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. . . a very impressive piece of work


Editor, (Robert Hale Ltd, Publishers, London)


. . . I absolutely loved this book!  It’s very funny and totally enthralling and I learned so much about the life and culture of Japan.


Jeffrey Holland (Actor)


The whole book is a delight and so absorbing and interesting.  It really is an inspiration to anyone who wants to follow their dream.


Judy Buxton (Actor)


 A unique book, beautifully detailed and incredibly insightful.


Tara Gould (Author)


Jill Rutherford has achieved a difficult feat. To write a memoir that informs, entertains, and sustains the interest of the reader from the opening paragraph, to the flicker of the last page. Her insight, wit and dry humour is sprinkled liberally throughout, as she weaves a sumptuously rich panorama that opens up the mystery and fascination of Japan. Her narrative is all at once eloquent, empathic, funny, historical and sad.

A wonderful memoir and testament to the power of hard work and self-belief.


Zara Luther (Author)


Your writing so accurately describes the little bits of Japan I’ve experienced that it’s easy to understand those parts I haven’t seen. I am full of admiration for your achievements and for the quality of your writing. I thoroughly enjoyed this book.


Hilary Anderson


Your book is an absolute delight. It would be fair to say that as a middle-aged meat-eatin’, beer-swillin’, woman-grabbin’, rock and roll-lovin’ fat bloke, who was raised in a tower block in Stockwell, the Takarazuka Theatre holds little attraction to me, but in the context of your excellent narrative, this is of no importance. The main thing is your account of life in Japan. It is brilliantly written and holds one’s interest with a mixture of charm, humour and the observation of an innocent British woman in very foreign  surroundings. You set a very high bar for yourself and lasted the distance wonderfully well. I congratulate you on this and also on the consequent book. You claim in the introduction that “Cherry Blossoms…” is not meant to be an academic book nor an analysis of Japanese culture. I disagree. I believe that what you have given us could well be an important account of that society from a woman’s standpoint and as such represents a valuable text book, which is not unworthy of study to exam level. I think you’ve produced a right little gem.'


John Martin Somers (Author)


The intriguing title of this book, combining familiar and unfamiliar aspects of Japanese culture (I have to admit I’d never heard of Takarazuka) was a fitting overture to the author’s compelling account of seven years of total immersion in that country. It was compulsive reading, sensitive, insightful and honest, including touching accounts of her own faux pas and culture shocks as she followed her unusual dream. I’ll be recommending this book to friends who teach English as a foreign language, both in the UK and overseas, and to anyone who, like me, has been equally charmed and baffled by Japanese culture and customs.


Debbie Young (Author)


Just wanted to let you know that I’m reading your book and I don’t want to put it down! By that, I mean out of my hands – literally!   I am enthralled by it and thoroughly enjoying it. To be able to follow all your experiences is fantastic. I admire you taking on such an adventure at ‘your age’, and when I read what you’ve done and how you set up your school, it’s jaw dropping stuff.  This is a great read for anyone.


Iris Brown


Thank you so much for inviting me to your book launch yesterday. Just by reading the first page of your book while waiting to buy it I was sure it would be enjoyable. On the long train journey back to Dunstable I was a captive audience as I had forgotten to bring a book with me from home. I wasn’t captive so much as captivated and I haven’t been able to put the book down. As soon as I finished it (two minutes ago) I had to come on and say it is an extraordinary book. Thank you for letting me experience Japan through your eyes. Thank you for letting me meet your Japanese friends. Just thank you for a wonderful read.  I’m going to buy another copy to send to my sister in Australia.


Ella Harris


I was given this book as a present and thought it looked interesting, although I had no idea what a wonderful book it would turn out to be. I just couldn’t put it down and read it in days. It was totally absorbing and fascinating. The Japanese present an emotionless front to the world and it’s a hard culture to understand. But with this book, I could see behind the masks and discover some of the real people of Japan with their feelings on show. The author’s insight into Japanese culture is absolutely fascinating and the book tumbles you along effortlessly. Also, the author’s own story was just as fascinating and intriguing. Altogether, a very impressive book. I’m ordering more copies of the book to give as presents and wish the author good luck and many readers. She deserves it.


Jac Lerwill, Adelaide, Australia


I loved this book and will certainly read it again. I would recommend it to anyone who is considering going to Japan, either for a holiday or to live or work there, as it will help you understand the Japanese culture and will prevent you from falling into the many pitfalls which caught this author out during her time there. But whether or not you plan to visit Japan in person, you can certainly gain an insight into this extraordinary country by reading this book.


