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Samurai Invasion: Japan's Korean War 1592-1598 (Cassell Military) Hardcover – 28 Feb 2002

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: W&N (28 Feb. 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0304359483
  • ISBN-13: 978-0304359486
  • Product Dimensions: 25.5 x 19.8 x 2.1 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,453,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Book Description

A remarkable account, largely untold before in English, of the sixteenth century Japanese invasion of Korea

About the Author

Dr Stephen Turnbull has made himself the world's expert on the Samurai, using his years of diligent research to publish a whole series of bestselling Samurai histories. He is widely employed as a consultant authority on Japanese history and religion.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
JAPAN'S Korean War of 1592-8, which devastated the Korean peninsula and gravely damaged the resources of Ming China, is so little known in the western world that it is often not even dignified with the title of a war. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By Jean-Claude Brunner on 28 Feb. 2002
Format: Hardcover
Dr Stephen Turnbull, well known for his writings on samurai history, tackles the samurai's ill-fated excursion on foreign soil. He has produced a well written, beautifully illustrated book which tries to give a balanced view, with a slight Japanese focus.
*** Contents
1. Korea and Japan (8-21)
2. Japan and Korea (22-39)
3. The Year of the Dragon (40-65)
4. A Slow March to China (66-81)
5. The Defeat of the Japanese Armada (82-107)
6. South to the Naktong - North to the Yalu (108-133)
7. The Year of the Snake (134-161)
8. The Strange Occupation (162-181)
9. The Korean War (182-203)
10. The Wajo Wars (204-227)
11. The High Price of Korean Pottery (228-239)
App I: Japanese OOB First Invasion
App II: Japanese OOB Second Invasion
App III: The List of Heads at Namwon
App IV: The Turtle Ship
*** The Samurai - Clueless in Korea
Having subjugated all Japanese Warlords in hard-fought campaigns, Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered his armies to conquer China using unfortunate Korea as a bridge. In 1592 the invaders quickly overran the militarily unprepared country despite acts of personal bravery (incl. a Monty-Pythonesque legend: "A Japanese warrior cut off Song?s right arm ... and his commanding sceptre fell to the floor, but Song picked it up with his left hand. The Japanese warrior cut off his left arm and the commanding sceptre fell to the floor again. But this time Song picked it up with his mouth ... The third sword thrust killed [him] ...", p.52) and plundered it mercilessly. The Korean king escaped to the Chinese border.
Meanwhile, the Korean admiral Yi Sun-sin defeated the Japanese fleet. The Korean navy heavily used cannons while the Japanese didn't.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 17 reviews
16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Great book on one of the most devastating wars in Asia 14 Mar. 2005
By J. Kim - Published on
Format: Hardcover
The war that I have always wanted to learn more about in detail has finally been written in a 'more than you will ever need to know' detailed account in English by Mr. Turnbull. I had always waited for an English account on this war. The Pros: The book is very very detailed, much more than I would imagine a typical book on the war written in Korean would be. The author does a fairly good job of setting up the historical pretext for the war to give the reader a better understanding of why Korea had such troubles defending itself. Although the title suggests more Japanese overtones, the author does a very excellent job of detailing the Korean side of the war, much more than I had expected. The book has great personal accounts from the war and frequent insightful anecdotes. Moreover, the book reads like a war novel, and it kept me reading till I read every single page (trust me, I am not a 'whole book' reader usually!). The cons: Not much cons, except for the fact that the story does jump around a bit in terms of chronology, so you may have to flip back to several previous chapters once in a while for reference. The author does this for understandable reasons, but it can still be confusing and inconvenient to do so. Although I did like the set-up of the first two chapters, I do wish the author could have explained more of how and why the Japanese were so superior in military techniques as opposed to the Koreans (ie-the Japanese were lifetime warriors after coming out of a feudal Japan, as opposed to the Koreans). Also, the book would have been much easier for the reader had there been more maps of the war and diagrams (showing battles) as I found myself constantly referring back to the initial battle map in the third chapter for place names and general names, etc. Overall, you will NOT find a more detailed and interesting account on this devasting war which led to a no-win situation for both countries.
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
The Samurai Invasion 13 April 2003
By Chris Kim - Published on
Format: Hardcover
In the last decade of the sixteenth century, Korea was a country which was unfamiliar with wars other than border raids and pirate attacks for two centuries. Japan, on the contrary, was a country which had known nothing but war for five. In the spring of 1592, these two different countries collided head to head, in what would be known as Japan's Korea War or the Imjin War (1592-1598).
Stephen Turnbull's Samurai Invasion is the most complete account of Japan's Korean War, or the Imjin War (1592-1598), to be ever written. By using photographs, archives, diaries, and other anecdotes, Turnbull clearly provides the overall history of this war and its significance. Specifically, he illustrates the failed invasion of Hideyoshi, and explores the world of late 16th-century warfare in East Asia.
All in all, Stephen Turnbull solves the problem, which he states in the opening sentences of this book: "Japan's Korean War of 1592-1598, which devastated the Korean peninsula and gravely damaged the resources of Ming China, is so little known in the western world that it is often not even dignified with the title of a war." In other words, he provides an eloquent collection of vivid pictures, accounts of the military strategy and tactics for the Western audience. With extracts from both ancient and contemporary archives, this book will interest general readers and belongs in public as well as college libraries. This book should be read by avid followers of the Samurai tradition, scholars in East Asian studies, or any other reader who wants to be entertained.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A good read for any military history lover 1 Feb. 2007
By Taichiman - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Turnbull is an expert in Samurai warfare and this is one of his best work to date. His coverage of this important war is very action-oriented and the ample maps and illustrations that come with the book help to boost the book's readability. Given that there aren't that many books on this subject, I have decided to give it a 5 starts in spite of the minor flaws that I have found below:

