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lordameth
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2011 9:22 am    Post subject: John Man - The Last Samurai Reply with quote
Because you can never have too many books about Saigo Takamori (apparently)...

And since Mark Ravina already took the title "The Last Samurai," we can expect later this year the awkwardly titled "Samurai: The True Story of the Last Warrior" by John Man.

I haven't read Ravina's book (Saigo doesn't get me all hot and bothered like he does some people; just not my thing), but I wonder how much new/different material will be in this John Man book.

Book review at the Daily Express here

(I hope this isn't a repost; I apologize if it is.)
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2011 12:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Saigo doesn't get me hot and bothered as well (I actually don't like the over-emotional, big baby) but Ravina's book sheds fascinating light on the structure of Satsuma's samurai class as well as lots of other interesting facts. I'd recommend it not to learn about the big baby himself per say, but about the other tangibles that were associated with him.
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PostPosted: Fri Mar 04, 2011 2:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Certainly, after our recent thread/discussion about samurai social/political structures in Satsuma, I would definitely be interested in the book for that. Plus, I really love some of Ravina's writing, so if his "Last Samurai" is anything like his journal articles, and a bit less like his "Land and Lordship," it could be really quite good.

..

I was just amused at discovering that not only did someone else feel there weren't enough books out there on Saigo, but that he couldn't come up with a better title than struggling to do something that kind of sort of played off of the phrase "Last Samurai".
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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 3:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I just picked up Land & Lordship and am really, really enjoying it. Not burdened by scholarly jargon, it brings some very in-depth exposure to the loyalties and obligations between Shogunate, daimyo and vassals and the difficulty of maintaining economic balance with the commoners they governed.

Ravina explores in depth the pressures that underlay much of Edo jidai politics which ultimately resulted in the Restoration. Much that was muddy becomes clear.

I'd heartily endorse it as the next read for all of you who enjoyed Tour of Duty; in fact, I think they make great companion pieces.

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PostPosted: Sat Mar 05, 2011 4:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I recall being rather disappointed by Land and Lordship, finding it much more concerned with the conceptual, or should I say, systematic, than the specific. I picked it up hoping to learn more about specific domains, individual daimyo, specific incidents and interesting anecdotes, but remember finding it to be more about how political economy worked in the Edo period, using certain domains merely as case studies, than about really learning anything about those individual domains.

Just like how you perhaps don't pick up a "History of Japan" to learn how countries work in general, but to learn specifically about Japan, in the same manner, I picked up Land and Lordship hoping to learn more about specific domains. James McClain's book on Kanazawa, and some of Robert Sakai's work on Satsuma, were very successful, enjoyable, informative instances of this. Ravina was obviously going for something different...

But if you recommend it so highly, maybe I'll have to give it a second try.
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PostPosted: Sun Mar 06, 2011 11:14 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
lordameth wrote:
But if you recommend it so highly, maybe I'll have to give it a second try.



. . . and I'll give the others you mentioned a try.

Many Thanks!

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PostPosted: Mon Mar 07, 2011 6:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
lordameth wrote:
I recall being rather disappointed by Land and Lordship, finding it much more concerned with the conceptual, or should I say, systematic, than the specific. I picked it up hoping to learn more about specific domains, individual daimyo, specific incidents and interesting anecdotes, but remember finding it to be more about how political economy worked in the Edo period, using certain domains merely as case studies, than about really learning anything about those individual domains.

Just like how you perhaps don't pick up a "History of Japan" to learn how countries work in general, but to learn specifically about Japan, in the same manner, I picked up Land and Lordship hoping to learn more about specific domains. James McClain's book on Kanazawa, and some of Robert Sakai's work on Satsuma, were very successful, enjoyable, informative instances of this. Ravina was obviously going for something different...

But if you recommend it so highly, maybe I'll have to give it a second try.


You might have this confused with a different book;
reading further in the chapter on Yonezawa domain, I'm finding the degree of specificity Ravina delves into quite remarkable. Not only does he list problems of crops and commerical enterprises down to minute details of taxation clearly lifted from a domain accountant's ledger, but also goes into great detail about the mis-management in the mid-1700's under the profligate daimyo Uesugi Shigesada and his fast-and-loose karo Mori Heiemon (later assassinated!) who ran the domain to ruin by excessive taxation and coercive oppression.

He then tells of how it was saved after Shigesada was forced into retirement in favor of his adopted heir Uesugi Harunori, whose more enlightened practices, informed by the thought of Neo-Confucianist Hosoi Heishu, turned things completely around. In hardly more than a decade the domain was not only financially sound, but would be held up as an exemplar of ideal governance even as late as school textbooks printed in 1904!

