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The Lost Samurai (Hardback)

Japanese Mercenaries in South East Asia, 1593–1688

Frontline Books Frontline: 17th-19th Century Military 17th Century 16th Century

By Stephen Turnbull
Frontline Books
Pages: 192
Illustrations: 32 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781526758989
Published: 2nd March 2021

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The Lost Samurai reveals the greatest untold story of Japan’s legendary warrior class, which is that for almost a hundred years Japanese samurai were employed as mercenaries in the service of the kings of Siam, Cambodia, Burma, Spain and Portugal, as well as by the directors of the Dutch East India Company.

The Japanese samurai were used in dramatic assault parties, as royal bodyguards, as staunch garrisons and as willing executioners. As a result, a stereotypical image of the fierce Japanese warrior developed that had a profound influence on the way they were regarded by their employers.

Whilst the Southeast Asian kings tended to employ samurai on a long-term basis as palace guards, their European employers usually hired them on a temporary basis for specific campaigns. Also, whereas the Southeast Asian monarchs tended to trust their well-established units of Japanese mercenaries, the Europeans, whilst admiring them, also feared them. In every European example a progressive shift in attitude may be discerned from initial enthusiasm to great suspicion that the Japanese might one day turn against them, as illustrated by the long-standing Spanish fear of an invasion of the Philippines by Japan accompanied by a local uprising.

It also suggested that if, during the 1630s, Japan had chosen engagement with Southeast Asia rather than isolation from it, the established presence of Japanese communities overseas may have had a profound influence on the subsequent development of international relations within the area, perhaps even seeing the early creation of an overseas Japanese empire that would have provided a rival to Great Britain. Instead Japan closed its doors, leaving these fierce mercenaries stranded in distant countries never to return: lost samurai indeed!

This is a fascinating read and something that warrants further investigation. If you are interested in the martial cultures of Japan and the samurai, this is an excellent book to give you a very different set of stories.

Read the full review here

Medieval Sword School

An interesting and engaging read, I have an interest in Japanese history and culture , but I’m no expert, so I found this book well presented, immersive and really interesting, it really was well thought out, researched and laid out. Thoroughly recommended to anyone interested in history, Japan or even war, great read.

NetGalley, Tara Keating

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

A very interesting book looking into a history group that I honestly had no idea had even been around, but this book was engaging and well written . History and Japanese buffs will love this book!

NetGalley, Heather Bennett

About Stephen Turnbull

Stephen Turnbull took his first degree at Cambridge and has two MAs (in Theology and Military History) from Leeds University. In 1996 he received a PhD from Leeds for his thesis on Japan’s ‘Hidden Christians’. In its published form the work won the Japan Festival Literary Award in 1998. Having lectured widely in East Asian Studies and Theology he is now retired and pursues an active literary career. His expertise has helped with numerous projects including films, television and the award-winning strategy game Shogun Total WarThe Lost Samurai is his 82nd book to be published.

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