have to admit that I approached this book with more than a modicum of dread.
My knowledge of Japan and Japanese culture is sparse at best. I remain
confused as to which item on the Japanese buffet is sushi and which is
sashimi. However, I do know that the worst hangover of my life was after
drinking hot sake to excess one evening. I have abstained from Japanese
liqueur ever since.
Jet Black and the Ninja Wind (ISBN 978-0-8048-4402-4, 2013 Tuttle
Publishing) was co-written by a husband and wife team of Leza Lowitz and
Shogo Oketani, which I found interesting in just how they managed this. Did
they sit side by side? Did they write alternate chapters? Or did one write
and the other worked as sub-editor? You will not get the answer from the
The book has 50 very short chapters, so the reading of it is not difficult,
even though I find the Japanese names somewhat difficult to get my head
around. Let alone pronounce.
The story revolves around a young Japanese American known as Jet Black, who
is unwittingly raised by her mother to be a ninja. Her mother believed in
the Japanese legends and her tribe’s culture, which was being eroded after a
Forces against her tribe (the Emishi) recognize the young Jet Black as the
promised savior who has returned as per the urban legend, and will do
anything to kill her. This is where the action in the book turns it into a
thriller, as ninja Jet has to use everything her mother taught her, even how
to turn invisible.
It turns out that the tribe Jet belongs to has a matriarchal lineage and a
secret history, passed on down through the women, and Jet Black as the last
of the line. Whether she liked it or not, she had become part of the secret,
and thought of as keeper of the secret.
Of course, no Japanese thriller could be without its Yakuza, and the
Japanese mafia gets its place in the tale as well.
You also get a dose of Buddhism and even Christianity thrown in for good
measure, including a brother for the Christian’s Jesus!
With the very short chapters, generally four to six pages, but some as short
as three, the pace is rapid, though once again, unfamiliarity with Japanese
terminology will slow you down, trying to remember what the art of sozu was,
An explanation of just how Japan became known as the Land of the Rising Sun
from the original hinomoto is there on page 77, plus much more Japanese
This book will be of great information for those with an interest in, or
knowledge of, Japanese history and contemporary Japan. By melding current
western ethos and Amerasians with Japanese roots, the book shows an
interesting comparison and highlights the one Japanese American who can
change the course of Japanese history.
At B. 475, it is an entertaining read, though it is subject to the interest
and knowledge proviso above, and a little too metaphysical for me.