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Japan Book Club: The Master Puppeteer – Part 1

March 13, 2012

This week we’re starting a new book, The Master Pupeteer.  This book tells the story of a young boy growing up on Osaka (hey, I know some people that are going there) during a time of great turmoil.   Jiro, the story’s protagonist, is trying to help his father – a puppet maker who works with the local Bunraku puppet theatre, but there just isn’t enough work for Jiro’s father.

People all over the city are starving.  Times are very difficult.  Fortunately (or maybe unfortunately) the common people have a hero.  A Robin Hood type character named Saburo is stealing from the wealthy merchants to give to the poor commoners.

Jiro soon finds himself in the middle of everything.

This week we’re only going to read the first two chapters of the book.  Then answer the following question.

1. Using context clues in the first two chapters, try to figure out when this story takes place.  Don’t just take a wild guess – figure it out.

2. What clues helped you figure out the book’s time period?

Every student in our Japan group is required to participate.  You must comment on this post with your thoughts, then come back and comment on what other people have said – you are required to make an effort to keep the conversation going by replying to at least 2 other students (more than just “I agree” or “you are right.” Give them reasons why you agree/disagree or what they said that was meaningful – make this a discussion). 

Next week we’ll be reading Hachiko Waits by Leslea Newman – you should begin looking for your own copy at a local library or book store soon.  Amazon.com has some cheap used copies available too.  
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62 Comments leave one →
  1. Jessica Sherwin permalink
    March 19, 2012 9:22 pm

    Using context clues from the book, I think that the book took place in the 1700s, or at least the 18th century. I think this because of how Jiro described people’s lives and the samurais. Samurais weren’t “banned” until around late 1800s, and, as Jiro said, there were samurais who have lost the code of honor, ronin, which was during 1185 to 1868. Though that doesn’t alone help find the year of the story, it helped narrow it down. As I continued reading the two chapters of “The Master Puppeteer”, I noticed the word “Shogun” come up. I did a little research and found out that Shoguns were leaders in Japan. Finding out that the last Shoguns took place during the Tokugawa “Edo” Period helped me find out that the story probably took place during that time, which was 1603-1868.

    • Sydney Bebar permalink
      March 23, 2012 4:31 pm

      What helped me most was the Edo peiod hint, making it be between about 250 years.

      • Kevin Wilson permalink
        March 27, 2012 5:49 pm

        I Agree Sydney the Edo period hint was what helped me the most to.

    • Bobby Cortesi permalink
      March 25, 2012 4:42 pm

      Yea i wasnt able to narrow it down very much but i got down to about a century or time period as you did

      • Lyssette Bedolla permalink
        March 27, 2012 8:05 pm

        me neither Bobby. It was quite hard considering we had limited number of clues.

        • jacob kosinski permalink
          March 28, 2012 8:27 pm

          I agree it was very hard to try to narrow down exactly when the story takes place.

        • March 29, 2012 6:03 pm

          i agree with you it was dfficult given the amount of clues we had but i also agree with sydney because the Edo period helped me out a lot too

          • March 30, 2012 10:09 am

            If this is one of the Japan students, please put your name instead of “ifeelwithmyheart” or we don’t know who you are.

        • Nailah permalink
          March 29, 2012 6:19 pm

          i agree with you it was dfficult given the amount of clues we had but i also agree with sydney because the Edo period helped me out a lot too

        • Austin Stein permalink
          April 9, 2012 1:56 pm

          I reread the first chapter again to see what I had missed, and I too really saw that limited amount. However, I also like that element as it not only shows you how much you have truly been reading but also brings a nice charm to the book in which is the thinking on your own.

    • April 23, 2012 7:43 pm

      Just the fact that there was a famine in Japan should have pinpointed the date to in the 1780’s. The rest of the contextual clues just back that up.

