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Thread: History books

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    The Hairy Wookie Mycernius's Avatar
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    History books

    Can anyone recommend a few history books about Japan that do not dwell on WW2? Really looking for something that is pre-meiji, going back as far as pre-history. It seems to me that what little Japanese history books you find in bookstores or libraries are either about WW2 and Japan after the war, or a a few chapters on 2000 years of history and then the rest on the war and modern Japan, usually taking up more space than the pervious chapters.
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    Check the George Sansom books. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/080...446447?ie=UTF8
    This is the first of the 3. Must reads for any student of Japanese History.

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    The Hairy Wookie Mycernius's Avatar
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    Thanks. Might give them a try

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    They are a little bit dry reads. Almost like reading a text book. If you can find some people or time periods that you are interested in, I can recommend more interesting reads.
    If you are looking to get an idea of the overarching history, this is the place to start.

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    The Hairy Wookie Mycernius's Avatar
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    Currently just a general overview before Meiji. After all there are plenty of books for Meiji onwards that are freely available in libraries and bookstores.

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    Veni, vidi... vicodin? GodEmperorLeto's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Mycernius
    Currently just a general overview before Meiji. After all there are plenty of books for Meiji onwards that are freely available in libraries and bookstores.
    Tell me about it. There are numerous histories of the Sengoku Period, but they are all in Japanese. I recommended the Osprey Military History series as a resource on medieval Japanese battles earlier today. They have nice books on battles like Kawanakajima and Sekigahara. But other than them, you'll not find much that is really worthwhile, I'm afraid.

    Especially since I am an ancient and medieval historian, I am quite dismayed by the death of the past in American universities for Western civilization, so it comes as no surprise that even pre-modern Asian history is forgotten in classrooms today.
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    Conrad Schirokauer's books are pretty good reads. I read a good portion of A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations by him, and A Brief History of Japanese Civilization probably focuses a bit more on Japan, though they both go all the way back to the Yayoi (or did Jomon come first) period, if I remember correctly.

    Sources of Japanese Tradition (vol 1: earliest times-1600 & vol 2: 1600-2000), by William Theodore de Bary are widely respected books, even if they are a little dry. Vol 1 starts off with Japanese creation myths, so yea, it goes back past Meiji.

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    Sengoku Books

    There are actually a lot of books about the Sengoku Jidai. The Stephen Turnbull/Osprey stuff is ok but there are more scholarly and insightful works out there as well.
    Take a look for:
    Japonius Tyrannus. The Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga reconsidered

    Tokugawa Ieyasu: Shogun

    Hideyoshi (Harvard East Asian Monographs)

    You can also look for books about foreigners who were in Japan at this time - Will Adams, Francis Xavier.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mycernius
    Can anyone recommend a few history books about Japan that do not dwell on WW2? Really looking for something that is pre-meiji, going back as far as pre-history. It seems to me that what little Japanese history books you find in bookstores or libraries are either about WW2 and Japan after the war, or a a few chapters on 2000 years of history and then the rest on the war and modern Japan, usually taking up more space than the pervious chapters.
    I recommend a Joseph Heco's biography. The story of it was around 1850. He, aka Hikozou Hamada, was a Japanese fisherman. His ship was wrecked and rescued with his crew by an American ship. He was the only Japanese who met President Lincoln.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yoshida Shoin
    There are actually a lot of books about the Sengoku Jidai. The Stephen Turnbull/Osprey stuff is ok but there are more scholarly and insightful works out there as well.
    Take a look for:
    Japonius Tyrannus. The Japanese warlord Oda Nobunaga reconsidered
    Tokugawa Ieyasu: Shogun
    Hideyoshi (Harvard East Asian Monographs)
    You can also look for books about foreigners who were in Japan at this time - Will Adams, Francis Xavier.
    Greeings.
    An essay of Shoin Yoshida in prison was pretty good. Is there an English one?

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    I've never seen any of Shoin's teachings translated into English. However, there is one Essay that was highly influential at this time that was translated. It's called New Theses (Shinron) and was translated by Bob Wakabayashi.
    The author Seishisai Aizawa was a samurai from Mito. He wrote Shinron in 1825 and it's basically a blue print for Japan's foreign policy for the next 100+ years. It's amazing to read how many of his suugestions became policy. A truly insightful read.

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    Maybe 99.9% of Japanese don't know that. That was translated into English in the former 1900s, wasn't it.

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    Im not sure when it was translated. The copyright on the paperback says 1992. Yamada - Are you Japanese?

    You can probably do a google search and find a basic overview of the essay in Japanese. I'm not sure what Seishisai Aizawa's kanji are, but I know my wife was able to find some info about him.

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