Amy Stanley reveals the research process of ‘Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World’

“Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World” | Simon & Schuster

Harvard-educated social historian Amy Stanley presented behind-the-scenes details of her 2020 book “Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World,” a biography based on actual historic records, on Jan. 30 in the Business and General Studies building. Copies of the book were available for pickup to sign prior to the event on a first come, first serve basis.

“The event was hosted with the idea of community in mind,” said Christina Ghanbarpour, a history professor who helped coordinate the event. The event was promoted at Irvine Valley College, University of California Irvine and Saddleback College.

The presentation was introduced by retired UCI professor and author Anne Walthall, who highlighted Stanley’s achievements, including a publication in The American Historical Review, which Walthall described as a difficult accomplishment.

Stanley credited Walthall as a mentor and an important figure in her career, as well as the careers of many other authors and researchers on the same subject.

Stanley detailed the rigors of her research process, which took over 10 years and involved learning to read Edo-era writing, fact-checking and studying maps.

Through a collection of archives donated from a temple, Stanley brought to life her protagonist Tsuneno.

“The family donated the archive to the prefecture in the 1920s,” Stanley said.

Stanley revealed that through reading Tsuneno’s archives, she discovered the details of life in the Edo time period and the culture surrounding it.

For example, Stanley found that women in the Edo era wrote letters with more Kana (the Japanese phonetic alphabet) than Kanji (complicated letters derived from Chinese) as it was considered more feminine. Stanley also discovered that Tsuneno wrote in a dialect from her birthplace of Echigo, making transcription difficult at first.

Initially, Stanley was unable to discover the date of Tsuneno’s birth. Yet, during a visit to verify information in the archives, she stumbled upon a small notation of it, unlike her brother’s birth which was meticulously recorded. This highlights the disparity in significance given to males and females during that time.

At the event, attendees enjoyed an array of Japanese cuisine, including sushi, castella cake, ramune, tempura and tea while watching Stanley’s talk. The event brought the local community together and showcased the research and accomplishments of a notable social historian.

You can find “Stranger in the Shogun’s City: A Japanese Woman and Her World” on Amazon.