Summary: A Good Primer
Comment: Japanese Castles 1540-1640
By Stephen Turnbull
Illustration and Images: 4 of 5 stars
Content: 3 of 5 Stars
If you are looking for a primer for Japanese Castles, then this book is great for it. But if you are looking for something more in depth, I would look elsewhere. While Mr. Turnbull does an excellent job of describing the basic set up and aspects of construction of the castle, the other sections of the book leaves much to desire. I especially found the chapter of castle life very sparse and lacking. Also he has a tendency to state interesting facts but never quite follow them up to the satisfaction of the reader. A good example of this is on page 35 when he discusses the story of a thief who ties himself to a kite to steal the gold scales of the shachi (the dolphin on top of the castle keep used to ward off misfortune) of Nagoya castle. This is further seen in the operational history section, where he seems to just ramble off facts about castles and sieges leaving the reader's appetite stimulated but not sated.
On the plus side, Peter Dennis's illustration lends itself nicely to Turnbull's text as do the photographs. This is a nice aid, as sometimes I found the written description hard to imagine and the pictures help gelled an image in my mind. The only complaint I have is that description of Azuchi in the book states that the topmost room was octagonal, yet in the images of it, the top room is rectangular and the second to the top is the octagonal one. Also as a gamer, I also wish there was more maps but one can't always get everything.
Please don't get me wrong, there is a lot of good information in this book about general layout of a Japanese castle and their defenses and I will probably use it as quick reference material. This though is why I consider it a primer, it left me wanting more information and curious to see if there are better books on castles (maybe ones with maps).
Summary: A Good Overview of Japan's Castles
Comment: This book provides a good overview of Japanese castles from the introduction of stone bases and walls in 1540 to the introduction of long range bombardment in 1640. The book provides information on the Japanese castle's history, layout and castle elements, daily life, operational history, and information on the castles today. There are many photos from the Turnbull's travels and excellent illustrations by Peter Dennis.
Anyone familiar with the Osprey series books will be happy with this edition. As someone not familiar with Japanese castle history, the book gave me an excellent overview and understanding of their role. It also has a good bibliography for getting more information.
However, there are a few shortcomings in the book. I dislike the author's tendency to jump around in the narrative. "As previously mentioned...", "As noted earlier...", "As will be explained later..." I also wish there were a good map of the castles showing locations, build dates, and other info. The author leaves this responsibility to other books.
The illustrations are excellent, full of detail, and wonderful bird's eye and cutaway views. The battle illustrations contain many tiny tales in some of the details. The cutaway views contain many interesting vignettes. My edition of the book has one of the castle keep illustrations on the cover. My only complaint with the illustrations is that I would love to see more.
All in all, a very good, well illustrated overview of the subject matter.