Samurai Rising

Samurai Rising

The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune

Book - 2016
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Minamoto Yoshitsune should not have been a samurai. But his story is legend in this real-life saga.

This epic warrior tale reads like a novel, but this is the true story of the greatest samurai in Japanese history.

When Yoshitsune was just a baby, his father went to war with a rival samurai family--and lost. His father was killed, his mother captured, and his surviving half-brother banished. Yoshitsune was sent away to live in a monastery. Skinny, small, and unskilled in the warrior arts, he nevertheless escaped and learned the ways of the samurai. When the time came for the Minamoto clan to rise up against their enemies, Yoshitsune answered the call. His daring feats and impossible bravery earned him immortality.
Publisher: Watertown, MA : Charlesbridge, [2016]
Copyright Date: ♭2016
ISBN: 9781580895842
1580895840
Characteristics: xiii, 236 pages :,illustrations, maps
Additional Contributors: Hind, Gareth

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j
jimg2000
Apr 11, 2016

From Introduction:
Yoshitsune’s story unfolds in the late twelfth century, during the adolescence of the samurai. Yes, cultures have their youth, maturity, and old age, just as people do. During Yoshitsune’s lifetime the samurai awakened. Their culture was bold, rebellious, and eager to flex its muscle. The samurai would ultimately destroy Japan’s old way of life and forge a new one using fire and steel and pain.

Yoshitsune was at the very heart of this samurai rising. Exile, runaway, fugitive, rebel, and hero, he became the most famous warrior in Japanese history. The reason is simple: Yoshitsune was the kind of man other samurai longed to be.
He wasn’t big or strong or good-looking. The only description we have of him is “a small, pale youth with crooked teeth and bulging eyes.” … Yoshitsune’s only assets were brains, ambition, and a dream. But childhood dreams can change history.

j
jimg2000
Apr 11, 2016

Buddhists believed that a person’s soul would be reborn into a new body and that the balance of good deeds and bad deeds in one’s prior life determined one’s fate in this one. However, while awaiting its next reincarnation, a soul sometimes lingered in the world as a ghost. Unhappy ghosts caused illness and accidents, so it was very important to keep departed souls placid until their next rebirth.
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No boy with Yoshitsune’s energy could be contained within incense-scented walls. Kurama’s doors opened to a wilderness of tumbling waterfalls and lofty cedars, pink-faced monkeys and flying squirrels. Short-winged hawks chased smaller birds through the forest, crashing recklessly through bushes in fierce pursuit, like samurai on the wing.
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... they clutched their children close and remained silent, knowing that nothing good ever comes of heavily armed men moving in the dead of night

j
jimg2000
Apr 11, 2016

Only a superb rider could guide a galloping stallion with his legs or voice while simultaneously shooting arrows.
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Weapons like bows and spears were also used for hunting. The sword had a singular purpose: to end human life.
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Despite these considerable disadvantages, Yoritomo did possess two gifts. The first was intelligence. The second was the ability to say the most outrageous things with a straight face.
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As everyone knew, bad luck and ill spirits often arrived from a northerly direction, so Kyoto had been built on a plain sheltered on the north, east, and west by mountains.
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Monks and monks-in-training slept on thin straw mats and instead of blankets covered themselves with extra clothing made of rough hemp. No roaring fireplaces warmed the wooden buildings, not even in the frozen core of winter.

j
jimg2000
Apr 11, 2016

Yoshitsune persisted: Did deer ever go down that way? The man admitted that they did. “Why, it sounds like a regular racetrack!” Yoshitsune said. “A horse can certainly go where a deer goes.”
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They also made off with the Japanese imperial regalia. As everyone knew, the sun goddess had given these ancient treasures— a mirror, a jewel, and a sword— to her grandson, who was the ancestor of the Japanese imperial line. No Japanese emperor could be enthroned without these sacred objects.
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… if history’s great fighters were gathered together, Yoshitsune’s men would find a lot more in common with fiercely independent Comanches than disciplined Roman legionnaires.
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Every high-ranking samurai, of course, wanted close retainers who would act as bodyguards. Yet training and equipping your own team of samurai was like owning a professional sports franchise: an expensive proposition.
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The Chinese character for samurai originally meant “to serve a master.”

j
jimg2000
Apr 11, 2016

“A good Commander-in-Chief gallops forward when he ought to and draws back when he ought to …. A rigid man is called a ‘wild boar warrior’; people do not think much of him.”
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The genius of the Japanese sword lies in its structure. The blade is made from two kinds of steel: a rigid steel that holds the sharp edge and does the cutting, and a flexible steel that forms the backbone. When forged into one blade, these sibling steels produce a sword that can slice without snapping.
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A lady might layer twenty silk robes to create multiple lines of color at her sleeve and hem, and top it all with an exquisite over-robe: lavender dotted with plum blossoms, perhaps, or white embroidered with birds and butterflies. To walk in this costume was like dragging around several sets of bedding— comforters included.
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A “barbarian” was anybody who lived farther away from Kyoto than you did.

