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Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune - A Book Review and Summary

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune Books Pdf File

If you are looking for a thrilling and captivating book that will transport you to medieval Japan, you might want to check out Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune by Pamela S. Turner. This book tells the story of one of the most famous samurai warriors in history, who rose from obscurity to glory, only to meet a tragic end. In this article, we will give you an overview of what this book is about, who wrote it, who are the main characters, what is the historical context, what is the writing style, what are the themes, what are the reviews, and where you can get a pdf file of it.

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life Of Minamoto Yoshitsune Books Pdf File

The Author and the Genre

Pamela S. Turner is an American author who specializes in writing nonfiction books for children and young adults. She has a degree in international relations from Stanford University and a master's degree in public policy from Harvard University. She has lived in Japan for eight years and has traveled extensively in Asia. She is fascinated by the history and culture of Japan, especially the samurai era. She has written several books on this topic, such as Life as a Samurai: An Interactive History Adventure and Crow Boy.

Samurai Rising: The Epic Life of Minamoto Yoshitsune is her latest book, published in 2016. It is a biography of Yoshitsune, one of the most legendary samurai warriors in Japanese history. The book is based on historical sources, such as the Heike Monogatari (The Tale of the Heike), a 13th-century epic that recounts the Genpei War, a civil war that shaped the fate of Japan. However, the book is not a dry and boring history lesson. It is a lively and dramatic narrative that blends historical facts and fiction to create a compelling story. The book is also illustrated by Gareth Hinds, an award-winning graphic novelist who has adapted classics such as Beowulf, The Odyssey, and Romeo and Juliet into graphic novels.

The Historical Context

The book is set in the 12th century, a turbulent and transformative period in Japanese history. During this time, Japan was divided into two rival factions: the Taira clan and the Minamoto clan. Both clans claimed descent from the imperial family and competed for power and influence over the emperor and the court. The conflict between them erupted into a full-scale war, known as the Genpei War, which lasted from 1180 to 1185. The war ended with the victory of the Minamoto clan and the establishment of the first shogunate, a military dictatorship that ruled Japan for almost 700 years.

The book also covers the events of the Kamakura Period (1185-1333), which marked the rise of the samurai class as the dominant force in Japanese society. The samurai were professional warriors who followed a strict code of honor and loyalty, known as bushido. They were skilled in martial arts, such as swordsmanship, archery, and horseback riding. They also valued culture and learning, such as poetry, calligraphy, and Zen Buddhism. The book depicts some of the challenges and threats that the samurai faced during this period, such as internal rebellions, rival clans, and foreign invasions.

The Heian Period and the Genpei War

The Heian Period (794-1185) was a time of cultural flourishing and political decline in Japan. The capital was moved from Nara to Kyoto (then called Heian-kyo), where the imperial court developed a sophisticated and refined culture, influenced by Chinese civilization. The courtiers enjoyed a lavish and elegant lifestyle, indulging in poetry, music, art, literature, and romance. However, they also became detached from reality and ignorant of the problems that plagued the country. Corruption, factionalism, taxation, land disputes, natural disasters, and peasant uprisings weakened the authority and legitimacy of the emperor and the court.

The Taira clan and the Minamoto clan were two powerful families that emerged from this chaos. They both served as military governors and generals for the emperor, but they also had their own ambitions and interests. They fought each other for control over land, resources, and political influence. The Genpei War was triggered by an incident in 1179, when Taira no Kiyomori, the leader of the Taira clan, arrested Minamoto no Yoshitomo, the leader of the Minamoto clan, on charges of treason. Yoshitomo was executed along with two of his sons, while his third son Yoritomo was spared but exiled to Izu Province. Yoshitomo's fourth son Yoshitsune was only a baby at that time and was sent to a monastery.

The war lasted for six years and involved several battles across Japan. Some of the most famous battles were:

  • The Battle of Uji (1180): The first battle of the war, where Minamoto no Yorimasa led a small force of Minamoto loyalists against a larger Taira army at the Uji River. Yorimasa committed suicide after being defeated.

  • The Battle of Ishibashiyama (1180): The first battle where Yoritomo participated as the leader of the Minamoto clan. He led a few hundred warriors against thousands of Taira soldiers at Ishibashiyama Mountain. He was outnumbered and outmatched but managed to escape with his life.

