Likes Likes:  0
Results 1 to 8 of 8

Thread: Views of "Famous Japanese Swordsmen" by William De Lange?

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Scotland
    Posts
    3
    Likes (received)
    0

    Question Views of "Famous Japanese Swordsmen" by William De Lange?

    Hi All

    Has anyone read any of the three books "Famous Japanese Swordsmen" by William De Lange?

    What are the views?
    Are they worth getting if I'm reading up influential swordsmen and the development of fencing in feudal Japan?

    Thanks
    Martin Adil-Smith
    Horror Writer
    www.facebook.com/spiralsofdanu

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Dec 2001
    Location
    Darlington, UK
    Posts
    1,019
    Likes (received)
    1

    Default

    These three I dont know about, but this one is excellent....it has that quaint 'japanese-ness' about the translation as well!

    http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/Book...er%2Bswordsmen
    Tim Hamilton

    Why are you reading this instead of being out training? No excuses accepted...

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2011
    Location
    Oz
    Posts
    34
    Likes (received)
    19

    Default

    I have the "Warring States" one:

    http://www.amazon.com/Famous-Japanes...ref=pd_sim_b_3

    It covers Kamiizumi Nobutsuna and Iizasa Choisai.

    De Lange seems to spend the majority of the book covering the political history of the country during these times, with specific focus on the region local to the swordsmen being covered.

    Unfortunately that seems to be about as close as he ever gets to actually discussing the swordsmen the book is supposed to be about.

    I may be exaggerating, it was a few years ago that i read the book, but I remember being shocked at how little information was provided regarding the people who were (according to the title) the focus of the book. There are sections (IIRC) where pages of biographical information is provided regarding some contemporaneous political leader, but nothing close to that level of detail on the main subjects. There is clearly the implication that understanding the local political climate and history is key to understanding the lives of these swordsmen, which seems valid to me, but only if actually coupled with biographical information on their lives.

    The reviews I've read on Amazon of the other books in the series indicate that this is a trend - De Lange has written (compiled?) information about the social climate and political machinations of the time and place these people lived, not a biography as the title would suggest.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Posts
    161
    Likes (received)
    3

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by M.Adil-Smith View Post
    Hi All

    Has anyone read any of the three books "Famous Japanese Swordsmen" by William De Lange?

    What are the views?
    Are they worth getting if I'm reading up influential swordsmen and the development of fencing in feudal Japan?

    Thanks
    I haven't read but one of the three, but that was more than enough. Here's the review I wrote five years ago for The Journal of Asian Martial Arts:

    Enthusiasts and aficionados interested in samurai and Japanese martial art history confront a sizeable collection of books, articles and web pages competing for their time and dollars. Solid, reliable studies on these topics are, however, somewhat less abundant. Canny readers thus often find themselves to sloughing their way through a swamp of misinformation, half-truths and myth in their quests for knowledge and understanding. Those who pick up Famous Swordsmen of the Warring States Period are well-advised to bring their waders.

    The book comprises two long chapters on Iizasa Chōisai Ienao and Kamiizumi Ise-no-kami Nobutsuna (né Hidetsuna); an introduction; appendices listing provinces, castles, shrines, temples, historical periods, battles and rebellions cited in the text; and a glossary. The title notwithstanding, de Lange offers his readers very little information about either of these famous swordsmen or about martial art history. He devotes only 26 pages to Iizasa, 30 pages to Kamiizumi, and fewer than a dozen more pages to other noteworthy pioneers of ryūha bugei, including Matsumoto Bizen-no-kami Masanobu, Tsukahara Bokuden, Aisu Ikōsai Hisatada, and the Yagyū family. Only a small percentage of this material, moreover, focuses on these figures as martial artists, or on the schools they created. The Iizasa sections contain far more information on his family than on Ienao himself, while the Kamiizumi sections mostly recount his military career and the campaigns of Takeda Shingen and Uesugi Kenshin.

    To be fair, de Lange warns readers up front that his story is not just about famous swordsmen per se. His real aim is, rather, “to place these men firmly back in their proper context, in the place and time in which they lived, and, in doing so, recapture some of the atmosphere of the Warring States period” (p. xii).

