Cover image for Samurai invasion : Japan's Korean War, 1592-98
Samurai invasion : Japan's Korean War, 1592-98
Turnbull, Stephen R.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London : Cassell & Co., [2002]

Physical Description:
256 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 25 cm
Subject Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DS913.4 .T87 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

On Order



It's an extraordinary tale, largely untold--until now. Researched in both Japanese and Korean archives, and authored by the world's most acclaimed historian of the Samurai period, here is the most complete account yet written of Japan's two invasions of Korea. It includes, among other treasures, never-before seen Japanese illustrations and battle reports. By the end of the 16th century, the Samurai had taken total control of their own domestic territory and looked abroad for new lands to conquer. The ultimate target was China, but Korea was to provide the jumping-off point to that victory. The incursion marked the first time the Samurai had attacked another country, and at first the Koreans drove them away. Retribution was inevitable, and the Japanese returned in 1597 to wreak havoc in a war of unbelievable savagery. With extracts from contemporary Japanese field diaries not seen for over 400 years, this is a volume no follower of Samurai lore can resist.

Author Notes

Dr Stephen Turnbull has made himself the world's foremost writer on the samurai, using his years of diligent research to publish a whole series of bestselling samurai histories, including The Samurai Sourcebook and Samurai Warfare. He is widely employed as a consultant authority on all aspects of samurai history and Japanese culture.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

The seven years of late-sixteenth-century warfare between Japan and Korea that arose from Shogun Toyotomi Hideyoshi's effort to conquer the Korean peninsula hadn't been adequately chronicled for Western readers. Thanks to a leading Western authority on Japanese warfare in the samurai era, now it has been. The Japanese had the edge in firepower, discipline, and (initially) numbers. The Koreans fought with the courage of desperation and eventually repelled two invading armies with the help of Chinese troops, rugged terrain, worse weather, and the naval superiority of Admiral Yi Sun-sin, an outstanding sea warrior. Admiral Yi may not have built the first ironclad warship, but he certainly deserves his status as, Turnbull says, "Korea's greatest hero." The war devastated Korea, decimated the samurai class (to the eventual benefit of Shogun Tokugawa), and cast a shadow over relations between the two countries from that day to this. Impeccably researched, lavishly illustrated, clearly written for the general reader, as outstanding on its subject as it is unique. --Roland Green

Library Journal Review

After unifying Japan by force, in 1592 Hideyoshi Toyotomi (1536-98) attempted to establish an empire in East Asia. The conquest of China was his ultimate objective, but Korea had to be subdued first. Instead, it proved an insuperable obstacle to Hideyoshi's imperial fantasy. Turnbull's lively and lavishly illustrated history of the failed invasion brightly illuminates the world of late 16th-century warfare in East Asia. After reeling under the initial Japanese attacks, Korean regular and irregular forces, aided by armies from Ming China, eventually turned the Japanese back, but the invasion did not end until Hideyoshi's death in 1598. Skillfully piecing together contemporary accounts from Japanese and Korean sources, the author provides a vivid and horrifying picture of the strategy, tactics, and technology of Japanese warfare. Brutality was the norm, and hand-to-hand combat produced butchery rivaling the worst of modern wars. In Kyoto a single burial mound holds the sliced-off noses of 30,000 Korean and Chinese victims of Japanese slaughter. Absorbing and accessible, Turnbull's book will interest general readers and belongs in public as well as college libraries.-Steven I. Levine, Univ. of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Lib. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Turnbull (Univ. of Leeds) is a leading authority on samurai culture, and this interesting, well-written, and physically attractive book will further embellish his reputation. The standard view of late medieval Japanese history (1568-1600) emphasizes strong men (Nobunaga, Hideyoshi, Tokugawa) bringing the country out of disorganization through a series of domestic military triumphs. By 1638, the Tokugawa had moved the country into almost total isolation from the outside world. So it comes as something of a surprise to learn from this book that a significant military involvement in Korea had immediately preceded Tokugawa's landmark victory at Sekigahara in 1600. Further, these invasions, had they succeeded, were merely a prelude to an intended incursion into China (under the Ming). The Japanese were not prepared to deal with the Koreans (whom they thought contemptible, especially after two centuries of peace), and their two military fiascoes (1592 and 1597) came as a shock. Turnbull knows military equipment, tactics, personalities, social classes, and art. The text is lavishly illustrated, and the maps are clear and plentiful. The resulting book is both fascinating and delightful, while at the same time a real contribution to scholarship. All levels and collections. R. B. Lyman Jr. Brandeis University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. 4
Prologuep. 7
1. Korea and Japanp. 8
2. Japan and Koreap. 22
3. The Year of the Dragonp. 40
4. A Slow March to Chinap. 66
5. The Defeat of the Japanese Armadap. 82
6. South to the Naktong--North to the Yalup. 108
7. The Year of the Snakep. 134
8. The Strange Occupationp. 162
9. The Korean Warp. 182
10. The Wajo Warsp. 204
11. The High Price of Korean Potteryp. 228
Appendix I Order of Battle for the First Invasionp. 240
Appendix II Order of Battle for the Second Invasionp. 240
Appendix III The List of Heads at Namwonp. 241
Appendix IV The Turtle Shipp. 243
Notesp. 245
Bibliographyp. 251
Indexp. 254