How different can Japan and America be from each other in the 19th century? Good question. And this is a big part of what Heart of a Samurai explores. From geography to people to culture, the novel takes on the idea that the two countries are total opposites—one insular (Japan), the other open (America)—and challenges both notions. Sure they may seem different at first, but neither country is quite what it seems or claims to be once we explore a little further.
Questions About Contrasting Regions
What's the relationship between geography and political mindset for both countries?
How does John Mung's (a.k.a. Manjiro's) artwork show off each country's geographical and architectural qualities?
Why is life at sea appealing to Manjiro?
How do the politics of both countries affect the way the characters deal with foreigners?
Chew on This
Japan's isolationism comes from its small, island geography; America's openness comes from its massive amount of space and land.
The two countries may be completely different geographically, but Japan and America are more alike toward foreigners than not.