From a leading expert in Japanese history, this is one of the first full histories of the art and culture of the Samurai warrior. The Samurai emerged as a warrior caste in Medieval Japan and would have a powerful influence on the history and culture of the country from the next 500 years. Clements also looks at the Samurai wars that tore Japan apart in the 17th and 18th centuries and how the caste was finally demolished in the advent of the mechanized world.
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An Exotic Epic
For the uninitiated, as I was, this was an unexpectedly rich and rapid flume ride, through an exotic, colourful history, who’s characters and stories are surprisingly familiar in theme, to the history of the west, and less surprisingly alien in expression. Out of the mists of myth and legend, the author guides us through various accounts of Japanese history, towards more recent and better remembered (or, better documented) times, revealing the cosmopolitan foundations of Samurai origins.
We see a peasant culture of indentured servants, raise themselves to the highest positions of the country’s elite, through their mastery of weapons and warfare, and later, myth and legend. Their stories are as epic, thrilling and as bloodthirsty as any in western culture. And, the familiarity of a Court Culture of poetry, religion and delicacy, easily compares with the Chivalric lore of the west.
Many will be surprised at how long it took this culture to rise to dominance, or how relatively recent the Samurai that most westerners see exemplified in their popular culture, really is.
Riveting tales of love, honour, betrayal and gangsterism; everything a good read really needs. This history is as well read by Jonathan Keeble as it is compellingly written.