Little Sister by Kara Dalkey
"Like other noble girls in the imperial court, 13-year-old Mitsuko wears multilayered kimonos and hides her face behind her sleeve when in public. But tragic events prove that Mitsuko is no ordinary girl. When her village is attacked by outlaws and her sister's life is shattered, Mitsuko alone finds the courage to venture into the netherworld to find her sister's wandering spirit."
I'm sure I've mentioned before the interest I have (and especially had when I was younger) in all things Japanese. It eventually resulted in me going to Japan for a year to teach English! Anyway, this is a small treat of a novel for Japanese aficionados, especially those with interest in Japanese history, culture, and myths/legends. The protagonist Mitsuko starts out rather unsure of herself, but circumstances push her to grow into her own, along with the help of a tengu (shapeshifter). If you like historical Japan, fantasy, and coming-of-age stories, you should like this one. There's a sequel as well (The Heavenward Path) although I think I preferred the first book.
I know it's a little obscure, but has anyone else read this one? Plus, don't you love that cover?