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CompleteMartialArts.com - Mishima's Sword: Travels in Search of a Samurai Legend


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Manufacturer: Da Capo Press
Average Customer Rating: Average rating of 5.0/5Average rating of 5.0/5Average rating of 5.0/5Average rating of 5.0/5Average rating of 5.0/5

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Binding: Paperback
Dewey Decimal Number: 910
EAN: 9780306815683
ISBN: 0306815680
Label: Da Capo Press
Manufacturer: Da Capo Press
Number Of Items: 1
Number Of Pages: 272
Publication Date: 2007-10-01
Publisher: Da Capo Press
Studio: Da Capo Press

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Editorial Reviews:

On November 25, 1970, the world renowned Japanese writer Yukio Mishima committed seppuku with his own antique sword. Mishima’s spectacular suicide has been called many things: a hankering for heroism; a beautiful, perverse drama; a political protest against Japan’s emasculated postwar constitution; the epitaph of a mad genius. Part travelogue, part biography, and part philosophical treatise, Mishima’s Sword is the story of Christopher Ross’s journey to find a sword and maybe an understanding of Mishima’s country. The cold trail the author follows inspires a tale of the most engaging-and occasionally bizarre-sort, with glimpses of the real Japan that is not seen by tourists, with digressions on, among other things, bushido and socks, mutineers and Noh ghosts, nosebleeds and metallurgy-and even how to dress for suicide.



Spotlight customer reviews:

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Mostly just fascinating
Comment: I found this book by accident while waiting for someone, and I was enthralled by it. Ross uses the sensational circumstances of Mishima's very public and gruesome suicide to explore Japanese martial culture in general and tries to explain his own fascination with it along the way.
While he keeps tracking Mishima's life and death as a guide to his narrative, it becomes clearer and clearer that Mishima is conceivably of no importance outside his role as a popular author of nationalist appeal, and that his very theatrical life and death actually stand for very little. His careful reconstruction of himself and his image is not so uncommon, and in the end there is just another guy coming to terms with the very big chips on his shoulder, although he does so in a spectacular way.
But along this way Ross manages by description of his travels and interviews to highlight and clarify Japanese history and fascination with death in a highly insightful way.
Sometimes this book is just about Christopher Ross: For instance there is a whole section, where he describes feeling unwell and having to interrupt his stay in Japan to return to the UK. One can't help wondering if his editor slept through that part, since it seems to have very little to do with the rest of the story.
Fortunately these deviations are relatively brief, as is the whole book, and you have basically read past them before they really trouble you. The rest of the ride is wonderful for people who share Ross' fascination with the martial aspects of Japan.

Customer Rating: Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5Average rating of 5/5
Summary: Interesting history lesson mixed with a travel diary
Comment: Christopher Ross goes on a quest for the sword used to assist in the suicide of Yushio Mishima, one of Japan's most famous authors. Along the way, the reader is treated to a history of Japan, lessons on Kendo, and insight into Mishima himself, and icon (or iconoclast?) of Japanese literature. In essence, the quest for the physical sword takes secondary importance, behind Ross's quest to understand the man, the times, and the context of his suicide.

For those that read Twigger's Angry White Pajamas, this book is a more serious, and more culturally detailed view of the same genre. Perhaps the connection comes as Christopher Ross was the uber-guru that Twigger wrote about...

If there's one issue I have with the book, it's that the writer at times talks down to the reader. For example, most anyone reading this has experienced international travel - the audience is a cosmopolitan set. Explaining the details of an inflight entertainment system detracts from the overall story.

That said, the book is still concise and well written, and worthy of a read from any afficianado of Japan. It certainly earns a prominent place on my bookshelf!


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