    But while this is indeed a worthwhile objective, de Lange has clearly not done the homework necessary to deliver on his promises. The book, which surveys the history of the samurai from the Taira Masakado and Fujiwara Sumitomo insurrections in the mid-tenth centuries through Oda Nobunaga’s campaigns in the late sixteenth, is based entirely on long-outdated textbooks and survey histories (including Sir George Sansom’s three volume History of Japan, written in the 1950s), literary accounts of early samurai battles, commercial books about the samurai and/or the bugei in English and Japanese, and a tiny handful of Japanese scholarly works on early samurai history. De Lange has completely ignored the sizeable body of scholarship (even the substantial literature published in English) that emerged between the 1970s and the early 2000s, and has handled what he did read credulously, uncritically, or misapprehensively.

    The resulting product is a romp through Japanese military history that would make any well-read reader’s head ache: a quirky fusion of legends, misconceptions and assumptions that historians have refuted years—in some cases, decades—ago. The errors range from broad conceptions—such as the assertion that the Kamakura shogunate essentially displaced the imperial court as the government of Japan—to minor-but-telling points—such as his identification of Iizasa Ienao as “Iizasa Yamashiro” (which apparently stems from conflating one of Ienao’s honorary titles, Yamashiro-no-kami, or Governor of Yamashiro province, with a given name)—to silly factual errors, such as his description of the Heian Grand Shrine in Kyoto, founded in 1895, as being “among the oldest and most prominent [shrines] in the country” (p. 50). It would require a book-length essay to catalog and explain all of the historiographical mistakes in this slim volume, but the upshot is that well-informed readers will be confused, amused or annoyed by this very strange history, and those new to the subject will be seriously misinformed.

    De Lange does provide some useful and interesting information on the Iizasa family, the Yagyū family, and Kamiizumi Nobutsuna, mostly amalgamated from biographical anthologies in Japanese. Much of this data is, however, already available in other English-language sources. There just is not enough new material here to justify the price of admission or the effort required to cull the factual wheat from the erroneous chaff.

    In sum, Famous Swordsmen of the Warring States Period is, to steal a phrase from Sir Winston Churchill, a book “with much to be modest about.” I cannot recommend it.
    Karl Friday
    Dept. of History
    University of Georgia
    Athens, GA 30602

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2000
    Location
    Blue Ridge, Texas
    Posts
    1,993
    Likes (received)
    122

    Default

    Thank you very much for that Karl. There are many, many books out there since the samurai, and Japanese in general, have become so popular. Unfortunately, a great percentage of it is mostly garbage, and those of us without the proper historical background have a hard time trying to figure out just which heaps to avoid.

    Any signposts you can place to point us in the right direction are greatly appreciated!
    Paul Smith
    "Always keep the sharp side and the pointy end between you and your opponent"

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Basel, Switzerland
    Posts
    69
    Likes (received)
    16

    Default

    And here an other review... http://acmebugei.wordpress.com/2011/...liam-de-lange/

    I still regret the money I spent.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Apr 2012
    Location
    Scotland
    Posts
    3
    Likes (received)
    0

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by ryoma View Post
    And here an other review... http://acmebugei.wordpress.com/2011/...liam-de-lange/

    I still regret the money I spent.
    Thank you for this. I succumbed and bought the volume that contained the "biography" of Nenami Jion.

    I agree with every single word of your review. A bitter disappointment, with much lifted from Sansom's works, and as you pointed out, no referencing of any kind. I did not realise (at the time of purchase) that these were self-publish/ print-on-demand books, and if I had I would have thought twice about it.

    I'm writing a horror story which attempts to fictionalise the life of Soma Yoshimoto/ Nenami Jion. I have read the excellent works by Amdur Sensei, as well as various tomes by Turnbull, Kornicki and others. I have even managed to track down various doctoral disserations that deal with Marishiten and the kuji rituals - essentially I am trying to tell a story but get all the background detail as accurate as possible (although across some reference material the timeframes don't match, and I am taking artistic liberties).

    Are there any English Language sources that you would recommend?

    Thank you
    Martin Adil-Smith
    Horror Writer
    www.facebook.com/spiralsofdanu

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Apr 2010
    Location
    Basel, Switzerland
    Posts
    69
    Likes (received)
    16

    Default

    Just to be clear: The link I posted is NOT my review.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •