Story Behind the Story: Falling Through Glass

Japan in the 19th century

The power of the Tokugawa shogunate, weakened by debt and internal division, had declined, and much opposition had built up in the early 19th cent. The intrusion of Western powers, particularly the Americans under Admiral Matthew C. Perry, precipitated further discontent.

Under pressure, the Tokugawa shogunate submitted (1854) to foreign demands and signed treaties that ended Japan’s isolation. The powerful Choshu and Satsuma domains of W Japan tried to resist the foreigners on their own and were defeated (1863). These domains, excluded from the Tokugawa governing councils because of their status as tozama, or outside daimyo, then demanded creation of a new government loyal to the emperor to expel the foreigners.

In Jan., 1868, samurai from these domains, with the support of anti-Tokugawa court nobles, succeeded in a palace coup that abolished the shogunate and “returned” power to the emperor.

~The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05

While Emmi, her ancestor Takehito, and Kae are fictional Falling Through Glass does include many real historical figures such as Kae’s father, his uncle Emperor Komei and the emperor’s son Prince Sachi who would later become Mutsuhito, the Emperor Meiji.

THE HISTORIC WORLD OF EMMI & KAE
(character names here are in Western Given name/Surname)

Emiko “Emmi” Maeda

A descendant of the powerful Maeda family who once ruled over the Kaga-han, the most wealthy domain in Japan. Historically a family’s wealth was measured in the amount of rice they could produce and sell. This was measured in units called koku. Kaga-han was known as the Million Koku domain. The Maeda estate in Edo (now Tokyo) was so vast that their mansion contained an indoor lake. The Maeda of Kaga were allied with Japan’s rulers from the days of Toshiie Maeda who was a general under warlord Nobunaga Oda. The family would eventually align itself via marriage with both the Tokugawa Shogunate and the Imperial Court. It was Maeda money from the dowry of the bride of Prince Toshihito which funded the completion of Kyoto’s Katsura Imperial Villa where Emmi stays with her ancestor Takehito. Emmi wears a gold dragonfly pendant in honor of the dragonfly which adorned the front of Toshiie Maeda’s war helmet.

The son of Prince Asahiko, adopted brother to Emperor Komei as well as his closest advisor. The Emperor said that he and Asahiko were like “two different branches that had grown together”. Not wanting his son to be merely a “useless longsleeves” court noble Kae’s father would have sent him to be educated in a domain like Aizu-han which boasted the Nisshinkan school for boys of Samurai rank. There he would have studied not only martial arts but also astronomy, Confucianism and medical science from both Japanese and Dutch sources

A few members of the Kyoto patrol group The Shinsengumi also play a part in Falling Through Glass

Near the end of the book Emmi and Kae (and the young future emperor) are swept up in a dangerous Emmi historical event:The Ikedaya Incident (also known as the Ikeda Affair).

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