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Famous Japanese Swordsmen of the Warring States Period
by William de Lange
  • This classic text is now reprinted in an attractive, affordable paperback edition

  • Examines the most destructive period in Japan’s long history of civil strife
  • Follows the lives during Japan’s the Warring States period (1467-1568) of two medieval warriors to present a story of sacrifice, blind devotion, and seemingly insurmountable setbacks

‘Rich in disasters, dreadful in its battles, rent by its seditions, and even cruel in its times of peace’, the Warring States period (1467-1568) was the most destructive in Japan’s long history of civil strife. It began when the dearly won supremacy of the Ashi-kaga clan was squandered by a weak and indecisive ruler, allowing the jealous rivalry between local warlords to spiral out of control. It was a time when thousands upon thousands of warriors either perished on the battlefield, or persevered simply on the strength of their martial skill. At the end of the day, only those with superior skill remained standing to survey the carnage. In spite of this mayhem, they were also men with an inextinguishable moral core, who adhered with great devotion to the bushidō dictates of duty, fidelity, decorum, indeed, even of benevolence.

Two such men were Iizasa Chōisai Ienao and Kami Izumi Nobutsuna. Both not only witnessed but actively participated in the dramatic events of the period at hand. Thus, Ienao served on the Shogunal guard when, following the outbreak of the Ōnin War in 1467, the capital Kyoto was reduced to ashes in a decade of trench warfare. Thus, Nobutsuna had to witness how, in the terrible wave of anarchy that followed in its wake, all that his ancestors had toiled for was lost.

Their story, told against the greater historical backdrop of ruthless political intrigue and vast military campaigns, is a story of the tragedy of civil war experienced at the personal level - it is a story of sacrifice, of blind devotion, of seemingly insurmountable setbacks. Yet it is at the same time a testimony to the kind of perseverance and dedication that can have no equal in times of peace.

Published by Floating World Editions
Published 2007, 256 pp., illustrations & maps
ISBN 978 1 891640 43 8, paperback, £15.99

 

Famous Japanese Swordsmen of the Two Courts Period
by William de Lange

From the author of the bestselling Famous Japanese Swordsmen: The Warring States comes more solid sword history in the guise of thrilling narrative. The Two Courts Period was a turning point in Japan's medieval era—a time when an unbridgeable rift appeared in the fragile fabric of Japanese feudal society. On each side stood a separate imperial court, each with its own army and its own agenda. As the schism deepened and the positions hardened, one by one clans and domains were rent asunder until each and every man faced the terrible choice between loyalty and friendship.

Two such men were Nennami Okuyama Jion and Chūjō Hyōgo no Kami Nagahide, who faced each other from across the dazzling divide. Jion, an impoverished warrior monk who had lost his father through the treachery of a Bakufu official, joined the side of the loyalists, the forces fighting on behalf of the Southern Court. Nagahide, whose ancestors had stood at the cradle of feudal society and had risen to high rank within the Bakufu, was bound by duty to the Northern Court.

Their stories, set against the greater historical backdrop of ruthless political intrigue and vast military campaigns, describe the tragedy of civil war experienced at the personal level; they tell of loyalty, of betrayal, and of seemingly insurmountable setbacks. Yet the friendship between these two so disparate men, founded on their mutual love of swordsmanship and forged in the midst of a chaotic world, stands as moving testimony to courage that can have no equal in times of peace.

Published by Floating World Editions
Published 2007, 256 pp., illustrations & maps
ISBN 978 1 891640 47 6, paperback, £15.99