Taiko: An Epic Novel of War and Glory in Feudal Japan

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Vertical, Inc., Aug 3, 2012 - Fiction - 944 pages
5 Reviews
In the tempestuous closing decades of the sixteenth century, the Empire of Japan writhes in chaos as the shogunate crumbles and rival warlords battle for supremacy. Warrior monks in their armed citadels block the road to the capital; castles are destroyed, villages plundered, fields put to the torch.


Amid this devastation, three men dream of uniting the nation. At one extreme is the charismatic but brutal Nobunaga, whose ruthless ambition crushes all before him. At the opposite pole is the cold, deliberate Ieyasu, wise in counsel, brave in battle, mature beyond his years. But the keystone of this triumvirate is the most memorable of all, Hideyoshi, who rises from the menial post of sandal bearer to become Taiko--absolute ruler of Japan in the Emperor's name.


When Nobunaga emerges from obscurity by destroying an army ten times the size of his own, he allies himself with Ieyasu, whose province is weak, but whose canniness and loyalty make him invaluable. Yet it is the scrawny, monkey-faced Hideyoshi--brash, impulsive, and utterly fearless--who becomes the unlikely savior of this ravaged land. Born the son of a farmer, he takes on the world with nothing but his bare hands and his wits, turning doubters into loyal servants, rivals into faithful friends, and enemies into allies. In all this he uses a piercing insight into human nature that unlocks castle gates, opens men's minds, and captures women's hearts. For Hideyoshi's passions are not limited to war and intrigue-his faithful wife, Nene, holds his love dear, even when she must share it; the chaste Oyu, sister of Hideyoshi's chief strategist, falls prey to his desires; and the seductive Chacha, whom he rescues from the fiery destruction of her father's castle, tempts his weakness.


As recounted by Eiji Yoshikawa, author of the international best-seller Musashi, Taiko tells many stories: of the fury of Nobunaga and the fatal arrogance of the black-toothed Yoshimoto; of the pathetic downfall of the House of Takeda; how the scorned Mitsuhide betrayed his master; how once impregnable ramparts fell as their defenders died gloriously. Most of all, though, Taiko is the story of how one man transformed a nation through the force of his will and the depth of his humanity. Filled with scenes of pageantry and violence, acts of treachery and self-sacrifice, tenderness and savagery, Taiko combines the panoramic spectacle of a Kurosawa epic with a vivid evocation of feudal Japan.
 

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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - Dream24 - LibraryThing

I wasn't sure what to expect when I took a stab at reading this book. But I am glad I did because it opened up a whole world of what feudal Japan may have been like during that time period. The book ... Read full review

TAIKO

User Review  - Kirkus

A homely, clever boy from the provinces survives a cheerless childhood and, through diligence, high-quality work, and devotion to his employers, eventually unites 16th-century Japan and becomes the ... Read full review

Selected pages

Contents

Murashiges Treachery
A Retainers Duty
Hanbeis Legacy
Men of
The Fall of the Takeda
Fortress in a Lake
Kumquat Head
The Shrine of the Fire

The Walls of Kiyosu
Yoshimotos Hostage
The Lord with the Blackened Teeth
The GoBetween
A Castle Built on Water
Snaring the Tiger
The Master of Mount Kurihara
Be a Friendly Neighbor
The Wandering Shogun
Enemy of the Buddha
Shingen the LongLegged
The Gateless Gate
Funeral for the Living
Three Princesses
Sunset of
The Towers of Azuchi
Monkey Marches West
Fifty Years under Heaven
BOOK EIGHT
Requiem of Blood
The Two Gates
War of Words
Midnight Warning
BOOK NINE
A Bowl of
Genbas Stratagem
A True Friend
The Sins of the Father
The Hooded Warrior
Master Stroke
Taiko
Epilogue
Copyright

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About the author (2012)

EIJI YOSHIKAWA was born in 1892 near Tokyo. Beginning his literary career at the age of twenty-two, he continued to work as a journalist while writing novels that reached a large and appreciative readership. At the time of his death in 1962, he was one of Japan's most popular novelists. His memoirs have been translated as Fragments of a Past.


WILLIAM SCOTT WILSON, the translator, was born in 1944 and grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College in 1966, he was invited by a friend to join a three-month kayak trip up the coast of Japan from Shimonoseki to Tokyo. This eye-opening journey, beautifully documented in National Geographic, spurred Wilson's fascination with the culture and history of Japan.


After receiving a B.A. degree in political science from Dartmouth, Wilson earned a second B.A. in Japanese language and literature from the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies in Monterey, California, then undertook extensive research on Edo-period (1603-1868) philosophy at the Aichi Prefectural University, in Nagoya, Japan.


Wilson completed his first translation, Hagakure, while living in an old farmhouse deep in the Japanese countryside. Hagakure saw publication in 1979, the same year Wilson completed an M.A. in Japanese language and literature at the University of Washington. Wilson's other translations include The Book of Five Rings, The Life-Giving Sword, The Unfettered Mind, the Eiji Yoshikawa novel Taiko, and Ideals of the Samurai, which has been used as a college textbook on Japanese history and thought. Two decades after its initial publication, Hagakure was prominently featured in the Jim Jarmusch film Ghost Dog.

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