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Daughter of the Samurai

A New Operatic Work in Progress

Yui Kitamura, Composer

Lee Douglass, Librettist

The Story


“A Daughter of the Samurai” is the story of Etsu Inagaki Sugimoto, the daughter of a high-ranking Samurai official in Nagaoka, Echigo Province. The turmoil of the years leading up to the Meiji Restoration are resulted in the demise of the Samurai culture. Etsu’s father was captured for supporting the shogunate against imperial rule and his imprisonment meant imminent death. The day that Etsu’s father was to be put to death, a proclamation that heralded the end of the civil war and mandated that all prisoners were to be released. Through strength and fortitude, the family adapts to their new lives with the exception of Father who never fully adjusts to this forever changed world.  

Etsu was a precocious and curious child and her tutor is a progressive priest, who encourages his talented pupil to develop critical thinking skills.

After an irreparable rift with their father, Etsu’s Brother emigrated to America. Etsu, though, still a child is now considered to be the family heir. Her father grew increasingly frail and when he passes away, Brother returns to Japan.  Shortly after his arrival and her 12th birthday, Etsu is betrothed to a Matsuo Sugimoto, a man who befriended Brother in America. It is decided that Etsu should be educated in a missionary  school in Tokyo where she received a broad based education which included English classes and literature, home management skills and Christianity. Etsu’s exposure to the ‘modern’ world of Tokyo and the European missionary teachers lay the foundation not only for her life in America but her insightful observations about the differences between the two cultures.  These teachers encouraged her inquisitive mind to question everything and to think independently, outside of cultural limitations. She eventually converts to Christianity much to the dismay of her Grandmother.  The day arrives for Etsu to leave for America. Brother has arranged for an English tea trader and his family to escort Etsu to San Francisco where she will take a train to Cincinnati, Ohio to be united with her husband-to-be. Hannah Wilson, an American widow and acquaintance of Matsuo, has invited Etsu and Matsuo to live in her home after the wedding. Mrs. Wilson becomes Etsu’s ‘American Mother’ and mentor in all things American.  Etsu settles into her American life and becomes the mother of two girls. Tragedy hits when Matsuo dies of acute appendicitis, leaving Etsu a widow and single mother. She returns to Japan where she is considered a member of the Sugimoto family . Her life in Japan requires her samurai heart and her modern beliefs about the raising of the daughters clash with Matsuo's family.  She eventually returns to America where she becomes a writer and initiates the teaching of Japanese culture and language at Columbia University in New York City. 

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