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Heavenly Warriors: Evolution of Japan's Military, 500-1300 (Harvard East Asian Monographs) Hardcover – 22 Feb 1993


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Wayne Farris's "Heavenly Warriors,.".is a challenging re-interpretation of Japan's early military history and warrior tradition...[It] is both polemical and thought provoking. It is detailed and based on extensive reading of Japanese primary and secondary materials. -- Martin Collcutt "Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies"

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Amazon.com: 6 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Superb & easy to read 10 Jun. 2005
By Amazon Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It has long been a common view that the Minamoto victory over the Taira in 1185 began the age of feudalism in Japan. The old-fashioned Taira clan were no match for the feudal Minamoto clan, who revolutionised the country through the formation of their bakufu government in Kamakura. This is a view that Farris disputes in this excellent book.

Farris argues that the most surprising feature of the Kamakura Bakufu's creation and operation is not what changed, but what DIDN'T change. To show this, Farris takes us back to the beginning of Japan's recorded history and details how military men were organised, how they were called in to battle, their tactics, how they were supplied and how they were rewarded. Instead of drawing parallels to the feudal evolution of Western Europe, Farris describes the internal evolution of the Japanese warrior and their relation to the state and shows that 1185 was not the major turning point that it had been viewed as by many.

This is not the only topic covered in the book however, as Farris challenges several other topics, such as the re-opening of new lands by warriors in the 11th-13th centuries and the amount of wealth warriors actually earned off the land they held. His research is surprising and certainly challenges what I had previously been led to believe.

Another reviewer states that Farris doesn't mention the Hojo's involvement at all in the running of the Kamakura Bakufu, and this is true, however I don't believe that it falls within the scope of this work. 'Heavenly Warriors' is not meant as a 'history book' per se, but as a study of the evolution of Japan's military class. There's not space to detail the power structure of the Kamakura Bakufu; this would heavily detract from the theme of the book. The Kamakura Bakufu was indeed more of a regional government than a true nation-wide power, as Farris shows with his case studies on warriors incomes close to the Bakufu capital compared to those on the opposite side of the country. The only Bakufu that could claim ultimate nation-wide authority was the Tokugawa, and even then there were provinces such as Satsuma that managed to operator slightly under the radar.

I'd consider this work a must-read for anyone interested in Japan's medieval and pre-medieval period. It's a fascinating and surprisingly easy to read book that helps dispel many misconceptions surrounding the rise of the warrior class in Japan.
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Interesting outlook 4 May 2003
By lordhoot - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I found this book to be quite interesting. The author is trying to make a case where he believes that the Japanese samurai's evolution started from 500 AD and continued onward until they took power with Minamoto Yoritomo. Since much of Japan's early military history is unknown to most English speaking people, I found those chapters to be specially enlightening. I found it interesting that Japan's armies between 500-900 AD fought along the continental Asian style with formations - massive armies of peasants rise by local "strongmen" who may have been forerunner of the diamyo class. These armies were led by imperial court's nobles. Only when the court's failure to invest money into this concept did a more specialzed concept of a warrior class slowly came to be. This warrior class which began as specific palace units and local strongmen, will soon supplant the Emperor and his court as the rulers of Japan. Only in the last chapter where it dealt with the Kamakura Shogunate did the author seem to stumble. Apparently either he don't understand or make it clear that Kamakura Shogunate was actually run by the Hojo Regency who did run Japan with an iron fist for many years before the Mongol Invasion which ironically led to the fall of Hojo family (50 years later) who usurped the powers from Yoritomo's family. Author somehow believed that Kamakura's rule wasn't that complete. The fact that he barely mentioned the Hojo family (and how they took totol control of Japan through their puppet Shoguns) or even one of their greatest leaders, Tokimune, who led Japan's defense during the Mongol invasion period tells me that maybe his research in this period wasn't that complete. Otherwise, this proves to be a highly educational and entertaining book to read.
4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Theoretically well constructed, but read with other books. 8 Nov. 1999
By Ken Iida - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I had a mixed feeling that I could not easily settle down after reading this book. Though beautifully articulated in depicting the development of the Japanese military in the medieval time, Farris' proposition of "Western Analogous Theory" makes careful readers feel uneasy about the legitimacy of his argument. The reiterated reference to "Western Analogous Theory" seems to work counter to convincing readers. However, too soon to conclude its value yet. Alongside this possibly problematic proposition, Farris' emphasis on the importance of the continuation bridging the aristocratic Heian period and the Samurai Kamakura period should not be missed. That is indeed of crucial importance. This book could become a great reference source for the Japanese history studies, when it is read along with others books dealing with the similar topic during the similar period.
Heavenly Warriors is a great resource. 4 Sept. 2012
By Ricky - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Farris's book in one of the most indepth sources I've ever seen concerning early sumarai warriors. I rate it with Friday's work for scholary insights. It's entertaining to read and well researched, a must read for anyone interested in samurai history.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Informative and clear 14 Nov. 2000
By Peter Mancini - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I found this book very informative and clear. The author tells you the story of how the Samurai came to be with the intent of showing how Japanese Fudalism is not just an analog of Western Fudalism. I liked the book for its challenge to a widely held belief. It forces the reader to think and consider what one thinks they already know.
I expected the book to be rather dry but was very happy to find out it is really a wonderful read. I recommend this to anyone who is already somewhat familiar with Japanese history, especially pre-Gempei War history.
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