not a prophet, then how can you know the future?"

"How indeed." He had always felt the burden of the curse of prophecy, but lately, for the first time in his life, he had begun to feel the weight of time as well. Seventy-nine years. According to the records of the ancients, men of old--heroes, sages, the blessed of the sacred gods--often lived to be a hundred and more. He couldn't imagine it for himself. Indeed, it was a marvel he had lived as long as he had, all things considered. He had acceded to the rule of the domain at fifteen, married at eighteen, had sons late, and had lost his wife at forty. During all that time, he had secretly kept company with Lady Shizuka. How long had it been? This was the fourteenth year of the Emperor Komei. They had met in the seventeenth year of the Emperor Køokaku, whose reign had lasted thirty-eight years. After him, the Emperor Ninkao's twenty-nine years intervened before the ascension of the present sovereign. Was it sixty-four years ago? Out of habit, he double-checked himself using the outsiders' calendar. The seventeenth year of the Emperor Køokaku was a.d. 1796. This was a.d. 1860. Yes, sixty-four years.

She had said she was sixteen when they met. She said she was nineteen now. In Kiyori's eyes, she had not changed at all. He felt a chill not brought on by the mild winter morning.

"How should I know?" Shizuka said. "You are the one with the visions, are you not?"

"Am I?"

"Surely you are not suggesting it is I who sees?"

"You have always made the claim," Kiyori said.

"And you have always denied it," Shizuka said. Concentration brought the slightest of furrows to her brow. She looked boldly into Kiyori's eyes. "Are you finally conceding the possibility?"

Kiyori was prevented from answering immediately by a voice outside the door.

"The tea is ready, my lord."


He distractedly watched the young housemaid, Hanako, silently slide the door open, bow, quickly survey the room, and pause. How thoughtless of him. By standing idly by the window, he gave her no point of reference. She would not know where to serve the tea. But before Kiyori could seat himself across from Lady Shizuka, Hanako went precisely where he would have guided her, at the midpoint between where he stood and where a guest would naturally seat herself in relationship to him. Hanako never ceased to impress him. From the first, when she had entered his service as a nine-year-old orphan, she had exhibited a quick intelligence and a strong intuition superior to that of most of his samurai.

"Thank you, Hanako. You may go."

"Yes, lord." Hanako bowed. Walking in reverse so as not to turn her back on the lord, she began to withdraw from the room.

"Aren't you forgetting something?" Shizuka said, her voice so faint a whisper it could have been imaginary.

"Hanako. One moment." What had he forgotten? Oh, yes. "When the courier returns to Edo tomorrow, you will accompany him. There you will join Lord Genji's household staff at Quiet Crane Palace."

"Yes, lord." Although the command had come without warning, Hanako showed no sign of surprise. She assented unquestioningly, which was exactly the correct response.

"You have served me very well, Hanako. Your parents would be proud of you." Kiyori, of course, neither made apologies nor gave explanations for sending her away with no prior notice.

"Thank you, lord. You have been very kind to put up with my failings for so long."

He ignored the formal expression of humility. "I will be very grateful if you serve my grandson as well."

"Yes, lord. I will do my best."

When she had gone, Kiyori said, "Why am I sending her to Quiet Crane?"

"Are you asking me, my lord?"

"I am only thinking out loud," Kiyori said. "A bad habit that has given me a reputation for more eccentricity than I deserve."

"It is good you have thoughts on the matter, since the decision is yours." She paused before adding, "Is it not?"

Kiyori smiled sourly. He was in the same fix he always got himself into whenever he had conversations with Shizuka. His reasoning in these matters, no matter how logical, was almost always wrong. Such was the difference between logic and prophetic guidance.

He said, "I am sending Hanako to my grandson because now that he has assumed most of the formal duties of the Great Lord of our domain, he is in greater need of reliable servants than I am. This is particularly so because three more Christian missionaries are scheduled to arrive in Edo any day now, and they will live in Japan under our protection. Their presence will trigger a crisis that will determine the future of our clan. Beyond this immediate matter, I am hoping for a mutual blossoming of affection between Hanako and Genji. She is precisely the kind of woman he needs beside him in this perilous age."

"How consistent you are, my lord. Such clarity of thought, always."

"I take it I am mistaken, as usual." Kiyori poured tea for them both, a polite formality since Shizuka, as usual, did not take hers.

"The great difference in their social status is not an impediment?"

"Because the future will bring chaos, character is far more important than status."

"How wise," Shizuka said, "how liberated from the artificial strictures of social convention, how in keeping with the times."

"You disagree?"

"Not at all. My views are antiquated, and I know so little of the outside world, yet it is clear even to one with such constricted understanding that inherent merit is now far more valuable than inherited rank."

"You agree, yet you seem amused by my words. I take it Hanako and Genji are not destined for each other."

"There is always more to know," Shizuka said. "Whether it should be known is another matter. Do you wish to know more?"

"I wish to know no more than what I must know to insure the well-being of our clan."

"Then you know enough," Shizuka said.

Kiyori sipped his tea. His expression was placid, hiding the immense irritation he felt at her failure to satisfy his obvious curiosity. Would Hanako and Genji fall in love? He could not ask her, not because the question was inappropriate--it concerned the succession of the prophetic power to the generation after Genji, a singularly important matter, and not one of mere romantic speculation--but because the asking itself raised an implication he had managed to avoid for sixty-four years. If she was going to tell him, she would have to do so without any request from him.

When it became obvious that he would not continue the conversation, a look of sadness came into Shizuka's eyes. She became very still. This happened not infrequently during their times together. In such moments of melancholy repose, her beauty was particularly ethereal. Could a man behold a vision so exquisite it alone was enough to drive him mad? If so, it would explain much, would it not? He had seen her at her most enchanting many, many times.

