The setting is in the latter part of the Heian period (794-1185). Born to a samurai family in eastern Japan, Sojuro is an unusual boy of 16 who spends most of his time roaming the hills alone playing his flute. When fighting breaks out in the Heiji Disturbance of 1160, Sojuro goes into battle on the Minamoto side. The Minamoto are defeated and he flees. Wandering in the depths of despair, he meets Itose, a dancing girl who is performing dances for the repose of the dead. They are attracted to each other. And then Retired Emperor Go-daigo discovers that both Sojuro’s flute and Itose’s dancing have spiritual power…
This book is a historical fantasy deftly weaving fact and fiction in a tale of the love of young people who seek fulfillment in life. Another memorable character is King Torihiko, who mobilizes his entire clan of crows to support Sojuro. Although quite a long novel, Fujinhisho’s plot is absorbing, holding the reader’s interest throughout. The author’s skillful storytelling style has matured and mellowed even further in this work.
Set in ancient Japan and drawing on Shinto mythology, Noriko Ogiwara’s first novel, Sorairo Magatama (Dragon Sword and Wind Child, 1988), won wide acclaim as the first truly “Japanese” fantasy. It also earned her the coveted New Writer’s Award from the Japanese Association of Writer for Children. The subsequent volumes in the series, Hakucho Iden (The Strange Legend of the Swan, 1991) and Usubeni Tennyo (Maid of Heaven, 1996), which won the Akaitori Literature Award, were equally popular. Subsequent works include the Nishi no Yoki Majo series (The Good Witch of the West, 1997), Kore wa Okoku no Kagi (This Is the Key to the Kingdom, 1993) and Jujo no Yurikago (On the Tree Top, 2002).