Just finished reading Stephen Turnbull’s Battles of the Samurai today.

While it is exactly what the title implies, a study of nine battles from Japanese history (ranging from Kurikara in 1183 to Sekigahara in 1600), it is also a good primer of Japanese history from the 12th through 16th Centuries. Writing in 1987, Turnbull assumes his audience has no more than the sketchiest knowledge of Japanese history, and gives extensive backgrounds to each battle.

As such, it is very readable and enjoyable, and establishes a few points in history which further readings can attach themselves to. In my case, it helps tie in the The Tale of the Heike (which I just started rereading), Nobunaga’s Ambition II (which was playing about when this was published), and of course, Sekigahara: Unification of Japan. In addition, there are a number of photographs of the (then-)current condition of the battlefields, and monuments, along with commentary of how best to visit the sites.