  • The Battle of Kurikara (1183): The turning point of the war, where Yoshinaka (Yoritomo's cousin) led a surprise attack on the Taira forces at Kurikara Pass. He used fire tactics and cavalry charges to rout the enemy and force them to retreat from Kyoto.

  • ```html The Battle of Yashima (1185): The penultimate battle of the war, where Yoshitsune led a daring raid on the Taira stronghold at Yashima Island. He used a clever ruse to lure the Taira navy out of their position and then set fire to their ships. He also performed a legendary feat of jumping back to his own ship from a Taira ship while shooting an arrow at a fan held by a Taira general.

  • The Battle of Dan-no-ura (1185): The final and decisive battle of the war, where Yoshitsune and his fleet faced the remnants of the Taira navy at Dan-no-ura Strait. He used the tides and the wind to his advantage and crushed the enemy. Kiyomori's grandson Antoku, who was the child emperor at that time, was drowned by his grandmother along with the imperial regalia. Many Taira warriors and nobles also committed suicide by jumping into the sea.

The Genpei War ended with the complete annihilation of the Taira clan and the restoration of the Minamoto clan. Yoritomo became the de facto ruler of Japan and established the Kamakura shogunate, the first military government in Japanese history. He appointed his loyal vassals as shugo (military governors) and jitō (land stewards) to oversee the provinces and collect taxes. He also created a system of justice and administration that bypassed the imperial court and centralized power in his hands.

The Kamakura Period and the Mongol Invasions

The Kamakura Period (1185-1333) was a time of stability and prosperity in Japan. The samurai class became the dominant force in society and culture, while the aristocracy and the clergy lost their influence and prestige. The samurai followed a strict code of honor and loyalty, known as bushido, which emphasized courage, duty, self-discipline, and respect for one's superiors. They also valued culture and learning, such as poetry, calligraphy, and Zen Buddhism. The Kamakura shogunate promoted trade and commerce with other countries, such as China, Korea, and Southeast Asia. The shogunate also supported various schools of Buddhism, such as Pure Land, Nichiren, and Zen, which appealed to different segments of society.

However, the Kamakura Period also faced some challenges and threats from within and without. One of them was the rivalry between Yoshitsune and Yoritomo. Although Yoshitsune was instrumental in winning the Genpei War for his brother, he was not rewarded or recognized for his achievements. Instead, he was suspected and envied by Yoritomo, who feared that Yoshitsune might usurp his power or challenge his authority. Yoritomo tried to eliminate Yoshitsune by sending assassins and armies after him. Yoshitsune was forced to flee from one place to another, seeking refuge from his allies and enemies alike. He eventually reached Hiraizumi, where he was welcomed by Fujiwara no Hidehira, the lord of northern Japan. However, after Hidehira's death, his son Yasuhira betrayed Yoshitsune and handed him over to Yoritomo's agents. Yoshitsune committed suicide along with his wife and children in 1189.

Another threat was the Mongol invasions of Japan in 1274 and 1281. The Mongols were a nomadic people who conquered most of Asia under the leadership of Genghis Khan and his successors. They established a vast empire that stretched from China to Europe. They also attempted to invade Japan twice, sending huge fleets and armies across the sea. The Kamakura shogunate mobilized its samurai forces to defend Japan against the invaders. The samurai fought bravely and fiercely against the Mongols, who were not used to their style of warfare or their terrain. The samurai also received divine assistance from the kamikaze (divine wind), a typhoon that destroyed many Mongol ships and prevented them from landing. The Mongol invasions were repelled both times, but at a great cost to Japan. The shogunate had to spend a lot of money and resources to prepare for war, which strained its economy and administration. The shogunate also failed to reward or compensate its samurai warriors for their service, which caused resentment and discontent among them.

The Legacy of Yoshitsune

Despite his tragic death, Yoshitsune became a legend and a hero in Japanese culture. He was admired and revered for his bravery, skill, charisma, and loyalty. He was also pitied and sympathized for his misfortune, betrayal, and fate. His life and deeds inspired many stories and myths that were passed down from generation to generation. Some of these stories include:

  • The story of how Yoshitsune learned swordsmanship from a tengu (a mythical creature with a long nose and wings) in Kurama Mountain.