Elizabeth Baker


I have just read Cherry Blossoms, Sushi and Takarazuka: Seven Years in Japan by Jill Rutherford, what an interesting book. I was captivated by the story of this English lady who went off to Japan, not knowing the language or people there. At an age when she should be “putting her feet up” she set about opening an English school and teaching her Japanese clients. She had no teaching qualifications, this was totally alien to her, but she did it. To follow her life story of the seven years she spent in Japan, held my attention right through to the end. A thoroughly good read and well recommended.


Amber Owen


I loved this book of your amazing adventure.


Maggie Whitmore




"I have read many books about Japan. Business books, novels and general books about the country and its people, but none get beneath the surface as well as yours.


When I read your book I suddenly think- yes, I've been in that situation too but did not realise it at the time. Japan is so very different from what we know and very few people start to understand it, let alone recognise it.


As we are doing so much business with Japan, I am getting my colleagues, who deal with our Japanese customers, to read it as well and they all say how much insight it gives them into the Japanese people and their culture.


It's a very good book."


Jill Rutherford’s Secret Samurai has been chosen by Savvy Tokyo Magazine as one of the 7 Must-Read Japan-Related Books by Female Authors

. . . she has established herself as a writer with great insight into Japanese culture and the power to deliver unique plots and marvellous characters

Savvy Tokyo Magazine





The first Eastbourne Writes Festival was held in April 2012. Various writing related activities took place with readings from authors and workshops for all. There were also writing competitions for short stories, poetry and flash fiction divided into age groups from the very young to the very old. The theme for the competitions was ‘The Day After…’


Jill won the adults section (18-65 age group) with her story entitled, The Day After the Tsunami. She was also a runner-up in the same category with her story, The Day After I Won the Lottery. The stories are included in Jill’s book, The Day After I Won the Lottery . . . and other Short Stories. Please click here to view the book.



(21st April 2012)

Jill Rutherford has won the

Eastbourne Dickens

Fellowship‘s short story

competition, held to mark

the bicentenary of the

birth of Charles Dickens. The theme and title of the contest was “A Tale of Two Cities” and Jill chose Tokyo and London for the settings of her winning entry. On Monday 17th April, at the monthly meeting of the town’s Dickens Fellowship, Jill was presented with two of her three prizes: a £50 book token and a beautifully bound illustrated hardback edition of A Christmas Carol.


. . .  Secret Samurai is written with such intelligence and emotional maturity, it will equally appeal to readers who have never been to Japan, as well as expats.

Jill Rutherford’s writing is undeniably extraordinary


Savvy Tokyo Magazine


. . . it has an original plot with some very interesting and likeable characters. There’s also a very sweet romance, a time travel switch, and a dose of Japanese history and all of this makes this book totally unique

As you turn each page, it’s hard not to admire just how well this author brilliantly conveys the time travel element. You seamlessly move from one time period to the other and both are equally fascinating


Amazon Reviewer



I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. If you’re a fan of Japanese culture, you’ll be drawn to this book but what you’ll love about this story in particular is that it has an original plot with some very interesting and likeable characters. There’s also a very sweet romance, a time travel switch, and a dose of Japanese history, and all of this makes this book totally unique.


As you turn each page, it’s hard not to admire just how well this author brilliantly conveys the time travel element. You seamlessly move from one time period to the other and both are equally fascinating.


Anyone with any knowledge of Japan will inevitably be impressed by the way Kenji, Bebe’s new love interest, and Kai, the samurai, are portrayed. The Japanese character is very different to the Western character and this is sometimes misinterpreted in other books but Rutherford has developed her characters very well to show the real differences. The character Kenji is written with such authenticity and a deep understanding of the Japanese mind-set. You also pick up on this when you switch to the samurai time period and Bebe becomes Kai. When you live in Japan and you start learning the language and the customs you almost feel as if you’re developing two characters - one that will suit Japan and another that will suit the Western world and they’re not really interchangeable if you want to fit in. As Bebe influences Kai and Kai influences Bebe, this seemed to me like an analogy that shows the gradual transformation that takes place when you become part of another culture and how you have to learn to cope with the difficulties you face on a daily basis as you adjust.


Also, Rutherford’s complete understanding of the Japanese culture is really obvious right down to the fine details. The lack of food available to eat in the samurai period as well as the medicines and the way people travel around Japan are true to this period in Japanese history.


