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Subject: Japanese military history - Sengoku Period - book recommendations? rss

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Joe
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I've just finished reading the rules for RAN and Samurai. Pretty excited about both. They should get to the table once I'm done with SPQR . . . if that's even possible.
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Gordon Reynolds
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Stephen Turnbull
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Charles Lewis
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Anything by Dr. Stephen Turnbull is usually worth your time. In particular, Samurai Warfare is a good introduction to the tactics and personalities of that period.

For a more detailed treatment, I can't recommend Dr. George Sansom's A History of Japan enough. Specifically, vol. II, which covers 1334-1615. Fascinating and thorough.

As for games, Samurai (not to be confused by GMT's GBoH title mentioned above) is an enjoyable strategic-level game even in spite of its age.
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Richard Hecker
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At risk of sounding like a broken record when these queries arise - there is a documentary for you on my Wargames & History list

www.boardgamegeek.com/geeklist/71470/item/2169772#item216977...
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dennis mishler
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http://www.samurai-archives.com/

Best online (english) site.

Games: Feudal Lord http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/6744/feudal-lord
http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/27967/samurai-lords-the-w...

Honestly, there aren't a lot of good board games covering this time period. Most are simply "themed" with samurai.
The Nobunaga's Ambition series (KOEI) is by far the best, and that's a video game series (NES, SNES, PC, PS2).
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Lucius Cornelius
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For the right atmosphere, I'd go with Taiko, from the perspective of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.

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I will not mince words: Turnbull is bloody awful. He's the worst kind of popular historian (the kind without footnotes or sources). Anyone interested in Japanese history would do well to avoid him (along with the standard caveats about Benedict et al). Turnbull has all the scholarly rigor of an Osprey book.

(Actually, Anthony Bryant did at least a few of the Japanese Osprey books, and he's much better than Turnbull.)

I'll try to dig up some bibliography material for you tomorrow. In the meantime, I'd probably recommend Sansom's 'A History of Japan'. Marius Jansen's stuff is usually good as well. Lamer's book on Nobunaga is enjoyable. And I think there are some good essays in 'Japan Before Tokugawa', but it's been a long time. That should get you started, at least.
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Jur dj
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Wolvendancer, although I'd agree that Turnbull is a popular historian I think you are throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Having a look at the military history bookshelf, the requests there are not for academic theses but for accessible and readable introductions.

Unless there is something wrong with Turnbull's facts or interpretation I'm happy for you to take him to task for it. But not for producing history for a broad public.

I don't argue with your suggestions, they're excellent academic historical work, and pretty readable as well. Lamers' book is excellent (although it still languishes on my shelf), but not easy to get and expensive. Does that help this guy getting in the mood for his games?

My suggestion, btw is Giving Up The Gun by Noel Perrin. Accessible, interesting story of the introduction of handguns to Japan in the 1540s and their removal a century later (and with footnotes, I recall). Provides an excellent background to the Sengoku period.

Then again, I'm lucky for living five minutes from an exceptionally good bookshop with specialisation in non-western history and culture.

btw, if you want to have a proper Friday Freakout, you know where to find me
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jurdj wrote:

Unless there is something wrong with Turnbull's facts or interpretation I'm happy for you to take him to task for it.


One, very quick, example. From 'Samurai: The Story of Japan's Greatest Warriors':

'In one case, that of the siege of Hosokawa Ysai's castle of Tanabe, we are reliably informed that so revered was the old man, who was a noted scholar and poet, that the Tokugawa forces bombarding his castle absent-mindedly forgot to put any projectiles into the barrels of their cannon.'

So, umm, I have no idea who Hosokawa Ysai is. I do know who Hosokawa Yusai is, and as he was an ally loyal to Tokugawa I very much doubt that Tokugawa was all that keen on bombarding his castle. Which it turns out never happened. The Onoki did bombard the Hosokawa, but only as a wink-wink-nudge-nudge boondoggle, so that the Hosokawa could surrender and sit things out (samurai liked to talk about honor like medieval priests liked to talk about celibacy).

Turnbull is rife with this stuff. He fucks up who is who, reverses names, omits important facts... he's a trainwreck.

I think you underestimate the reading level in the BGG Wargames Forum if you think the books I mentioned were inappropriate. Furthermore, I think we've almost moved past the time when facile, broad-strokes popular history books serve any use whatsoever. Anyone interested in history can read the Wiki for free to get the basic facts down, then fill in (if they like) with real history books as needed.

Lastly, I think might have started the last Friday Freakout, so it's someone else's turn.
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Adam Siler
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sullafelix wrote:
For the right atmosphere, I'd go with Taiko, from the perspective of Toyotomi Hideyoshi.



Most definitely agree! All of the characterizations are great. It makes the era become so accessible and familiar. Any other of his books are also worth reading, with the English translations being very good.

I would recommend the movie, Kagemusha. It is a great drama in itself but also tells the story from the Takeda clan's perspective. Try and not feel some sympathy as the old guard charges into certain death at the end.
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Steve Cox
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James Clavell's Shogun
 
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Adam Blinkinsop
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What do you guys think about Musashi? Not exactly historical, per se, but definitely gets me in the mood for "A Most Dangerous Time" and "Sekigahara", for sure.

Is it terribly a-historical?
 
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Tom Shields
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Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan led me to the biography Tokugawa Ieyasu: Shogun by Conrad Totman. I found it an excellent read to follow the campaign culminating in the Battle of Sekigahara, but quite a page turner as well.

Matt Calkins recommends Totman's book in one of the earlier game threads:
mcalkins wrote:
If you want a book that covers the period, I recommend Conrad Totman's biography of Tokugawa Ieyasu. The pickings are slim, in English, but this old book holds up pretty well. (I do not recommend Jansen's 'Making of Modern Japan' for coverage of this campaign, though I do recommend it as an excellent 1-volume modern history.). Also good is Walter Dening's biography of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, sympathetic and perceptive.


I also followed Sekigahara: The Unification of Japan with A Most Dangerous Time: Japan in Chaos, 1570-1584. I'm glad I'd read Totman, as it kept me motivated while I struggled with the ruleset. (once it fell into place, I loved the game and it flowed beautifully).

After Totman, and alongside playing A Most Dangerous Time: Japan in Chaos, 1570-1584, I read Hideyoshi by Mary Elizabeth Berry. I needed it because I didn't have the wider view of Oda Nobunaga ascendance, nor a full portrait of Hideyoshi. It's more 'academic' then the Totman biography; very well written but it does go into depth on things like village structure, so be warned it may be too chewy for some. I don't mean she is a stale writer, she's very good. The portrait of Oda in the early part of the book, and of course on into Hideyoshi, are very well done but lack the narrative focus of Totman, so recommended with that caveat.

My 'cheat reading' of a few pages of Turnbull that was available on the webpage before purchase didn't do much for me, so I passed on him.

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