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The Samurai and the Sacred Review by Jim Price

Stephen Turnbull
Osprey Publishing
443 Park Avenue South
New York, NY 10016

The Samurai and the Sacred is the second book by Stephen Turnbull that I have had the pleasure of reviewing. The physical quality of this publication is obvious as soon as you pick up the book. The pages are thick and glossy, which contributes to the book's substantial feel. The images throughout the book are vivid and bright. Below this surface beauty, you will find an incredibly in-depth analysis of the history of religion in Japan and how it affected the samurai and, in truth, the entire Japanese culture.

Stephen Turnbull explores how the numerous and varied religions of Japan shaped the beliefs that governed the samurai. The roles and effects of Shinto, Buddhism, Christianity, as well as other various belief systems of historical Japan, are evaluated. These topics are covered in great depth with significant emphasis on how these religions were assimilated into the Japanese culture and carried all the way into modern-day Japan.

The depth and breadth of Stephen Turnbull's knowledge is evident throughout this text. The pages of this book are so rich with information that I found myself rereading whole sections to make sure that I had grasped all that the author was trying to convey. The blending of the many religious beliefs of historical Japan is complex and intriguing. The positive and negative events surrounding the interactions between the various religions were presented with frankness and neutrality.

I definitely would recommend The Samurai and the Sacred to people who are interested in Japanese history or religious history. This book is not a casual read, however. The density of information contained within this book makes me want to classify it as a college-level text. My only criticism is that this book lacks a pronunciation guide for Japanese names, which, in my opinion, would enhance the readability of this book. I would label this book a "must have" addition to any Japanese history buff's home library.

Product review by Jim Price, Japanese history buff and dear husband to Kris Price, Assistant to the Publishers, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, March 2007