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Taiko Hardcover – January 16, 2001

52 customer reviews

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Hardcover, January 16, 2001
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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

In the final decades of the 16th century, the Japanese shogunate is crumbling: As rival warlords jockey for position, their armies ravaging the land, Western ideas and weapons threaten traditional ways. "This is a world so grim that you may have to kill or be killed in the time it takes to pick up your chopsticks. Yesterday's ally is today's enemy." Toyotomi Hideyoshi, son of a poor farmer, aspires to serve the emperor as samurai. Through talent, energy, and dedication, he rises to the position of Taiko, absolute ruler of Japan in the emperor's name. This novel is filled with striking martial images: a warrior's "breast . . . like a tightly strung bow, pulled taut by innumerable emotions and strategies"; the "plain . . . covered with a thin veil of gunpowder smoke and filled with the stink of corpses and blood. With the morning sun, it smoldered with all the colors of the rainbow." A vibrant tale of heroic deeds and black villainy that brings to life distant times and people.
- David Keymer, California State Univ., Stanislaus
Copyright 1992 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Something for everyone-history, romance, acts of great loyalty and treachery, monumental battle scenes...highly recommended." -San Francisco Chronicle"Eiji Yoshikawa's epic is the real thing, the insider's guide to one of the most periods in Japanese history." -New York Newsday"A unique opportunity for Western readers to explore a time, a man and the creation of modern Japan from a genuinely Japanese perspective." -The Washington Times"A vibrant tale of heroic deeds and black villainy that brings to life distant times and people" -Library Journal

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 940 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha USA; 1St Edition edition (January 16, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770026099
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770026095
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 1.6 x 5.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (52 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #299,604 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 80 people found the following review helpful By Angry Mofo on July 5, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I had just read James Clavell's "Shogun", which was set shortly "after the Taiko's death". It contained little information about the Taiko (title of one absolute ruler of Japan), so when I saw this book, I took it in hopes of finding out more about him.
I was not disappointed. It's a huge epic chronicling the life of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, the man who unified Japan with the vision of Oda Nobunaga (who tried to do so but was killed). This book succeeds at every angle - when it talks of military tactics, when it talks of historical inter-clan relationships, when it shows us Hideyoshi's innermost thoughts, and so on. It is all in one a history book, a book of military conquests, a love story, a story about honor - a true epic. Many of the characters, like the traitor Mitsuhide, made a deep, lasting impression on me. Everyone is fully fleshed out, their motives not only fully explained, but truly understandable, so you can actually empathize with some of them. Occasionally the narration is a bit dry, with over-emphasis on the vast quantity of names that everyone seems to have, but the people are so real and so captivating that you can easily read through all 944 pages in one sitting.
In the West we unfortunately know very little about the intricate history of the very unique and fascinating country that is Japan. Taiko is a fine slice of historical fiction, and should get some people interested in the above. Think nothing of the length - just start reading it, as the characters will pull you in after a very brief while.
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on August 8, 2001
Format: Hardcover
This book is for those who have an interest in Japanese history, geopolitics, medieval strategy, and complex feudal relationships. For those fluent in asian historical and semi-historical literature, Taiko is best described as the Japanese analog of the Chinese epic Three Kingdoms. That is, it is a novelized, and in some areas, a speculative account of actual historical events.
Taiko (the english translation of which is an abridged version of the Japanese original) details the struggle to unify the numerous fragmented Japanese provinces during the late 16th Century. During this time, the militarily and politically impotent Ashikaga Shogunate was powerless to stop what were basically dozens of civil (clan) wars raging across Japan.
The country's many provinces were ruled by various daimyo (warlords) of competing clans. The most powerful of these clans harbored ambitions to put the whole of Japan under their banner. Among the leaders of these powerful clans were names that ring out like a who's who of Japanese history; men such as Oda Nobunaga, Tokugawa Ieyasu, Imagawa Yoshimoto, Takeda Shingen, Uesugi Kenshin, and Mori Motonari.
However, these men could not unite the country on their own. They needed the help of talented retainers to lead their troops into battle, to formulate their grand strategy, and to administer their lands. Among the most talented of these retainers was also the man with the most humble of origins: Toyotomi Hideyoshi.
Hideyoshi (given name) started off life as a poor peasant, ridiculed by the moniker "Monkey" by almost all who knew him. As a youth he worked several odd and menial jobs, but his dream was to be a samurai under the employ of a great lord.
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34 of 35 people found the following review helpful By IVAN JIMENEZ CORREAL on July 27, 2002
Format: Hardcover
In the middle of the sixteenth century, Japan is sunk again in the turmoil of civil war, as the weak Ashikaga Shogunate is no longer able to keep the order. The most powerful clans are willing to take control over the country, reach the capital, Kyoto, and thus gain the favour of the Emperor: the Imagawa of Suruga, the Takeda of Kai, the Uesugi of Echigo and the Hojo of the Kanto.
Within this turbulent period, "Taiko" narrates the life of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, "Monkey", as he was called since he was a child; the man who, born in poverty in an ashigaru's family, would become the most powerful man in Japan, accomplishing the dream of unification of his master, Oda Nobunaga, lord of Owari and head of the Oda Clan. Together with Tokugawa Ieyasu, lord of Mikawa, they will complete step by step the process of unification which is only to end with the appointment of Tokugawa Ieyasu as Shogun by the Emperor in 1603 and the restoration of the Shogunate administration, the Bakufu.
"Taiko" is mainly a succession of epic feats, battles and military campaigns described indeed with the vividness of a Kurosawa film, but it is also a rich depiction of samurai's way of life, the Bushido, their sense of honour, their households, etiquette and ceremony, like the tea ceremony or the ritual suicide (seppuku).
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