The inspiration for the Jedi knights of Star Wars and the films of Akira Kurosawa, the legendary Japanese samurai have captured modern imaginations. Yet with these elite warriors who were bound by a code of honor called Bushido--the Way of the Warrior--the reality behind the myth proves more fascinating than any fiction.Read more...
The inspiration for the Jedi knights of Star Wars and the films of Akira Kurosawa, the legendary Japanese samurai have captured modern imaginations. Yet with these elite warriors who were bound by a code of honor called Bushido--the Way of the Warrior--the reality behind the myth proves more fascinating than any fiction. In Samurai, celebrated author John Man provides a unique and captivating look at their true history, told through the life of one man: Saigo Takamori, known to many as "the last samurai." In 1877 Takamori led a rebel army of samurai in a heroic "last stand" against the Imperial Japanese Army, who sought to end the "way of the sword" in favor of firearms and modern warfare. Man's thrilling narrative brings to life the hidden world of the samurai as never before.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-11-04
- Reviewer: Staff
British historian Man (Ninja) adds to his solid series of general-audience books on Far East military subjects with this analysis of Japan’s military nobility. Taking an unusual perspective, he focuses on Saigo Takamori, whose iconic status as a 19th-century embodiment of the samurai ideal gave him “semidivinity... even before his death.” Man perceptively describes “samurai” as a sense of being: a way of the warrior built around the cult of the sword; seppuku, ritual suicide, as the ultimate proof of loyalty; and bushido, “freedom that is bound to service,” as the highest ideal. Renewing their identity to fit new circumstances, the samurai became “the very essence of Japanese society.” Saigo’s lord, Shuzami Nariakara, saw him as honest and trustworthy, fearing neither authority nor evil, and “the kind of man who cannot be manipulated.” Saigo became a key figure in the Meiji Restoration, but his conviction that “the duty of government is to serve the people” led him to reject the new Japan’s “politicians, bureaucrats, and capitalists.” Seeking the life of a “Confucian gentleman-scholar,” he resigned his offices. Drawn unwillingly into leading a doomed rebellion, he committed seppuku; in death he became “a national treasure” whose life and death embodied “the self-destructive courage, the nobility of failure, that was so much a part of the Japanese character.” (Feb.)