The image of the samurai is almost synonymous with Japanese history for many people: the honor-bound, bow and sword wielding individual warrior on horseback. It could have been very different. When the early Japanese Court was trying hard to adopt the massed infantry tactics of China, a series of defeats to an impressive “barbarian” guerrilla warrior from the north changed the military culture of the country.

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For Further Awesome Reading…

A History of Japan to 1334

The OG—Sansom wrote a comprehensive history of Japan that is readable and scholarly at the same time, while still respected many decades later. Volume 2 is even better, although it covers events centuries later than those of this podcast.

Heavenly Warriors: The Evolution of Japan’s Military, 500–1300

When my own history professor assigned this way back when, she made clear it was a “counter” narrative to a lot of how Japanese history had been interpreted for many decades. It’s a great companion source to something like Sansom.