When American ships steam into Edo Bay for the first time, it is into the forbidden waters of mid-19th-century Japan. Outsiders are not allowed to enter the country, and Japan’s samurai prepare for war. Thirteen-year-old Yoshi longs to join the fight to expel the hairy barbarians...But how? As a lowly servant, he is not permitted to become a samurai or to carry swords.
Yet the ships have barely arrived when Yoshi finds himself wielding a sword in a way that will change his life forever. Forced to flee, he meets-and is employed by-and odd samurai named Manjiro, who is on his way to Edo to advise the shogun about the western invaders. Yoshi encounters plenty of adventures traveling with a man suspected of being an American spy.
Through it all, Yoshi, like most of his countrymen, just wants the “hairy ones” to go away. But when he and an American boy from one of the ships become entangled in a web of adventure and intrigue, including spies and assassins, the two boys discover that they must rely on each other to survive.