Hi, hamlet53! Thank you for selecting this book to read, and you have a very thoughtful list of questions. I did enjoy this book, and I hope to someday read the next books. I thought the writing was beautiful, and you have highlighted some of the passages that got my attention too. I haven't read a paperbook in awhile, and I kept wanting to highlight passages so that I could come back and reread them later.
I did have to do some research to understand the Samurai traditions and the Meiji restoration and its effects on the modernization of Japan. I also struggled a bit to understand the Buddhist/Shintu beliefs.
I also agree that the writing was very rich. I felt like I could be dropped right into the scenery because it was so vivid. In many cases I thought it enhanced the emotions of the characters or perhaps the romanticism as you put. I do recall at least once thinking it was a bit over-the-top.
Anyway, I wanted to post something - even though my thoughts aren't very deep - just to say someone out there read your book selection. I think that others did too, and it is just the unfortunate timing with the holiday season.