  2. Zach Ciko permalink
    March 20, 2012 6:38 pm

    I would place it in the 1700’s because of the samurais beginnig to losing their code of honor. So I used this clue to narrow it down into a certain time period along with it being the edo peoriod still, which was in the early 1600’s through the late 1800’s which ment that the story most likley was within that time period.

    • Sydney Bebar permalink
      March 23, 2012 4:30 pm

      Thats exactly what helped me figure out my time period. It was quite obvious.

      • jacob kosinski permalink
        March 28, 2012 8:31 pm

        I agree this is also what helped me figure out the time period of the story.

    • Nate Zurawski permalink
      April 5, 2012 1:40 pm

      The samurai losing their honor is what helped me find out the time period as well.

  3. Kevin Wilson permalink
    March 20, 2012 8:40 pm

    I would say the story takes place around the late 1600’s and early 1700. One reason that I say that is because that was the middle of the Edo period, around the time that I think it would take place. Also after it mention that samurai lost their code of honor and that not a lot of people had money I looked those things up to narrow my search down or possibly find my answer.

    • Jessica Sherwin permalink
      March 24, 2012 11:39 am

      I also had to look things up, especially the word “shogun” because the word stuck out to me and how there was a great amount of poor people.

    • Bobby Cortesi permalink
      March 25, 2012 4:46 pm

      i disagree believe it takes part in the later 1700’s and 1800’s because i believe that since the story is a story about a hero stealing from the rich giving to the poor it will help with or be close to the end of the shogun.

    • Shane Chetney permalink
      March 26, 2012 5:31 pm

      I also looked this stuff too Kevin. I thought i was cheating a little bit until now.

      • Kevin Wilson permalink
        March 27, 2012 6:17 pm

        Shane I agree when i researched it I wasn’t sure if I should have been researching it.

  4. Sydney Bebar permalink
    March 23, 2012 4:30 pm

    I believe it was the early 1700s being, like kevin said, the middle of the Edo period. It mentioned that the samurais lost their code of honor, which was known to take place around the same time. The Edo period only last from the early 1600s to the mid 1800s, narrowing my topic down even more.

    • Jessica Sherwin permalink
      March 24, 2012 11:36 am

      The Edo period, as you and Kevin said, helped me with finding out the time, or at least narrowing it down. The samurai losing their code of honor and the shogun being the leaders of early Japan, also helped me.

    • Lyssette Bedolla permalink
      March 27, 2012 8:01 pm

      when deciding I also used the fact that the edo period took place during the 1600s and 1800s. I like your thinking Sydney.

  5. Ben Trouvais permalink
    March 25, 2012 2:45 pm

    I believe the story takes place in the late 1600’s or early 1700’s. The book mentions that the samurai were beginning to lose there creditability. This is sort of around when this began to happen. Also, the book refferences the Edo period and the Shogun. This time period was also home to the Edo period and the Shogun.

    • Mark Burjek permalink
      March 28, 2012 7:15 pm

      There seems to be no real exact year that the samurai started losing their respect and credibility, but at least we’ve all found it to be around this era.

    • April 23, 2012 7:45 pm

      The samurai still had lost their credibility throughout the rest of the Edo period, so you can’t count that out.

  6. Bobby Cortesi permalink
    March 25, 2012 4:41 pm

    Using context clues such as the samurai, famine, and the shogun i believe the story takes place during the edo period in the 18th century. The samurai disappeared later in the 1800’s but this talks about the renegade samurai and the ronin who had forgotten their code of honor so i think its a fading time of the samurai.

    • Tyler Webber permalink
      March 26, 2012 9:22 pm

      What was the biggest context clue to you ?

      • Cj moody permalink
        March 28, 2012 3:44 pm

        The book said that It was during the edo period

  7. Mark Burjek permalink
    March 25, 2012 5:26 pm

    It seems that this story takes place between 1690 and 1780. The biggest clue is the info about the story taking place in the middle years of the Edo period. The Edo period lasted from 1603 to 1868, making the exact middle 1736. Also, the samurai seemed to lose their code of honor around that time. They spoke of the Shogun in the book, who ruled during the Edo period, as I mentioned.