I must say, however, Mr. Turnbull's writing is not as comprehensive as Samuel Hawley's Imjin War which not only has described the politics of the Chosun Korea and Ming China in detail (giving the reader a better idea on the reasoning behind the strategic decisions made by those parties) but also explained in a more comprehensive fashion the contribution of the Ming China's army.

Any one interested in the subject may also want to check out the Immortal Yi Soon-Shin DVD (starting episode 36) here at (which has a pretty good special effect on the battles for a TV drama and a plot that is also very comprehensive on the tactical battle planning of the said admiral and the factional rivalries within the Chosun court which brought him down).

Lastly, anyone who is a fan of samurai warfare should not miss out on Shogun:Total War by Creative Assembly (now in Gold version).
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Review of Japan's Korean War 18 Mar. 2003
By Esther Song - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Turnball seized the enormous challenge of examining the events that took place during a time in history where many authors have not yet ventured into studying. In his Samurai Invasion: Japan�s Korean War 1592-1598, Turnball�s illustrations and stories catch every imagination right away as he brings to life the historical accounts of the brutal Japanese Samurai attacks on the Koreans. This book was an absolutely astonishing account of Japan's two invasions of Korea and how Korea withstood the attacks to survive. Turnball gave an extraordinary picture of the strategies and tactics that the Japanese used in their warfare. Japanese technology was also recounted for. This book aided in visuals by providing elaborate maps and photographs from museums. Other black and white drawn illustrations also helped in understanding the events that took place during the Samurai Invasion.
9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Pretty, Informative Book 10 Mar. 2003
By Elizabeth Bowen - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Stephen Turnbull's lengthy account of the Imjin Wars is a curious mix of candid, yet agreeable, character depictions, and gritty, exhaustive battle narratives. As gracefully as he illustrates admiral Yi Sun-Sin and his successes with the turtle ship at the Battle of Tangp'o, he is able to lose the reader with complexly woven chronicles and the dozens of characters he aimlessly parades in and out of the account.
The most consistent characteristic of Samurai Invasion is its appearance. The elegant cover is only a preview to this aesthetically well-designed book. The photographs, sketches, charts, maps and color scheme fit nicely to please the reader, and nothing about it is distracting. Turnbull's extensive use of illustration supplements nicely the more bewildering elements as well as the eloquent pieces, making the well-crafted battle scenes virtually tangible, and the character-dense paragraphs of confusion almost understandable. Additionally, several pages each chapter are charmingly imprinted with barely perceptible watermarks of battles, warriors, and other significant images.
With his clear, vivid descriptions of the impish Japanese King Hideyoshi and the way he easily represents admiral Yi Sun-Sin's calculating intelligence, it is obvious that Turnbull could have written a simple, pleasing account of the Imjin Wars-if he had wanted to. With very few quality books on the topic, especially aimed at English speakers, that he chose to make his book as fact-dense as possible comes as no surprise. It is hard, however, to pinpoint the audience he had in mind. A pleasure reader may find himself sailing through the chapter on the defeat of the Japanese Armada, and then wonder, when the next chapter begins and the pace changes, why the entire book wasn't written to be so engaging. Similarly, a fact-seeking researcher might become annoyed by the flashy graphics and the accommodations to non-experts, recognizing that the size of the book could easily have been cut in half had it been designed to be less aesthetically agreeable.
Two chapters at the beginning and one at the end are dedicated to pre- and post war issues, comfortably providing historical context for the reader. Four appendices at the end also help fill in gaps, allowing those of us who couldn't get enough of admiral Yi Sun-Sin's turtle ship escapades to learn even more. There is a minutely perceptible imbalance throughout the book in favor of the Japanese perspective, but after two hundred fifty-six pages you will be too busy absorbing what you did learn than clamoring about what you did not.
Although tedious at points, you will come away with a greater understanding of a conflict scarcely known beyond circles of Asian history buffs. An easy read? No. But with careful reading you are guaranteed to learn everything you ever wanted to know-and more-about the Imjin Wars.
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