  • The story of how Yoshitsune met Benkei (his loyal companion and protector) on Gojo Bridge and defeated him in a duel.

  • The story of how Yoshitsune and Benkei tricked the guards at Ataka Barrier and escaped from Yoritomo's pursuit.

  • The story of how Yoshitsune and his men scaled the cliffs of Hiyodori-ga-oka and surprised the enemy at the Battle of Ichi-no-Tani.

  • The story of how Yoshitsune performed the "eight-boat leap" at the Battle of Yashima and shot an arrow at a fan held by a Taira general.

  • The story of how Yoshitsune wrote his last poem before committing suicide at Koromogawa-no-tachi.

Yoshitsune's legend also influenced various forms of art and literature, such as noh (a classical Japanese musical drama), kabuki (a traditional Japanese theater), bunraku (a Japanese puppet theater), ukiyo-e (a genre of Japanese woodblock prints), manga (Japanese comics), anime (Japanese animation), video games, movies, and novels. Some of the most famous works that feature Yoshitsune are:

  • The Tale of the Heike (Heike Monogatari): A 13th-century epic that recounts the Genpei War and the rise and fall of the Taira and Minamoto clans.

  • ```html The Chronicles of the Turbulent Times (Gikeiki): A 15th-century chronicle that focuses on the life and adventures of Yoshitsune.

  • The Subscription List (Kanjinchō): A 15th-century noh play that dramatizes the episode of Yoshitsune and Benkei at Ataka Barrier.

  • The Subscription List (Kanjinchō): A 19th-century kabuki play that adapts the noh play with more action and spectacle.

  • The Yoshitsune Scrolls (Yoshitsune-den): A 19th-century ukiyo-e series by Utagawa Kuniyoshi that depicts scenes from Yoshitsune's legend.

  • Yoshitsune and the Thousand Cherry Trees (Yoshitsune Senbon Zakura): A 18th-century bunraku and kabuki play that mixes historical and fictional elements to create a complex and fantastical plot involving Yoshitsune, Benkei, Shizuka, and a fox spirit.

  • Yoshitsune: A 2005 NHK taiga drama (a year-long historical TV series) that portrays Yoshitsune's life from his childhood to his death.

  • Genji: Dawn of the Samurai: A 2005 video game that features Yoshitsune and Benkei as playable characters who fight against the Taira clan and other enemies.

  • Samurai Warriors: A video game series that features Yoshitsune and Benkei as playable characters who participate in various battles and events during the Genpei War.

The Main Characters

The book introduces many characters who played important roles in Yoshitsune's life and in Japanese history. Some of the main characters are:


Yoshitsune is the protagonist of the book and the hero of the Genpei War. He was born in 1159 as the fourth son of Minamoto no Yoshitomo, the leader of the Minamoto clan. He had a difficult and dangerous childhood, as he witnessed the death of his father and brothers at the hands of the Taira clan. He was spared by the Taira clan and sent to a monastery, where he spent his early years. He escaped from the monastery at the age of 15 and joined his half-brother Yoritomo, who had raised a rebellion against the Taira clan. He proved himself to be a brilliant and fearless warrior, who won many battles and earned fame and respect. He was also a charismatic and generous leader, who attracted many loyal followers and allies. He was especially close to Benkei, a warrior monk who became his faithful companion and protector, and Shizuka, a dancer who became his lover. However, he also made many enemies, including his own brother Yoritomo, who grew jealous and suspicious of him. He was eventually betrayed by one of his allies and forced to commit suicide at the age of 30.


Benkei is Yoshitsune's loyal companion and protector. He was born in 1155 as the son of a temple bell-ringer. He grew up to be a giant of a man, with a height of over six feet and a weight of over 300 pounds. He was also a formidable fighter, who wielded a naginata (a long pole weapon with a curved blade) and wore a suit of armor made of iron plates. He had a fierce and intimidating appearance, but he also had a kind and humorous personality. He became a warrior monk and traveled around Japan, challenging and collecting weapons from other warriors. He met Yoshitsune at Gojo Bridge in Kyoto, where he tried to take his sword. However, he was defeated by Yoshitsune's agility and skill. He was so impressed by Yoshitsune that he swore to serve him for life. He followed Yoshitsune in his battles and escapes, fighting by his side and saving his life on several occasions. He also helped Yoshitsune in his personal matters, such as delivering messages to Shizuka and arranging their meetings. He died with Yoshitsune at Koromogawa-no-tachi, where he fought off hundreds of enemies until he fell.