While I'm not there yet, I have to surmise he goes into similar detail for the domains of Tokushima and Hirosaki which the book also explores. So if you're looking for how specific domain policies played out, you might want to revisit this book for sure.

No wonder they all couldn't wait to split town for sankin kotai . . . Wink

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PostPosted: Fri Apr 15, 2011 1:46 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I don't imagine there's much here that you all would not already know, but for anyone interested, a very brief article about John Man's new book "Samurai: The Last Warrior," from the Spring 2011 issue of "SOAS World", an alumni newsletter.[/img]
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 29, 2011 11:45 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Just got this today-looks like a solid enough, entertaining biography that's a nice break from straight up academic works. Nothing screamed "BS" at me from its pages. Nicely done book too, with a lot of nice color illustrations and even a nice map detailing the Satsuma Rebellion. Much better than I was expecting.
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 29, 2011 7:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
I picked this up while I was overseas last week and I am reading it now. It is filled with errors. Trust me-they will hit you like a slap in the forehead from a fly swatter. One of the photos has a big error-it is a pic of Nakadai from the movie Seppuku/Harakiri but it is listed as Mifune from Seven Samurai ! Laughing Other errors are irksome but minor, such as stating Hideyoshi's invasion of Korea was in the 1690s and then later on saying Satsuma tried to conquer Korea. Another error is that Man refers to the wakizashi as a tanto in the text, but get's it right in the photo. (the SA Wiki does get a referral as a place to check out for the names of famous swords).

But apart from these errors and others, it is an entertaining read and I like the writing style. I feel like I am reading an investigative journalist's story on Saigo and how samurai culture manifests itself in today's modern world.

What I like the most about this book so far is how Man delves into the psychology of gangs and gang members and how Man relates it to samurai behavior patterns. It really is a fresh take and dead-on, in my opinion.

A quick look at the bio does confirm that Man used basically English sources. The few Japanese sources used were translated for him. Again, if you keep in mind that this book is not written by a professional historian specializing in Japanese history, it's an enjoyable book-- so far.
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Last edited by Obenjo Kusanosuke on Sat Apr 30, 2011 3:00 am; edited 1 time in total
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PostPosted: Fri Apr 29, 2011 7:23 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
Other errors are irksome but minor, such as stating Hideyoshi's invasion of Korea was in the 1690s


MINOR?!?!?!?!!!?!?!?!




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PostPosted: Fri Apr 29, 2011 7:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Yeah, minor. What's a 100 years in the scheme of things? Laughing At least he isn't copying word for word from Sadler! Just Kidding

That's a great demotivational image. Love the Stooges! Very Happy
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2011 1:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Obenjo Kusanosuke wrote:
One of the photos has a big error-it is a pic of Nakadai from the movie Seppuku/Harakiri but it is listed as Mifune from Seven Samurai ! Laughing


I saw that after I posted Laughing . Along with sharing the page with Darth Vader and 'Poison Ivy', all I could think was "Uh-oh..."

HOW can anyone mistake Mifune for...well, anyone else? He's got to be the first Japanese star from the Golden Age most Westerners run into, and he's very distinctive looking.
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2011 3:23 am    Post subject: Reply with quote
Tatsunoshi wrote:

HOW can anyone mistake Mifune for...well, anyone else? He's got to be the first Japanese star from the Golden Age most Westerners run into, and he's very distinctive looking.



It's all Turnbull's fault!!!! Because of him, it has now become perfectly acceptable to write about Japanese history you know nothing about and have tons of mistakes in your shoddily edited book! I'm mad as hell and I'm not gonna take it anymore! Where's Swope? I wanna swipe him with the samurai history fly swatter of justice! ARGHHHH!
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2011 2:03 pm    Post subject: history Reply with quote
Well said old chap !!! ,swot the blighter right away .
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PostPosted: Sat Apr 30, 2011 11:27 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote
Wow, Obenjo is right-this thing is loaded with tiny errors. The spelling of Japanese terms and names is awful-Nasu Nu Yoichi, Shomonoski Straight, all kinds of stuff like that.

And they even have the EXACT SAME PHOTO that's miscaptioned as being Yoshinobu that Conlan admitted he miscaptioned as Yoshinobu in his book! Laughing

For all that, I'm still enjoying it. I did like the street gang post-I think I had done something similar a couple of years ago in something I wrote for the SA Blog.
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PostPosted: Thu May 12, 2011 6:13 pm    Post subject: john man Reply with quote
The author has written a bunch of cheapo books on China like Great Wall .First Emperor and the usual suspects but its all stuff borrowed from more learned scribes.
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