    • Shane Chetney permalink
      March 26, 2012 5:30 pm

      Thats exactly how i figured it out.

    • April 2, 2012 1:23 pm

      You’re so smart! Able to pull out an exact year.

    • Nate Zurawski permalink
      April 5, 2012 1:42 pm

      Wow Mark, you really tried to find out the year the book took place in.

    • Ben Trouvais permalink
      April 11, 2012 4:53 pm

      I guess it was best to decide the year to be right in the middle. This way it seems more believable and you have a little room for a margin of error.

  8. Drew Burjek permalink
    March 25, 2012 5:41 pm

    Using context clues, I think this book takes place at around the mid 17 hundreds, during a famine in Japan.

    I thought this because Jiro’s father takes two weeks to make puppets by hand, which means that he doesn’t have modern equipment to create puppets easier, that gives a small clue. Jiro’s family also uses a charcoal stove to cook their rice and a bucket on a bamboo stick to gather water in the river, which is pretty old. They use pumice stones to clean themselves, I don’t know if that is common in Japan but I am pretty sure it has been a long time since stones were used to clean your back. There are more clues that hint at the time period, but it also tells that they live in houses in a town, so that must mean they don’t live in the famring period.

    • Tyler Webber permalink
      March 26, 2012 9:21 pm

      Did the Japanese not live in houses during the farming period ?

    • Mark Burjek permalink
      March 28, 2012 7:09 pm

      Those are some good points as well. I didn’t take into consideration the way they lived their daily lives as something that would help me determine the time period.

    • Austin Stein permalink
      April 9, 2012 2:07 pm

      One thing no one’s noticed is that Jiro’s siblings died to disease. That’s interesting, as it points out that there really wasn’t medicine in their time period.

    • Hannah Schram permalink
      April 9, 2012 4:07 pm

      You used a lot of good clues. I didn’t really think about the whole lifestyle as clues to find out the time period but I have to agree that it probably takes place in the mid 1700’s.

    • Ben Trouvais permalink
      April 11, 2012 4:56 pm

      I liked how you showed the lifestyle as apposed to what we already know. You guesses were good, because it does take place around this particular time.

  9. Shane Chetney permalink
    March 26, 2012 5:30 pm

    I would say the story takes place around the late 1600′s and early 1700. One reason that I say that is because that was the middle of the Edo period.Also, the samurai seemed to lose their code of honor around that time.

  10. Tyler Webber permalink
    March 26, 2012 9:20 pm

    I think that this took place in the late 1600’s to the early 1700’s. One clue was that the book said the story takes place in the middle years of the Edo time period or era.

  11. Lyssette Bedolla permalink
    March 27, 2012 7:53 pm

    it seems to me it takes place in the around 1700s. the biggest clue was that the book said the story takes place in the middle years of the Edo time period. from my knowledge the Edo period takes place from the 1600s to the 1800s. when deciding I chose a safe middle in between the years.

    • ebony alvarado permalink
      March 28, 2012 2:17 pm

      i like how u picked in between, i do that all the time :p

  12. ebony alvarado permalink
    March 28, 2012 2:16 pm

    around the 1700’s ,because of the description of the words, and how they are explaining the story, kind of gives us hints of the time period.

    • Cj moody permalink
      March 28, 2012 3:41 pm

      I agree it also says mid years of edo era

  13. Cj moody permalink
    March 28, 2012 3:39 pm

    I think it takes place in the around 1700s. the book said the story takes place in the mid years of the Edo Era.

  14. Yazmine Thomas permalink
    March 28, 2012 5:58 pm

    Like many people said, it takes place around 1700’s because in the book it said the story takes place in the middle Edo times and that’s 1600 to 1800 and it said middle so I went with the 1700 the one in the middle.

