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Ancient Japan Fiction...HELP!

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  • Ancient Japan Fiction...HELP!

    As I'm a senior this year in highschool, I have to choose a book on which to do a research paper. We're going to be spending a LOT of time on this, and it'll be a large part of our grade.

    I was hoping that some of the more educated (or at least well read ) kendoka on this forum could point me towars a book that features Ancient Japan, swordsmanship, samurai, etc. that is FICTION. Thats the only requirement. I thought about reading Musashi, but sadly it is nonfiction .

    I need to pick a book by the end of today or tomorrow, so if anyone can point me in the right direction...I'd be VERY thankful.

    By the way, I already considered Shogun by James Clavell....and 1200 pages is just too much. I just don't think I could finish the book in time to start researching with the class.

  • #2
    that book Shogun is an incredible book, yeah it is really long, you could always rent the movie and pretend that you read the book, but of course movies can't touch the books.

    But why does it have to be a fiction book???
    Last edited by Shgun; 7th January 2003, 02:47 AM.


    • #3
      It has to be fiction because our teacher said so.

      Heh heh, I asked her the same question, and she said "This class has been doing research papers on fiction books for the past 20 years, do you think I'm going to change it now?" blah blah blah. So...that kinda limits me. *sigh*


      • #4

        How about "The Ronin" by William Dale Jennings? It is "a novel based on a Zen myth." It is a "quick read," only 159 pages, but I think it has all you are looking for.
        The only problem is that it's an old book, first printing 1968 by Charles E. Tuttle Co., Inc. Just to give you an idea, I purchased my hardcover copy for the outrageous sum of $5.75!
        Hope this helps!

        With kiai :^{ )



        • #5
          You could try the tale of the 47 ronin. It would be "historical fiction", e.g. like Shakespeare's Henry VII. Huge opportunity there to analyse the Japanese samurai mindset and value system, lots of third party references you can refer to, too. And it's very short


          • #6
            I just went over to and searched for The Ronin. It came up, along with The 47 Ronin Story.

            I think I'm going to order both. Since both are fairly short, I'll read them and find out which I'd like to do my paper on.

            Thanks a BUNCH. I owe both of you guys.


            • #7
              If you want to go for REALLY ancient Japan (without the kendo or fighting and whatnot) read "Tale of Genji" (Genji Monogatari) by Murasaki. I've never read it but it's considered to be the first "novel" written in ANY language (it's reallllllllllllllllllllllllllllllyyyyyyyy long). That being said it'll probably be a VERY tough read and an even tougher book to analyse because you probably lack the knowledge about the cultural and historical context in which the book was written (10th and 11th century Japan). . . as do I. A semi-fictional biography of the author was written recently which I found very entertaining. Either book mostly deals with the imperial court intrigues of the period. The latter is well written and does a nice job of "briging to life" (for lack of a better term) court life in Heian-period Japan.

              You could always choose something more contemporary if your interested in Japan (without the budo): one of Kawabata's short novels perhaps; "Thousand Cranes" is good (and short), "Snow Country" is considered one of his best works (he won a Nobel prize in the 1970's). It's too bad "The Master of Go" is fairly non-fiction or I'd recommend that (maybe you can get that to slide cause it's really a great book about a go match between an old master and his young challenger that the author documented for a newspaper in the 1940's, it deals with interesting themes and manages to turn what is basically a chess-match into an exciting "battle").

              If you really need this for a book report just read a "River Runs Through It". It's not about Japan, kendo or anything remotely related to these boards but it's excellent, short and easy to analyze. Or just pick a Hemingway, any Hemingway, and read that.

              Sorry I could not be of more help (and now I'm off to dream of the great fish).


              • #8

                I posted too late.


                • #9
                  Hey, thanks for your opinions Alex. I haven't ordered anything I'll consider some of those.


                  • #10
                    Of course there's always Eiji Yoshikawa's 'Musashi'


                    • #11

                      I forgot to mention that the semi-fictional biography of Lady Murasaki (the person who wrote "Tale of Genji") is called something like "Tale of Murasaki".

                      Be carefull what you choose. I'm not saying take something easy, but do take something INTELLIGENT with themes and ideas. I'm assuming that the point of the book report is not simply to make an outline of the broad lines of the story but to explain the ideas behind the story, the characters, the setting, the events, etc. . . Taking a book your teacher might be more familiar with (i.e. one of the "classics". . . which might include some Japanese authors) would probably be an asset. You probably know all this already so I'll shut up now.

                      Urgh. . . I sound like a grown-up. Kill me. Good luck by the way.


                      • #12
                        I went ahead and ordered both The Ronin and The Forty-Seven Ronin books. I'm hoping that these contain enough themes/deep thoughts to milk a reasearch paper out of.

                        If not...I'll read 'em for fun and do a report on one of the *yawn* "classics".

                        Based on the first few pages (that you can read on, Forty-Seven Ronin looks to be a very good book.

                        And Alex, thanks again...I'll try my best!!


                        • #13
                          As Ares mentioned Eiji Yoshikawa's Musashi is a good text. Even better would be his other novel Taiko. Both books are historical fiction and is a good look into japanese culture and mentality.

                          Taiko in particular is a good one. Its about Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa Ieyesu and how they rose to power. Its chok a block full of themes etc.

                          eg. The three men(above) have a caged bird who doesn't sing, what do they do?

                          Oda Nobunaga: Kill it

                          Toyotomi Hideyoshi: Make it sing

                          Tokugawa ieyesu: Wait...

                          All these books lend to the theme of working together which was really prevelent in Japanese society. Look at the scene in "the seven samurai" where 2 houses are burning and some of the farmers want to break ranks and save the their homes and they are chastised because they are putting the whole village in harms way over their own personal wants. This appears countless times in Musashi and Taiko...

                          Have a read...


                          • #14
                            How about "Rashomon" by Ryunosuke Akutagawa made famous by the late legendary director Akira Kurosawa. It's timeless. I also read that the author is a martial art fanatic . He even organised/established a small private army whose main goal is to practice hardcore ancient martial arts of Japan.


                            • #15
                              Try Musashi by Yoshikawa Eiji