Welcome to TRB Lounge!
Today, we are featuring Kimiko Chou, the lead character from Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai by Con Chapman, for our Character Interview feature.
About The Author
Con Chapman is the author most recently of Rabbit’s Blues: The Life and Music of Johnny Hodges (Oxford University Press), winner of the 2019 Book of the Year Award from Hot Club de France. His work has appeared in The Atlantic, The Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe, and a number of literary magazines. His young adult short story, “The Vanishing Twin,” appeared in the March/April 2015 issue of Cicada.
CONNECT WITH THE AUTHOR:
Welcome to TRB! We are really excited to have you over. Please give our
readers a brief introduction about yourself before we begin.
My name is Kimiko Chou. “Chou” is my given name and means “butterfly.” I was born a twin with a brother, Tadashige, or “Tada” for short. My father is a samurai warrior—Kimiko Kiyotaka. My mother stayed at home and took care of me and my brother. We lived in the city of Ōita, Japan.
What is your age and what do you do for a living?
I am twelve years old. I am returning to Japan after a long journey to find my father, who had gone off to invade Korea with other samurai.
How do you like to spend your free time?
Before my mother and brother were killed, I led the life of a typical Japanese girl of our city. Tada and I would play, my mother would instruct me in gardening, housekeeping, art, poetry—and the tea ceremony.
Please share some of your beliefs, principles, motivations and morals (can be social, religious or political or, etc.) Anything that will help us get to know you better.
My family was Buddhists. It may seem strange that a warrior such as my father followed a religion of peace, but samurai believe that Zen Buddhism helps them find inner peace and enlightenment to strengthen themselves, both in battle and in their daily lives.
Tell us something about your family and childhood.
My family was a happy one until the day when robbers invaded our house and killed my mother and brother while my father was off on an invasion of Korea. From that day until I was reunited with my father, I was a wanderer, traveling with a ronin—a samurai who has been dismissed by his lord—and his page, Moto Mori, a young boy who was older than me.
Tell us something about your dreams and aspirations? Were you able to achieve them or are you planning to?
My aspiration at this point is to return to my home in Ōita and rebuild my life with my father. He is without a wife and a son, and I am without a mother and brother.
What is your biggest fear in life?
After what I’ve been through, there isn’t much I fear. But my father is all I have left, and I could not bear to lose him.
How would you describe your life in one sentence?
My world was a happy one until it was turned upside down by the death of my mother and brother, and I was forced to fend for myself to be reunited with my father.
What is the worst thing that has ever happened to you?
Losing my mother and my brother in a single day, when robbers invaded our home while my father was away.
Did it change you for the better or the worse?
Obviously, things became worse, but there was nothing I could do about it—they were gone, and nothing could bring them back.
But I became more self-reliant, and I experienced a great adventure, even though it was harrowing at times. And I was reunited with my father.
What are your plans for the future?
To return to Japan with my father and start our life over again.
Kimiko Chou, Girl Samurai
KIMIKO CHOU is a girl on a mission. Her mother and brother have been killed by robbers in 14th century Japan while her father, a samurai warrior, is off on an invasion of Korea.
Chou (“butterfly” in Japanese) narrowly escapes death by hiding while the robbers ransack her home, then—dressed as a boy in her brother’s clothes—she goes in quest of her father. Alone on the road, she takes up with Hyōgo Narutomi, a former samurai who has been dismissed by seven previous masters, and Moto Mori, his page.
The three of them—man, boy, and girl—make their way across Japan along with Piebald, an old horse with a curious spot on his coat that resembles a Fenghuang, the mythical bird that rules over all others in Asian mythology. Together this unlikely trio experience a series of adventures and narrow escapes until Chou and Mori—but not Narutomi—land in Korea. There, as a spy for the Koreans, Chou searches for her father-across enemy lines!
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