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Samurai Heraldry Stephen Turnbull Osprey Publishing


30th November 2011 History Books 3 Comments

An unrivalled illustrated reference source on fighting men and commanders, past and present. Each volume is packed with full colour artwork, making military history uniquely accessible to enthusiasts of all ages.

Stephen Turnbull is a leading English language authority on medieval Japan and the samurai. He has travelled extensively in the Far East, particularly in Japan and Korea, and is the author of a number of major books on the subject. He has contributed several titles to the Osprey Military list since his original Men-at-Arms 86, Samurai Armies 1550-1615, in 1979.

The dazzling spectacle presented by the armies of medieval Japan owed much to the highly developed family and personal heraldry of samurai society. From simple personal banners, this evolved over centuries of warfare into a complex system of flags worn or carried into battle, together with the striking ‘great standards’ of leading warlords. While not regulated in the Western sense, Japanese heraldry developed as a series of widely followed practices, while remaining flexible enough to embrace constant innovation. Scores of examples, in monochrome and full colour, illustrate this fascinating explanation of the subject by a respected expert on all aspects of samurai culture.

Samurai Heraldry (Elite)

Ashigaru 1467-1649

Insights into the real lives of history’s fighting men, packed with full colour illustrations, highly detailed cutaways, exploded artwork of weaponry and armour, and action-packed battle scenes.

The ashigaru were the foot soldiers of old Japan. Although recruited first to swell an army’s numbers and paid only by loot, the samurai began to realise their worth, particularly with arquebuses and spears, until well-trained ashigaru made up a vital part of any samurai army. This book tells the story of the ashigaru for the first time, their origins, recruitment training and use in various wars, such as the Gempei Wars of 1180-1185 and the Onin War of 1467-1477. Stephen Turnbull draws on previously untranslated Japanese sources and unpublished illustrations that show the range of ashigaru activity, from sailors to catapult artillery men as well as the disciplined ranks of warriors that they had become.

Ashigaru 1467-1649 (Warrior)










  • 3 responses to "Samurai Heraldry Stephen Turnbull Osprey Publishing"

  • Julia Lynch
    21:42 on November 30th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    For those of you who are trying to draw samurai with flags, banners or just like reading about them then this book is a good pick.

    It shows (in detail) the flags used by different families and clans and tells what type of flags were used by whom. From the Minamoto to the Tokugawa shogunate, it shows you hundreds of banners and exlpains the hereldry of the banner and in some cases why the symbol was used by that family, though it mainly shows the clan symbols of less known families and not the great ones(ex.Takeda, Toyotomi, Tokugawa, to find these ones look at the book “Samurai, An illustrated history. By: Mitsuo Kure)

    Like all osprey series books it contains a few well drawn and highly detailed pictures in the middle of it and explains each page in full detail, thus the book helps you to undestand the differences between the flags and the banners.

    A great buy for collectors and people studying the Samurai, though the text is a little hard to understand (being that it was written by a graduate from Oxford University, England)

  • Ronald Reagan
    5:28 on December 4th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    Typical Osprey warrior title, detailed, well-illustrated, and providing information rarely, if ever, found anywhere else.

  • M Simons
    10:07 on December 5th, 2011
    Reply to comment

    I’ve been reading Turnbull’s other Osprey books; after having read “War in Japan” (a good introduction), then the more detailed “Kawanakajima” (good close-up on a “battle”), I turned to this book.

    I’m glad I read the books in the order I did. Without having a feel for what role the ashigaru or the samurai leaders (bodyguards, commanders, etc.), I think I would have been lost reading this book. You probably need to know how armies went into battle, in what order, for what purpose to pick up on the nuances here. This book expands on the material aspects of the soldier only briefly touched upon in the other books. Little detailed sections like “Religious Symbolism in Heraldry” and “The Common People” (with its discussion of how mon heraldry was forbidden to the people, kabuki)) — very interesting.

    Out of the Osprey books I’ve read or browsed so far, this one avoids the series’ #1 sin: recycling. Most of the pictures and artwork are fresh so I feel like there is some value in having it. It’s a nice read to understand how the armies appeared on the battlefield, in their camps, in the castles, etc.

    McBride’s illustrations are perhaps the best I’ve seen so far in the Osprey Japan books — very atmospheric; they remind me of comic book artist Frank Miller’s art (Ronin, 300, etc.).

    3/5 stars: probably only for the history or wargaming buff.

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