First published as Hanamushiro in 1948, the setting for The Flower Mat is eighteenth-century Japan, a time when familes were bound together by a rigid code of honor and individual lives were of necessity valued far less than the interests of the group.
It tells of a young bride, Ichi, born into such a tradition, groomed in the virtues of ideal womanhood, and finally tempered by tragedy. Her life and fate are bound up inexorably with the fortunes of her in-laws, high-ranking officials. She soon becomes aware that something is dreadfully wrong, that something is threatening her home and her peaceful way of life. Uneasy and frightened, she tries to put clues together, but her questions go unanswered. Political intrigue and sudden tragedy force her into a new and unfamiliar world.
We follow Ichi as she grows from passive observer—a wife suppressing her own passions—to active agent—a woman who will risk anything for justice. Struggling for truth and justice, Ichi finds her only weapons are her own strength and the lovely mats, decorated with delicate flowers, that she designs.
Readers everywhere will find this a solid account of personal development and responsibility in the life of one Japanese woman.