Book Review: Samurai War Stories: Teachings and Tales of Samurai Warfare


by Anthony Cummins, and Yoshie Minami, translators and editors

Stroud, Eng.: Spellmount / Chicago: International Publishers Group, Trafalgar Square, 2013. Pp. 160. Illus., biblio, index. $19.95 paper. ISBN: 0752490001

The First English Editions of Three Classic Japanese Military Texts 

Martial arts specialist Cummins and his long-time collaborator Minami give us the first English edition of several historic Japanese texts on warfare dating from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  These are:

  • Zohoyo Monogatari or Tales of the Foot Soldiers
  • Musha Monogatari or Tales of the Samurai
  • Oan Monogatari or The Story of Oan and Okiko

The texts deal respectively with the roles of the samurai, of the ashigaru or commoner infantry, and of women in combat, particularly those of the samurai class. 

These texts contain numerous anecdotes, of varying length, about particular battles, notable feats of arms or stratagems, or commonplaces of military life and practice of the times, often taken from, and credited to, earlier writers.  In this, the tales are somewhat similar to the works of the Romans Frontinus or Polynaeus, and probably served much the same purpose, as handbooks for aspiring warriors. 

To their translation of the three texts, Cummins and Minami have added a sort-of appendix, “Samurai Tales: A Brief Overview of the Samurai Found Within,” providing brief biographical details on many of the men and women mentioned in the text. 

Samurai War Stories will undoubtedly be of value to serious students of Japanese history, but will also prove useful and even amusing reading for those interested in general military history.

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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