Video: A lost samurai love story in a library manuscript

Detail from the Shūdō tsuya monogatari manuscript
April 29, 2021

Scholars collaborating across three continents are deciphering a rare eighteenth-century Japanese manuscript at Yale University Library to reveal a tragic—and likely true—love story between two male samurai warriors. The ongoing project, now in its fourth year, has been documented in “Blood, Tears and Samurai Love,” a video created by Haruko Nakamura, Yale’s librarian of Japanese Studies and Dylan Siegel (MA ’21) a graduate student in East Asian Studies.

The untitled manuscript is housed in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library and is being referred to as the Shūdō tsuya monogatari, roughly meaning  “male-male relationship stories.” Set in 1714 in Dewa Province in Northeastern Japan, the story features unusual full-color illustrations and is written in kuzushiji, a challenging calligraphic script commonly used in Japanese texts before 1900 but now legible only to scholars with specialized expertise.