Recommend a history book please

newGuy12

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Hello.

I wish to know more about the history of feudal Japan. That is, the culture of Japan when Samurai soldiers were still around, and so forth.

If anyone could recommend a good book about this, it would be appreciated. I would prefer that the book be written for the common person, not for an academic audience.




Regards,

Robert
 

arnisador

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For a well-written and interesting slice of that life, I always recommend this book:
Perrin, Noel. Giving Up the Gun: Japan’s Reversion to the Sword, 1543-1879 (Boston: David R. Godine, 1979)

It focuses on how the Samurai reacted to the introduction of firearms from the Western world--first using them, then largely abandoning their use.

James Clavell's Shogun is fiction of course but could be an accessible start. See also this thread.
 

Xue Sheng

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Just an additional note to my post

Back when I was trying to learn more about Japan I found that reading books on Shinto actually helped me understand the culture a little better and books on Zen and Bushido help me understand both the culture and the martial arts a little better too.
 

grydth

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The Book of Five Rings by Musashi......first read it as a young Army Officer, it has been useful ever since. Readily available.
 

Sukerkin

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I have no wish to sound disparaging, condescending or otherwise 'making light' but a history book that is not written for the 'academic' audience generally translates as 'not being very accurate'.

History is ever a matter of interpretation of sources, it's one of the things that makes it endlessly fascinating ... or is that just me :lol:?

If you're after an overview to start with as a gauge of where your deeper study is going to lie then you wont go far wrong reading Steven Turnbull's stuff.

Two things to bear in mind when approaching Japanese history are:

1) There ain't no such thing as Ninja - there were families who tended more to the espionage and assassination side of things but all Samurai were expected to perform such functions as and when necessary. Straight swords, black masks, smoke bombs et al ... fiction more than fact.

Which leads to:

2) There ain't no such thing as the Samurai as re-interpreted for Western eyes in the 20th Century. The class were part of a multi-node power system which teetered from one emphasis to another over the centuries. Pragmatism and wealth were the watchwords along with not being seen to do things that were too dis-honourable. I love the film "The Last Samurai" but it's got little to do with what Samurai were all about (as an aside, if you want a window into the history behind the story of that film then "The Last Samurai - The Life and Battles of Saigo Takamori" by Mark Ravina [ISN 0-471-70537-3] is an interesting read).
 
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newGuy12

newGuy12

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Thank you again everyone. I appreciate that academics write more accurate history. Its just that I do not wish to study the history with the mind of a student. That is too much work for my liking. I wish to have an easier time of it.

I think that I will simply read James Clavell's Shogun as that is written as a historical novel, a type of book which I prefer.

Its a sad thing to think that the lofty stories that one can hear are sometimes just fanciful tales, but I would rather know the truth about things.

Also, there are so many interesting things to learn about which are on the periphery of the martial arts that its almost bewildering. But I will not allow myself to be stuck in some endless loop without an exit function. No. I will pick a horse and ride.
 

bdparsons

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I enjoyed Secrets of the Samurai: The Martial Arts of Feudal Japan by Oscar Ratti and Adele Westbrook, ISBN 0-7858-1073-0.

Respects,
Bill Parsons
Triangle Kenpo Institute
 
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