From the Inside Flap
It is the kind of story from which great tragic operas are made: A brave warrior of noble birth and royal ancestry runs afoul of a jealous neighbor who then ambushes him in the countryside. The warrior and his followers defeat their attackers, only to be targeted by others who now fear his growing strength. Overly impressed with his continued success against his enemies, he becomes consumed with hubris and soon falls victim to his own ambition. Add to this the mystique of the samurai, the pageantry of Japan's tenth-century imperial court, and legends of a flying head whose curse has caused disasters for a thousand years, and this compellingtale becomes a drama of epic proportions.
In The First Samurai, you'll discover the amazing true story of Taira Masakado, Japan's first samurai hero. This gripping account traces the roots of Masakado's bloody feud with local rivals, including his uncles and brothers-in-law. It explains how apparently trifling squabbles grew into years of bitter provincial warfare involving thousands of highly trained samurai.
How could Masakado and the other elite landholders of his region amass and maintain such formidable forces?
What led Masakado to seize control of eight provincial government headquarters, and declare himself overlord of eastern Japan? And why did he fail?
The answers to these questions provide a fascinating glimpse into the political, social, and military structure of tenth-century Japan.
You'll also discover that many popular and scholarly conceptions of early samurai warfare as picturesque, quaintly ritualized, and respectful ofnoncombatants are pure myth. In reality, ambush was the preferred form of attack, and ferocious raiding and looting were typical of the time. These tactics and strategies were partly the result of the nature of samurai combat, but they were also strongly influenced by the political and property structure of the country.
Filled with harrowing battle scenes, enchanting portraits of early Japan, and astounding legends of Masakado's celebrated life after death, The First Samurai is a must-read for anyone interested in the samurai, early Japanese history, and a whopping good tale well told.