As well as this, the Japanese people’s attitudes towards the Westerners in the samurai time period was obviously carefully researched but their roles were so well-written it did not feel in any way unnatural. The fact that there were several schools of thought about whether the Japanese should welcome trade with the Westerners or fight to keep them from infiltrating Japanese society was clearly portrayed in this book and readers will benefit from this without feeling like they’re bogged down with historical facts.


My favourite part of the book were the pages in chapter 14. I loved reading about the trip to Ise, the description of the Japanese restaurant there, the kaiseki meal, and the reason why certain dishes and porcelain are used for certain food and drinks. I also enjoyed reading about the visit to the shrine, learning about the Sun Goddess Amaterasu, reading about the priest in the costume of the Heian period, and all the natural surroundings.


Overall, this is a great book that’s full of character with a captivating plot that will keep you guessing and it’s definitely a wonderful beginning to a promising series.


Amazon Reviewer


A good read that flips between ancient and modern Japan - this is a time travelling romance with unusual elements that surprise the reader. The narrative is split between the points of view of a modern day English woman living in Japan and Samurai of ancient Japan. There is intrigue, excitement, a lusty dose of fighting and a mystery to be unraveled that will keep you hooked!


Jacq Molloy (Author, Editor, Tutor)


Having enjoyed Jill Rutherford's memoir of the time she spent in Japan working as an English teacher, and having also read and enjoyed some of her short stories, I was interested to find out how her first novel would turn out. What I particularly liked about this novel was the insight it gave into the minds and culture of the Japanese, and also provided some interesting background about Japanese history. I also liked the way the story was told from different characters' viewpoints, clearly signposted so we knew whose perspective each chapter would provide. There was also a steady build-up of intrigue and tension, and I really did care about what happened to the characters. I enjoyed it, and recommend it particularly for anyone who likes books about Japanese life, culture and history, so different from ours, written from a British perspective.


Debbie Young (Author)


'I found Secret Samurai an interesting mix. I love Japan and have been there many times and enjoyed this story of old and new Japan and the author's accurate way of describing places. I felt a special fascination with the two heroines, Bebe, and Yoshi,  as they "experience life as a man" (and the power that comes with that). I also liked Yoshi's special aura and strength.

I liked that the parallel plot is set in the Meiji period, when Japan opened to Western culture when many sorts of changes might have been possible. So, a samurai born into a world which is coming to an end seems more likely to be open to influences coming from an unknown (and foreign) future world.

I also like the way the narration was not limited to alternate viewpoints of the main characters, Bebe and Kai (the samurai), but also at times (and quite unexpectedly) giving voice to other actors in the story. I found Kai's potentialities of development particularly interesting.

I liked Bebe's curiosity for the unknown – intellectual curiosity is her main drive and what brings her to go out of her comfort zone in order to explore different and fascinating potentialities of herself as a human being.

I was very glad to discover this trilogy. I was attracted to the setting and the characters. I enjoyed the adventure.'


Francesca Puccinelli, Brussels.


I loved Secret Samurai book one, it was one of the most intriguing stories I have read and I could not wait for book two. I found this continuing story just as enthralling. A wonderful second instalment.


Amazon Reviewer


An excellent book. I enjoyed books 1 and 2 so much that I waited impatiently for the third and final one. It was an enlightening book about the life and fighting as a Samurai Warrior and I was keen to learn how the lives of both eras could be resolved. It was clever and fascinating. One needs to read the first two books before book 3 and I would certainly recommend this trilogy


Amazon Reviewer


A must read. I finished book 2 this morning, I don't usually read during the day but was so excited to finish it, another great book by Jill Rutherford. Starting book 3 tonight.


Amazon Reviewer


I learnt a lot about Japan's history while reading these three books. I felt sad to finish the last book, such a great story. Jill Rutherford is a great story teller.


Amazon Reviewer


I like the light touch of this author and the splashes of humour throughout the trilogy. The story drew me in without effort. The characters are well rounded, believable, and develop and change with events. It's an intriguing theme of old and new Japan where time and genders cross. I loved the history of old Japan as it is dragged into the modern world of the 1860's - a fascinating time - and how we can see both modern and old Japan and compare the two. It's a fun story. A well written trilogy where, in my opinion, each successive book is better than the last - a good read


Amazon Reviewer


What a great story, couldn't put it down. I would recommend this to anyone who likes a bit of history, romance and mystery


Amazon reviewer


Secret Samurai Trilogy

chosen as one of

7 Must-Read Japan-Related Books

by Female Authors

Savvy Tokyo Magazine

Available here


516pqhKNaVL 9781784629571 9781784629588