j
jimg2000
Apr 11, 2016

The aristocratic Heian age ended in 1185, the year of Yoshitsune’s victory at Dan-no-Ura and the expansion of Yoritomo’s power and influence. Samurai rule of Japan lasted until 1868— almost seven hundred years.
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Samurai archers used many different kinds of arrowheads: forked shapes for cutting ropes, half-moon shapes for cutting throats, and turnip-shaped bulbs that whistled or hummed to distract enemy troops or signal allies.
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“as useless as altar-flowers picked too late for the rite.”
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The battle of Dan-no-Ura would be fought at sea with hundreds of boats and thousands of men. There would be no horses. No element of surprise. No familiar ground— in fact, no ground at all. Taira confidence grew. “The eastern warriors may talk big on horseback, but when did they learn to fight on water?” scoffed a Taira lord. “They will be like fish that have tried to climb trees.”

j
jimg2000
Apr 11, 2016

She took the sacred imperial sword and stuck it into her sash. It was a sword of the ancient style, straight and double-edged. According to legend, the brother of the sun goddess had cut off a sea dragon’s tail and discovered the sword inside. He gave the sacred sword to his sister, who gave it to her descendants, who became the first emperors of Japan.
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The mirror, of course, had to remain locked in the darkness of a chest. As everyone knew, it had once reflected the face of the sun goddess and now only the emperor could look into it without being blinded or paralyzed.
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His elder half brother was the leader of the Minamoto. It was his army, not Yoshitsune’s. Yoshitsune was the Minamoto’s star quarterback, so to speak, but Yoritomo owned the team. And the stadium.
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In those days the Japanese elite cultivated a sense that is now called mono no aware: the poignant awareness of beauty that cannot last.

j
jimg2000
Apr 11, 2016

Bashō sat down and wept. Then he wrote this haiku:
A dream of warriors,
and after dreaming is done,
the summer grasses.
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His elder half brother was the leader of the Minamoto. It was his army, not Yoshitsune’s. Yoshitsune was the Minamoto’s star quarterback, so to speak, but Yoritomo owned the team. And the stadium.
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The most famous tale about Yoshitsune’s fugitive days involved an attempt to pass through a government checkpoint. (DVD: 虎の尾を踏む男達, 1945/2010 - The men who tread on the tiger's tail)
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In those days a midwife attended the mother-to-be. Others took care of spiritual needs: one holy man read religious texts while another purified the birthplace. Someone else twanged a bowstring to ward off evil spirits.
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Yoshitsune, an unskilled teenager, had arrived in Hiraizumi wanting to be a warrior! It was like a boy who had never played Little League showing up for spring training with the Yankees.

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LPL_LaurenT Dec 22, 2016

Samurai Rising delivers a griping and compelling look at life in 12th Century Japan. Outlining the life of Minamoto Yoshitsune, this dive into history is packed with action: battles, tales of bravery and the origins of seppuku. Written like a novel with all the research of 1,000 page history text, I gobbled this book up. The history nerd in me wasn't completely satisfied with the lack of footnotes (although they are cited extensively in the back), but it was still an exciting read!

AL_BRIDGET Aug 06, 2016

Great writing, plenty of action, really fascinating history. I loved how vividly the author painted the people and the setting, while keeping the action of the story front and center. A good choice for fans of Steve Sheinkin, I think.

j
jimg2000
Apr 11, 2016

One of the greatest samurai who was credited as the one who idealized notions about the Japanese samurai culture as described in the book: fierce loyalty, honor above self-preservation, reckless bravery, courage in the face of death, the iconic role of ritual suicide. It is a historic account on Yoshitsune's quick rise and fall as a fearless samurai commander from 1180 to 1185. A very good read for all ages. Also recommend the ultimate samurai epic novel, in my opinion, "Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa (1584-1645) First US edition 2012." In that book, Musashi told his adopted son Iori the legend of Yshitsune: Minamoto no Yoshitsune learning swordsmanship from the "long-nosed goblins" on Mount Kurama and later making his escape from Kyoto.

ljn14x Mar 11, 2016

I don't think the author has any knowledge of the code of Bushido. A Samurai warrior leading 500 cavalry troops would naturally be a highly disciplined leader. With the rage of war being his specialty he would be cold and calculating, possibly enraged. On only the second page the author refers to this warrior as being in quite a snit. teenyboppers have snits, no Samurais. I never made it to page three, I just returned the book.

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