    • Alyssa Gue permalink
      May 4, 2012 3:27 pm

      Yeah, the mention of Edo was my biggest clue as well.

  15. jacob kosinski permalink
    March 28, 2012 8:27 pm

    I think that this took place in the 1700′s. The biggest clue was that the book said the story takes place during the middle of the Edo time period.Also, samuri lost their honor during this time also like in the book.

    • April 2, 2012 1:21 pm

      Really? It said in the middle of Edo period. Well, atleast I guessed in the right period…

  16. Nailah permalink
    March 29, 2012 6:35 pm

    Well as i was reading i think that it takes place around the 1700’s becuase the Edo and more samurai time were around 1600-1800. That led me to believe that around the middle of that time like Yazmine said.

    • Alyssa Gue permalink
      May 4, 2012 3:28 pm

      Mhm, it seems we all agree that the mention of Edo made narrowing down the time period easier.

  17. April 2, 2012 1:19 pm

    When I read it i pictured everything to be like as if were a side story in the series Rurouni Kenshin. When our book takes place is somewhat before the Meiji Restoration. So I want to say1850’s. I thought that becuase they walk to get to fair away places and lots of poor people, mean mericants, and bad samuria (banit type deals).

    • Meghan Moreno permalink
      April 3, 2012 8:12 pm

      I never really thought about the Meiji Restoration or anything that you did.

  18. Meghan Moreno permalink
    April 3, 2012 8:11 pm

    From the clues, it seems to take place in 1600-1800 because of the samurai and the edo period hint in these chapters.

  19. Nate Zurawski permalink
    April 5, 2012 1:38 pm

    From the clues being shown in the text such as Jiro talking about the “Renegade Samurai” that have gone bad and started to rob people. The Shogun blaming everybody for the five year famine that has been going on. These clues leave me to believe that this story takes place during the 1600’s or 1700’s during the Edo period.

  20. Austin Stein permalink
    April 9, 2012 1:51 pm

    I believe that the story takes place somewhere in the 18th century. One thing I noticed in general that it takes place before the aid of any machinery or formal equipment as Jiro and his father were building the puppets by hand in “Son of Hanji.” In that same chapter, I also saw that their were using a charcoal stove, even more hinting at a time period possibly somewhere in the 1600s through the 1850s. The one big thing that really stood out as proof was that some samurai were rouge and and forgotten their code of honor. The time between my hypothesized years were in fact around the decline and fall of the samurai. Between these three items mentioned, it is safe to say that it was around the 18th century.

  21. Hannah Schram permalink
    April 9, 2012 4:00 pm

    From the context clues that I found in the text, I believe that the time period takes place in the early or mid 1700’s. The fact that the book stated that it took place in the middle of the Edo period drawn me towards this assumption. From what I know, the Edo period took place between 1603 to 1867. Also, there was a famine in this time period which fits towards the story.

  22. April 17, 2012 7:25 pm

    After doing some poking around, I found that this book most likely took place in the 1780’s. The overall starving and famine in Japan led me to this theory. There was a terrible famine during this time. Also, this was during the golden age of Kabuki theater which fits right on in to the story. Lastly, Samurai were still present, and they were still present during my proposed time.

  23. Alyssa Gue permalink
    May 4, 2012 3:26 pm

    Like many have previously said, the clues of the Edo period and shogun make me believe the story takes place in the 16-1700’s. Also one of the clues I had found was the famine, which also took place around this time.

  24. Persephone Allee permalink
    May 7, 2012 7:07 pm

    In the first few chapters, I was able to deduce that the time period is probably centered around the 17th and 18th centuries, or the Edo period. Using clues from the text, mainly the information of the samurai I found this because of their importance in the history. They also spoke of famine throughout Japan and around the 1730s the Kyoho famine was present, causing a major increase in the cost of rice. This could further narrow down the time frame in which this book is set.

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