Shizuka is Yoshitsune's lover and muse. She was born in 1165 as the daughter of a famous dancer. She inherited her father's talent and beauty, and became a renowned dancer herself. She performed at the imperial court and other places, enchanting the audience with her grace and charm. She met Yoshitsune at a banquet in Kyoto, where she danced for him and caught his eye. They fell in love and became lovers, despite the danger and difficulty of their situation. She supported Yoshitsune with her love and courage, and inspired him with her songs and poems. She also suffered from Yoshitsune's enemies and fate, as she was captured by Yoritomo's men and interrogated about Yoshitsune's whereabouts. She was spared by Yoritomo, but she was separated from Yoshitsune forever. She later became a nun and spent the rest of her life praying for Yoshitsune.

The Writing Style and the Illustrations

The book is written in a clear and engaging style that appeals to both children and adults. The author uses simple and direct language to tell the story, but also adds some flair and humor to make it more interesting and enjoyable. The author also uses various techniques to make the story more vivid and dramatic, such as dialogue, description, action, suspense, emotion, and perspective. The author also provides some background information and explanations to help the reader understand the historical and cultural context of the story. The author also includes some maps, timelines, glossaries, notes, and sources to supplement the story.

The book is also illustrated by Gareth Hinds, an award-winning graphic novelist who has adapted classics such as Beowulf, The Odyssey, and Romeo and Juliet into graphic novels. He uses a realistic and detailed style to create stunning illustrations that complement the text and enhance the reader's experience. He uses various colors, shades, angles, and expressions to convey the mood and atmosphere of the story. He also uses various panels, layouts, and transitions to create a dynamic and cinematic effect. He also pays attention to the historical accuracy and authenticity of the illustrations, such as the costumes, weapons, architecture, and landscapes.

The Themes and the Messages

The book conveys many themes and messages that are relevant and meaningful to the reader. Some of these themes and messages are:

  • ```html Honor: The book shows how honor is a core value for the samurai class, who live by a code of conduct that dictates their actions and decisions. The book shows how honor can be a source of pride and dignity, but also a source of conflict and tragedy. The book shows how Yoshitsune and his followers uphold their honor by fighting bravely and loyally, but also how they are betrayed and killed by those who value power and ambition more than honor.

  • Loyalty: The book shows how loyalty is another key value for the samurai class, who pledge their allegiance and service to their lords and masters. The book shows how loyalty can be a source of strength and friendship, but also a source of obligation and sacrifice. The book shows how Yoshitsune and his followers demonstrate their loyalty by risking their lives and following their orders, but also how they are abandoned and persecuted by those who abuse their loyalty or doubt their loyalty.

  • Courage: The book shows how courage is an essential quality for the samurai class, who face many dangers and challenges in their lives. The book shows how courage can be a source of success and glory, but also a source of recklessness and folly. The book shows how Yoshitsune and his followers display their courage by performing amazing feats and overcoming impossible odds, but also how they are driven by their courage to pursue hopeless causes and defy inevitable outcomes.

  • Love: The book shows how love is a rare and precious emotion for the samurai class, who live in a harsh and violent world. The book shows how love can be a source of joy and inspiration, but also a source of sorrow and pain. The book shows how Yoshitsune and Shizuka experience love in its purest and most passionate form, but also how they suffer from love in its most cruel and tragic form.

  • Betrayal: The book shows how betrayal is a common and devastating occurrence for the samurai class, who live in a complex and unstable society. The book shows how betrayal can be a source of anger and revenge, but also a source of forgiveness and redemption. The book shows how Yoshitsune and his followers are betrayed by many people, such as Yoritomo, Yasuhira, Kajiwara, Tadanobu, and others, but also how they deal with betrayal in different ways, such as fighting back, escaping, accepting, or dying.

Justice: The book shows how justice is a elusive and


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