close reading. He also wrote Hideki Yano’s death poem, after pointing out that my version wouldn’t pass muster in Japan. Anthony Faiola, the Post’s brilliant Tokyo correspondent, looked into and then briefed me on the structure of the porno business and its various governing bodies in today’s Japan. Finally, Tomoeh Murikami Tse took the trouble to render an early version of the death poem into kanji. Paul Richard plied me with Japanese art books. I’m greatly indebted to all of them.

Finally, late in the process when news of the book’s publication had somehow reached the Internet, I received an e-mail from Mark Schreiber, a freelance writer, translator, and all-around man-about-town who has lived in Tokyo since 1965. Among his many accomplishments, he is the organizing genius behind the Tabloid Tokyo books, which compile some of the zanier tales of the Tokyo weeklies for American readers. Mark volunteered to read the manuscript for accuracy in all those little areas through which Hunter sometimes dozes, and there were times when it seemed to me he was working harder than I was. One weekend he went to Kabukicho on a scouting trip, found the ideal spot for Kondo Isami to test his blade, measured it, photographed it, mapped it, then e-mailed it to me. That same weekend, I drank, watched football on TV, slept, and of course drank. Moreover, he caught dozens of mistakes of the sort that would have deeply annoyed readers who were more familiar with Tokyo than I was after a two-week trip. I should also point out that mistakes that remain are not Mark’s fault or any of my other contributors’, but my own entirely. As I said before, angry e-mails may be sent to Hunterwon’

I should mention my professional colleagues as well, all of whom were enthusiastic and supportive throughout: Michael Korda and David Rosenthal of Simon & Schuster, and my agent, Esther Newberg, of ICM.

Let me broadly thank the Japanese themselves for being so damned interesting. I must make special mention of my three muses, Sakura Sakarada, Yui Seto, and Shiho. The dedication page expresses my profound gratitude to the artists of the theory and practice of samurai on the screen. I should say, also, that in a certain way those movies saved my mind. The origin of this book, for anyone interested, was a personal depression in my life as a professional film critic, when American movies seemed to have reached a new low. In this morass of mediocrity, I saw Yoji Yamada’s great Twilight Samurai and was instantly reborn. That set me off on a two-year samurai movie rampage (interrupted by American Gunfight) and the obsession took its final form in the idea of writing a samurai novel set in the era of warring clans. Being smart enough to realize that a novel set then by a gaijin who’d seen too many movies wasn’t the soundest of ideas-what would you call it, Memoirs of a Samurai?-so I tried to figure out a way to fuse samurai issues and fighting styles with a traditional American thriller. The result you hold in your hand.

Finally, I must thank my wife, Jean Marbella, the world’s greatest trouper. She’s lived patiently for a year among swords, samurai movies, books on sword fighting, sword making, sword polishing, and sword collecting, all in piles spread randomly throughout the house and seldom policed. Never complained, never whined, and even pretended to be interested in sword fighting and yakuza. What a gal.


STEPHEN HUNTER is the author of thirteen novels. He is the chief film critic of the Washington Post and won the 2003 Pulitzer Prize for Criticism. He is also the author of one nonfiction book and two collections of film criticism. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.

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