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The Samurai in 100 Objects (Paperback)

Exploring Japan’s Famous Military Elite

Medieval History Frontline Books Frontline: General History Weaponry

By Stephen Turnbull
Frontline Books
Series: In 100 Objects
Pages: 206
Illustrations: 150
ISBN: 9781473850385
Published: 24th April 2017



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From lowly attendants (samurai literally means ‘those who serve’) to members one of the world’s most powerful military organisations, the samurai underwent a progression of changes to reach a preeminent position in Japanese society and culture. Even their eventual eclipse did not diminish their image as elite warriors, and they would live on in stories and films.

This proud and enduring tradition is exemplified and explored by the carefully selected objects gathered here from Japanese locations and from museums around the world. These objects tell the story of the samurai from acting as the frontier guards for the early emperors to being the inspiration for the kamikaze pilots.

The artefacts, many of which are seen here for the first time, include castles, memorial statues, paintings and prints associated with the rise of the samurai along with their famous armour and weapons. The latter include the Japanese longbow, a thirteenth century bomb and the famous samurai sword, but not every artefact here is from the past. In a Japanese souvenir shop was found a cute little blue duck dressed as a samurai complete with helmet, spear and surcoat, dressed authentically as the brutal samurai Kato Kiyomasa, who was responsible for a massacre at Hondo castle in 1589!

Well-illustrated in full colour.

Military Heritage, March 2018 – reviewed by Christopher Miskimon

Stephen Turnbull has compacted as much of the Japanese history of the samurai and what they fought for into this well written book. If your looking for a book about the Great Wall or the terra-cotta soldiers this isn’t the book for you. Fortunately he has written a book with so much more of the history most of us hasn’t even read about, some to thought of fiction. For example, I thought samurai women were frowned upon, but evidently some were great warriors and didn’t have to keep it a secret. The rest I’m going to let you discover for yourself and let you be amazed! Especially on page 67, prepare to be amazed!

Read the complete review here.

Oh My Bookness, Brittany Perez

An in-depth picture of Japan's warrior class through objects associated with it.

The Armourer - Incorporating Classic Arms & Militaria, October 2017

Although intended as a coffee table book, Samurai in 100 Objects is a magnificent introduction to the medieval history of Japan in general and the samurai history in particular. In 100 items, ranging from castle keeps to armour pieces, the world renowned military expert, historian and author Stephen Turnbull takes the reader on a fascinating journey that starts with the mounted samurai archers of the 10th century and ends in the bureaucratic aristocrat of the Meiji restoration.

Each double page has an item produced in full colour and an essay which describes one facet of samurai’s life; his weapons, religious beliefs, castles, temples, way of life, tactics, strategy and important figures are all touched upon in the elegant style for which the author is so renowned.

The author is a magnificent story teller as well as an expert on the subject who, starting with a specific tangible object, weaves around it an interesting story that covers a particular aspect of the life samurai in medieval Japan.

I recommend this book for anyone looking for a quick visual guide on the samurai’s life. For the experienced historian, this book can make a perfect complement on his shelf.

Great Models, Georges Lteif

A magnificent work. A documentation and a photograph archive very well chosen and of an unprecedented quality.

Read the full Spanish review here.

José Manuél Rico Cortés (Mister JM) - Miniaturas JM

About Stephen Turnbull

Stephen Turnbull is the world's leading authority on samurai culture. He 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 Japans Kakure Kirishitan. In its published form the work won the Japan Festival Literary Award in 1998. He is now retired and is an Honorary Lecturer at Leeds, a Research Associate at SOAS and Visiting Professor of Japanese Studies at Akita International University. He has published 72 books and many journal articles.

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