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.
About the Author
Back in college GARETH HINDS sketched legendary scenes from Yoshitsune’s life—just for fun. Today he is the creator of highly acclaimed graphic-novel adaptions of Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, The Odyssey, Beowulf, and other classics (Candlewick). Gareth lives in Washington D.C.
Read an Excerpt
Few warriors are as famous as the Japanese samurai. We remember those beautiful swords and those fearsome helmets. We recall, with both horror and fascination, how some chose to end their own lives. But no one can understand the Japanese samurai without knowing Minamoto Yoshitsune. 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. Hostage, 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.
Table of Contents
Characters and Places vii
Map of Japan x
1 Disaster in Kyoto-Kyoto, 1160 1
2 Headless Ghosts-Kurama, 1160-1174 9
3 Samurai Boot Camp-Hiraizumi, 1174-1180 17
4 Brothers-in-Arms-Kamakura, 1180-1184 31
5 Perilous River-Kyoto, 1184 47
Map of the Battle of Uji River 49
6 Midnight Strike-Ichi-No-Tani, 1184 57
Map of the Battle of Iohi-No-Tant 59
7 Hooves Like Hailstones-Ichi-No-Tani, 1184 69
8 Into the Storm-Kyoto, Shikoku, and Yashima, 1184-1185 77
Map of the Battle of Yashima 85
9 The Dropped Bow-Yashima, 1185 93
10 The Drowned Sword-Dan-No-Ura, 1185 101
Map of the Battle of Dan-No-Ura 104
11 Assassins in the Dark-Dan-No-Ura, Kyoto, and Koshigoe, 1185 111
12 Shizuka's Song-Kyoto, Kamakura, and the Yoshino Mountains, 1185-1186 125
13 The Fugitive-Locations Unknown, 1185-1187 137
14 Feast of Arrows-Hiraizumi, 1187-1189 147
Epilogue: The Samurai Weeps 157
Author's Notes 166
A Note on Names 166
A Note on Dates 167
A Note on the Status of Women 167
Re-creating Yoshitsune's World 169
Time Lines 174
Yoshitsune and the Wider World 174
Major Periods of Japanese History 175
Time Line of Samurai Rising 176
Glossary of Japanese Words 178
Chapter Notes 179
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
"Few warriors are as famous as the Japanese samurai. We remember those beautiful swords and those fearsome helmets. We recall, with both horror and fascination, how some chose to end their own lives. But no one can understand the samurai without knowing Minamoto Yoshitsune." Samurai warriors occupy an unusual space between actual history and the stuff of legend. Immortalized in countless books and films, these warriors are sensationalized and idealized but rarely studied as historical figures. Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune (2016) by Pamela S. Turner, illustrated by Gareth Hinds works to correct that with this biography of the most famous samurai. Yoshitsune's story begins in 1160 when his father tries to kidnap the Japanese Emperor and take more prestige and wealth for the Minamoto samurai by force. He fails thus forfeiting his life and placing his rival, the leader of the Taira samurai, in an influential position as the emperor's right hand. Yoshitsune avoids execution thanks to his mother's pleas and is instead exiled as a child at a monastery to become a monk. As he grows older and learns more about his family's heritage Yoshitsune rejects that path, runs away from the monastery, learns the ways of the samurai, and sets out help his family reclaim their supposed birthright. This story begins in 1160 when the Minamoto abduction of the emperor fails. Turner bridges the more than 850 years between Yoshitsune and readers with thorough research and a healthy dose of supposition. Samurai Rising opens with a listing of key figures in the story along with name pronunciations and a short description of their relationship to Yoshitsune. Detailed maps show readers Japan as a whole as well as key battle site and strongholds that will turn up in the story. The text is further enhanced with illustrations from Gareth Hinds that appear at the beginning of each chapter showcasing samurai in action or detailed images of their various equipment. Turner finishes this book with copious footnotes about her research and the details she has chosen to include and interpret in this story. This book can appeal to a wide range of ages. It's been discussed as a contender for both children's and young adult awards and was named a finalist for the Young Adult Library Services Association's (YALSA's) Non-Fiction Awards. Samurai Rising reads very young. The narrative voice feels decidedly middle grade as does the snappy tone and the witty asides peppered throughout the text. Turner’s writing