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The Samurai and the Sacred: The Path of the Warrior (General Military) [Hardcover]

Stephen Turnbull
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

10 Oct 2006 General Military
The fierce loyalty and self-sacrificing attitude of the Samurai have made them both a legend and a cult. Yet, although their military prowess and skills in the martial arts have been studied exhaustively, an understanding of their belief system still eludes many. This original and exciting work examines the spiritual world of the samurai, from their attachment to Japan's mainstream religions of Shinto and Buddhism, to their involvement in Confucianism, Christianity and Folk Religion. Samurai expert, Stephen Turnbull, examines important topics such as Zen and the martial arts, modern militarism, the cult of the sword, revenge and suicide, hara kiri and the kamikaze pilots - the suicide bombers of their day. He also looks at the fascinating issue of Japanese religious terrorism, as well as the growing cult status of the Samurai both in Japan and in the West.

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Osprey Publishing (10 Oct 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1846030218
  • ISBN-13: 978-1846030215
  • Product Dimensions: 2.4 x 19.6 x 24.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 986,400 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

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Product Description


Praise for Stephen Turnbull's "Samurai - World of the Warrior" from Professor Richard Holmes
'A lively and compelling study of the samurai, the warrior elite of old Japan. Stephen Turnbull blends real scholarship with a flair for story telling to create a gripping account. It is good to see illustrations that rise to the high quality of the text to produce a book wholly worthy of the remarkable characters it describes.'

About the Author

Stephen Turnbull took his first degree at Cambridge University, and received a PhD from Leeds University for his work on Japanese religious history. He has travelled extensively in Europe and the Far East and also runs a well-used picture library. His work has been recognised by the awarding of the Canon Prize of the British Association for Japanese Studies and a Japan Festival Literary Award. He currently divides his time between lecturing in Japanese Religion at the University of Leeds and writing. The author lives in Leeds, UK. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
The worship of the kann was practised for centuries before other religions entered the Japanese scene, and even to the most casual visitor to Japan today, 'the way of the gods' appears to have very ancient and deep-rooted foundations. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A beautiful, fascinating book 6 Aug 2009
I purchased this as part of an elective I did which was taught by the author himself, and, unlike most of my course books, this is one that I would never sell. Not only is it a beautiful book, it contains a wealth of fascinating information on Japan's religious history, and more modern religious attitudes. I love this book, and would happily recommend it to anyone!
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Stephen Turnball is one of the foremost experts on Japanese religion and the Samurai in the west - if you are interested in either do not dismiss this book!

Both the history of Japan and the history of the Samurai have been shrouded with mysticism, confusion and misunderstanding. But Turnball's brilliance as both a military historian and a theologian seek to find answers and does so very convincingly in every book I've read.

Whilst 'The Samurai and the Sacred' is somewhat limited in its depth in any one particular area its strengths shine as a book which covers the religious devotions of the Samurai throughout their entire history, one that begins thousands of years ago and ends only last century.

As a previous student of Dr Turnball I thoroughly recommend this or any of his books for his superior insight and love of the subject which shines through every page of brilliant writing.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4.6 out of 5 stars  7 reviews
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SHINTO, BUSHIDO, AND BUSHI. 28 Nov 2006
By Kay's Husband - Published on
I have several other books from this author published recently and though I treasure those, I believe this book to be the most practical for my understanding of Japan.

Between the years 1962 & 1964 while with the military I resided in Japan on the Kanto Plain between Tokyo and Yokohama. During those years I visited many shrines, temples, and places of the Kami. In fact I was stationed at a Navy/Marine base named Kamiseya. Many of the questions I had and still have concerning sacred things of the Kami, Shinto, Buddha, temples, Torii gates, pagodas and shrines are addressed in this book. In addition, the numerous color photographs which exist on almost every page only heighten the understanding; as I look at many of these I know what it felt like to actually be there. The photos offer much greater realism to the text.

In addition the author traces the path of Buddhism from India through China and Korea to eventually reach Japan, where it was intermingled with both existing Shintoism and the Imperial family. The fact of the sun goddess being intertwined with the Imperial family explain why the Emperors were seen to be divine. All of this gives more understanding of just 'what' makes the Japanese to be "Japanese" than many other volumes I've read.

If you have any interest in the history of Japan concerning her religious roots that continue through present day, this is a book for you. Mr. Turnbull has issued at least 3 major books in the last few years that deal with both Japanese history and the Samurai, but this latest is the best for anyone wanting to know the force other than military that has both driven and sustained Japan through the centuries.

Semper Fi.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Samurai and Their way of life 10 Jan 2007
By N. Wolfson - Published on
The Samurai and the Sacred is exactly what we have all come to love when reading Stephen Turnbull's books, well narrated facts. This book is a must have for any samurai lover, martial art practitionar, or stephen turnbull fan.

Very nice color illustrations which no other book has also adds to its value.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Samurai and the Sacred 8 Feb 2008
By David J. Miller - Published on
Great book, gives alot of info on the native Japanese religion w/ relation to the samurai. Great picture, of artwork, shinto shrines, statues etc.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A powerful study suitable for any serious Japanese spirituality shelf 11 Dec 2006
By Midwest Book Review - Published on
Both spirituality and military history collections - as well as those strong in Japanese history in particular - will welcome The Samurai and the Sacred, a fine study examining the spiritual world of the samurai from their involvement in Japanese mainstream religions to their feature in Christianity and folk religions. Samurai expert Stephen Turnbull offers a detailed look at Japanese religion and religious terrorism in a powerful study suitable for any serious Japanese spirituality shelf.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Holy Warriors 20 Jun 2008
By Zack Davisson - Published on
Stephen Turnbull has become a mark of quality for me. Any time I pick up one of his books, I know that I am in for a serious and entertaining history lesson on Japan's old warrior castes. Currently a lecturer in Far Eastern Religions for the University of Leeds, Turnbull knows his stuff. As with all his books, this one is also covered in photographs and ancient pictures, bringing to vivid life all the history.

"Samurai and the Sacred" combines two of his major focuses, the Samurai and Japanese religion, and takes an indepth look at the spirituality and the effects of religion on Japan's warrior caste. The book takes a historical focus, going from the ancient Shinto beliefs, up to Buddhism, the "Christian Century" and the return to Shinto and the Emperor cult.

Like with his other books, such as Ninja: The True Story of Japan's Secret Warrior Cult Turnbull seeks to demystify and de-Hollywood the ideal of the Samurai as a spiritual warrior poet, devoted to his calling and passionate in his beliefs. This, he says, is an image created later by the "armchair samurais" of the Meiji period, those who still held the rank and title passed on by their ancestors, but who had never actually held a sword in combat. In order to justify their now-useless place in Japanese society, they wrote books and offered themselves up as a refined example of a perfect Japanese person that the rest of society could follow.

As often is the case, the true history is much more interesting, with warrior monks burning down neighboring temples in demand for more money, and Christian samurais marching on Korea with crucifix back-banners and rosaries buried under their armor. Particularly interesting was the groups of hidden Christians who maintained their beliefs in silence for centuries, yet when freedom of religion was granted and they revealed themselves to the new Catholic church, they were so disgusted with the changes the church had made over the centuries they declared the Catholic church to be heretics, and they the true preservers of the faith.

The only drawback would be considering this a study of Japanese religion on the whole. "Samurai and the Sacred" does touch upon these issues, but it is concerned solely with how the samurai approached religion, and not the majority populace. That part of the book is wide but not deep, and it might be a good idea to have a background in those areas before reading this one.
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