The Iaido Journal  Apr 2009
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Review: Famous Japanese Swordsmen of the Two Courts Period

Famous Swordsmen of the Two Courts Period

Floating World Editions, 2007
256 pp, 5.25 x 8.25, Soft
64 b&w photos, maps, diagrams, chronology glossary, index
ISBN: 978-1891640-47-6

review copyright © 2008 Ken Morgan, all rights reserved

It was with great interest that I picked up the book in question to do this review, after all I love anything military, political, historical, Japanese, and related to the martial arts, specifically the sword arts. The book promised all of the above.

The title of a book should give some intent, some relevance to the content of the pages held within. “Famous Japanese Swordsmen…” should tell the reader that once he/she cracks open the binding and gazes upon the pages held within, one will learn of the lives, the triumphs, the loss, and the lessons endured and learned by Famous Japanese Swordsmen of the period in question.

This particular book in the series deals specifically with two famous Japanese Swordsmen, Nenami Okuyama Jion and Chujo Hyogo No Kami.

The book was well written, deeply, deeply researched, resulting in an incredibly informative manuscript about the time of these two great gentlemen and the preceding three centuries or so. Therein lays my issue with this book, when I pick up a book titled “Famous Japanese swordsmen”, I expect the bulk of the writing to be about just that, the people in question and their lives, not a rundown of the preceding three centuries of history that led up to the people in question. I didn’t want 90% of my book to be about history, and 10% specifically about the swordsmen. Yes you must give some background as to the time and place in history, but the percentages should be reversed.

To learn about General Patton I don’t need to go back to the British defeat of the French in North America, I don’t need to hear about the American rebellion, I don’t need to hear about the historical causes of the US civil war. I want to know about General Patton. If I want the rest I’ll buy another book.

This is a well written book, very well researched and presented; it’s just more about Japanese history then Japanese swordsmen. If you have an interest in Japanese history of this period, you will certainly love the book, if you pick it up hoping to get great detail about specific swordsmen, you will be greatly disappointed.

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