is filled with pat language and anachronistic analogies to better situated samurai life and culture in modern terms. (Example: Saying the “cool kids” of the Japanese ruling class saw the samurai as “dumb jocks” or comparing Yoshitsune showing up at the Hiraizumi estate asking for samurai training to a boy who has never been to Little League showing up for spring training with the Yankees.) This information will work for some readers. I was not one of them. Aside from pulling me out of the story--because really, even as a historical biography this book is essentially a story--these comparisons often highlighted very specific assumptions Turner makes about who will be reading this book (sports enthusiasts, people with the cultural knowledge to know the Yankees, readers familiar with the stereotypical social hierarchy of high school . . .). Seeing these assumptions at play is intensely irritating as it creates the effect of talking down to reader
The Samurai Rising, a fiction novel that takes place in 12th century feudal Japan, is an action packed story that follows the childhood and warrior life of Minamoto Yoshitsune, a highly esteemed samurai chief. The book dives straight into a war between two families fighting over a higher rank in the hierarchy. One side was the Minamoto, led by the father of Yoshitsune, and the other was the Taira, led by Kiyomori. Time passed as a war raged and the Taira came out of the haze of war as the victors. The Minamoto family was turned from a respected samurai family, into a family of fugitives. Yoshitsune and some of his brothers were spared by Kiyomori and sent to be raised by Buddhist monks in the hopes that they would forget and live their lives as faithful monks. Yoshitsune, however, escaped and fled into the hands of his foster father, Fujiwara, who would raise and train him in the way of a samurai. Yoshitsune, of course, would soon leave his current home too to participate in revived war between the Taira and the Minamoto. The story then continues to follow the wars the Yoshitsune led and all the victories that he had achieved. Soon before the climax of the book, the Minamoto ended the war with their victory; Yoshitsune wasn’t rewarded. This is where the head of the Minamoto, Yoritomo, plotted against Yoshitsune because he felt threatened by him. Yoshitsune was then used by Yoritomo to do his dirty work just for Yoshitsune himself to be played… And that's where a dispute starts. In my own words, this book is never calm or at rest for a single page. Every chapter had something new and exciting to offer which is the exact type of book I look for. I enjoyed the detailing of the action scenes because it really captured the true image of war and the mentality of the warriors. The book also does a great job of slowly growing into the action itself instead of abruptly entering an intense scene. For example, the story portrays Yoshitsune very well by introducing him at infancy, young and innocent, and slowly turning him into the warrior that he was designed to be, harsh and relentless. I also enjoy how the book introduces key characters and events. The book did a very phenomenal job of introducing characters like Yoritomo. Instead of just revealing a characters by revealing the characters name and details on the spot, the book slowly revealed Yoritomo’s personality and goals throughout the story as much as Yoshitsune progressed. All the key plot points are also revealed the same way through Yoshitsune and Yoritomo themselves as they plan and route their plans of war. To sum it all up, I would recommend this book to action lovers and people who enjoy a tragic hero story. This book definitely appeals towards a younger audience and people who are just trying to get a thrill out of an intense book. I would also recommend this book to people who are interested in pre-modern Japanese society because this book captures the elements of both living and conflict of the age.
Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner is a children's nonfiction but it is written so well that it could be for anyone at all. I learned so much and didn't feel it was talking down to me. Through this book you could feel the social life, the strange customs, and the barbaric life it was back then. The role of the warrior and power and family was very powerful things. This books takes you into the background that leads up to Yoshitsune being a samurai, his childhood and on. Very wonderful work! Thanks NetGalley for suggesting this book! Truly an amazing book!