Customer Review

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good intro to the great age of medieval Japanese warfare., 24 Jun 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Samurai Armies, 1550-1615 (Men-at-arms) (Paperback)
This early venture by the author into Samurai warfare concentrates exlusively on the Momoyama and early Edo periods of Japanese history, a time known as the 'Sengoku Jidai' or 'Age of the Country at War'.
It is a slim volume, but nicely packed out with both colour plates that depict some of the major names of the day, and also with plenty of B/W contemporary illustrations (as well as some modern photo's).
The chapter headings are:
'The Golden Age' - an introduction with a brief background to the period and a short political history. Personally, I believe that it was less a golden age (the 12th and 13th centuries are more aptly referred to as the Samurai's golden age, in my opinion) than the final flowering of the feudal Samurai culture, at the exact point in time that the layers of Japanese society became fixed in stone, and Japan closed it's doors to change for 250 years.
'Samurai Armies' - an overview of the make up of armies of the day, including some nice, fulsome details of one clan (the Shimazu)in particular's military composition at different times.
'Samurai Battles' - detailing some of the common battle formations of the period, with names like 'Birds in Flight' and 'Crane's Wing'. The seven formations shown in the illustration for this chapter make fascinating studying for military historians and period wargamers alike (they are reproduced in Turnbull's later 'The Samurai Sourcebook').
'Sieges' - beginning with a look at contemporary Japanese fortification and their unique approach to castle building, to then continue with some examples of seige techniques, a comment on the nature of gunpowder weapons in Japan at the time, and the dearth of large calibre artillery in Samurai arsenals. Finally, a mention of mangonel type devices being used also.
'Dress and Equipment: Samurai' - a fairly thorough and exhaustive look at clothing and armour in peacetime and war, but with, sadly, little information about what kind of weaponry your average Samurai retainer might use, or in what proportions these are present in contemporary battles.
'Dress and Equipment: Ashigaru' - a much more balanced chapter than the preceding one, with sub-sections on archers, spearmen and arquebusiers, as well as interesting information regarding the many support roles these light infantry performed.
In summary: A useful introductory book for someone just getting into Samurai history, or for a wargamer with an interest in the period, but little content that isn't covered in more detail in Turnbull's other books. However, despite the gaps in some places, it is still a more thoroughly researched and well written volume than many others available.
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