As he rose to leave, Shizuka surprised him. She said, "I have never asked you for a favor, my lord, nor will I ever ask another. Will you grant this one?"

"What is it?"

"If you will consent, you must do so without knowing."

To hesitate would be unmanly. "Then I consent."

Shizuka bowed deeply, her head to the floor before her. "Thank you, my lord."

Kiyori waited for her to continue. She kept her head down for a long time without speaking. When she looked up, her eyes were wet. He could not remember ever having seen her cry before.

Tears streaming, she said, "Take your evening meal here, then stay the night with me."

"This is a most unfair request," Kiyori said, genuinely aggrieved. "You have tricked me into agreeing to do what I have pledged my life and honor not to do."

"I ask only that you share my chamber, not my bed. My blood is as purely samurai as your own. I would never deceive you into violating a pledge."

Kiyori was still upset. He may not start the night in her bed, but being in the same room with her for an entire night, could he avoid ending there? Though his resolve was strong, he was a man, with all of a man's weaknesses. But there was no choice. He had already agreed. "Very well. Just this one night."

"Thank you, my lord," Shizuka said. She looked up and smiled at him through her tears.

Kiyori did not return her smile. It would be a very long night.

Hanako packed her belongings for the trip to Edo. She could hear two of the younger maids chattering in the next room.

"Lord Kiyori has ordered that dinner tonight be served to him in the high tower."

"No! How many settings?"

"Two! And he specifically said there was to be no sake."

"Dinner in the high tower. And no sake. How strange. He would only have dinner there if he intended to see an important guest in private. But for such a guest, he would order sake, wouldn't he?"

"Perhaps he doesn't expect a guest of the usual kind."

"You don't mean--"


"His wife, do you think, or the other?"

This had gone too far. Hanako put down her folded clothing, went to the door dividing the two rooms, and slid it open. The two maids jumped, saw who it was, and sighed in relief.

"Oh, it's you, Hanako."

"Yes, it's me, fortunately. What if it weren't? What if it had been Lord Kiyori?"

"Oh, he never comes into the maids' quarters."

"Nevertheless, stop gossiping," Hanako said. "Or, if you must, then do so more discreetly."

"Yes, you're right," one the maids said. "Thank you for reminding us." They both bowed to her.

From the Hardcover edition.

Meet the Author

Takashi Matsuoka grew up in Hawaii. He lives in Honolulu, where he was employed at a Zen Buddhist temple before becoming a full-time writer. He is the author of the acclaimed novel Cloud of Sparrows, which is available in paperback from Dell.

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Autumn Bridge 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 12 reviews.
ReadingGramma More than 1 year ago
Autumn Bridge takes place in at least 3 different time periods which I found hard to follow but it adds a lot to the first book "Cloud of Sparrows". I did enjoy reading it as such.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Excellent read!
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Shinobi-Jim More than 1 year ago
With a dose of samurai, battles, espionage, ninjas, inexplicable phenomena, and romance, this is a great sequel!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Nothing makes driving from point A to point B more dramatic than an epic tale of swords, sorcery, and honor. Autumn Bridge fits the bill nicely, I'd say. Events are propelled by the narrative conceit of prophecy one male from each generation of a specific bloodline receives the gift. (Or curse. Depends on your perspective.) Knowing the future doesn't mean you can alter it in any way, of course. Trying to do so would bring certain disaster. All you can do is change your sense of perspective. Knowing the day you'll die might make you brave when you'd normally be a coward, but it will also make you reckless when caution is needed. Each of these characters comes into the ability in a different way. Genji is granted only three visions during his natural span, while his father was visited by an ancestral specter that told him the shape of things to come. Just like Japanese history, this novel is filled with too many names, places, and dates to easily remember. Matsuoka does an admirable job of keeping a sense of cohesion even as events jump from the Mongol invasions of 1311 to the aftermath of World War II. Professional narration by Jennifer Van Dyck ('Bullets Over Broadway') adds a great deal to the experience. BOTTOM LINE: I'm an East Asian Area Studies major. Your mileage may vary, but I think you'll like it if you have a taste for historical fiction or fantasy.
Guest More than 1 year ago
After reading Cloud of Sparrows, I could not wait to read Autumn Bridge and I hope that Takashi Matsuoka is working on the next one! A wonderful tale that spans several lifetimes and weaves a tapestry of honor, love, deceit & faith. This is not only a story of a nation but of family, tradition, and the mysteries of our faith. A terrific book to get lost in. Enjoy!
Guest More than 1 year ago
An intriguing generation spanning tale is a perfect platform for accomplished voice performer Jennifer Van Dyck. A veteran of both film and television (most notably Woody Allen' movie 'Bullets Over Broadway' and the TV series 'Law & Order'), she reads with clarity enabling listeners to keep track of a rather heft cast of characters and numerous confrontations. Introduced in this author's 'Cloud of Sparrows,' Japanese noble Lord Genji again takes center stage along with a beautiful missionary, Emily Gibson. There's an undeniable attraction between the two, but theirs would be an impossible match. Beginning in feudal Japan, listeners learn of a woman watching from a high tower in the Cloud of Sparrows Castle. It is 1311 and those who would harm her are gathering in the courtyard below. As the night hours pass she writes down a history of the Okumichi clan and notes the magic they posses, including the ability to foresee the future. Over six centuries pass before these scrolls are translated by Emily Gibson who is puzzled and amazed to find the similarities between what she sees before her eyes and her own life. The author's gift for detail serves to enrich his story, and the voice of Jennifer Van Dyck gives it vibrant life. - Gail Cooke