Category Archives: Japanese History

The beginnings of Japanese Feudalism: The institutions of Jito and Shugo

In the aftermath of the Gempei war, Minamoto Yoritomo succeeded in his aim of setting up a seat of centralised power at Kamakura to rival the established bureaucracy in Kyoto. Having done this, however, Yoritomo was faced with two major … Continue reading

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Homosexuality in Feudal Japan

Homosexual practices are an integral aspect of samurai culture that is often overlooked or dismissed in studies of the Japanese warrior classes. Getting the fundamentals out of the way first, homosexuality between men was, in most cases, acceptable and widely … Continue reading

Posted in Azuchi-Momoyama Period, Edo Period, Japanese History, Muromachi Period | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

One of the greatest war stories of the Sengoku period: the battle of Mikatagahara

In the year 1572, Takeda Shingen saw an opportunity to make a full attempt at claiming Kyoto, the seat of power in Japan at the time. In order to wage an effective campaign further west, however, Shingen needed control of … Continue reading

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For the love of the Japanese sword

It is because we love things that we must be brutally honest about them. What is a Japanese sword? A steel bar with a blade and a point. That’s it. Now before I have a thousand people screaming at me … Continue reading

Posted in Azuchi-Momoyama Period, Japanese History, Koryu Bujutsu, Martial arts, Muromachi Period | 2 Comments

The place of the Samurai in post-Sengoku Japan

We often take for granted when talking about the samurai and the world which they inhabited the idea of a “feudal Japan”. Feudalism, its meaning and providence is the subject of much debate among medieval historians and to apply it … Continue reading

Posted in Edo Period, Japanese History | Leave a comment

The Ninja: Fact vs. Fiction

The black clad assassin stealing through the night towards his victim, dealing death through underhand and dishonourable tactics is one of the most romanticised and yet most common images of the ninja, commonly pervasive in modern society. This image however is one that is perpetuated by the media a popular culture and, if representative at all of the reality of the secret agents of feudal Japan, is only a very small proportion of their work. The very existence of the ninja is not in and of itself remarkable. All over the world, wherever there are wars, at any time and in any place, there are secret agents that are used in order to gain an advantage of one sort or another over one’s enemy. Before we come to discuss this proposition, we must first dispel the romanticised image of the ninja and set the backdrop for their rise to fame and power. Continue reading

Posted in Azuchi-Momoyama Period, Japanese History | 2 Comments