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Giving Up the Gun: Japan's Reversion to the Sword, 1545-1879
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Giving Up the Gun: Japan's Reversion to the Sword, 1545-1879

3.85 of 5 stars 3.85  ·  rating details  ·  128 ratings  ·  16 reviews
Was there ever a time when a civilization, technically sophisticated, and in full possession of its senses, reverted in an earlier, less advanced technology? You bet - Japan, 1543-1879. During this period Japan effectively prohibited all manufacture of firearms and gunpowder, and isolated itself from the rest of the world with a blockade that remained successful until Comm ...more
Paperback, 136 pages
Published October 1st 1988 by David R. Godine (first published 1979)
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Feb 09, 2008 Nick rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Students of history or of Japanese culture
This book is a brief but interesting study of a culture which encountered a technology, saw its advantages and disadvantages, and simply said "no thanks". Contrary to what we're often taught in school, the Japanese did not give up the use of firearms because they ended contact with the European nations. They were already making guns, for their own use and to export to China. Japanese flint-and-striker tobacco lighters may have inspired the use of a similar device in European firearms, although t ...more
Sep 13, 2012 A rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: history
Noel Perrin questions the simple idea that progress in military technology is needed in order to produce a society that is advancing on all fronts. The abandonment of the gun by Japanese people for almost three centuries lead to peace and advancement in many fronts. There's a historical lesson here for nuclear disarmament and arms races.

There are a number of problematic comparisons between Japan and the west here and a meandering style to the writing. Ultimately these are minor compared to the g
Such an interesting perspective... a society that chose to move "backwards" in terms of warfare; from the gun to the sword. Fascinating.
David R.  Godine
"This is a significant story, and Perrin tells it marvelously well, with rich detail, captivating quotations from observers of the time, both Japanese and Western, and a wealth of revealing comparisons with contemporary technology, warfare, and life in Europe. This little book is both thought-provoking and a delight to read."
— Edwin O. Reischauer, Former U.S. Ambassador to Japan

"Professor Noel Perrin has written an elegant monograph, magnificently illustrated with a wealth of Japanese prints."
A very interesting short study of the use of firearms in Japan: why did they, after adopting them in the 16th century with great success, stop using them (a lot to do with aristocratic culture), and how (the Tokugawa shogunate managed to establish a single centralized manufactury and government monopoly, which could be shut down, plus widespread disinterest meant that no one was really trying to break the monopoly). The author points out that Japan was by no means "backward" during the seventeen ...more
Jul 26, 2007 Kanawinkie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those interested in Japanese culture and/or guns
Neol Perrin writes a very interesting book dealing with the specific topic of Japan from the 16th to the 19th century and it's experience with guns.

It is very well written and easy to read. Although it is an academic read, Perrin never gets too technical to lose those of us (like me!) that have no real knowledge of Japanese history OR guns and his use of humor keeps it entertaining enough to read all the way through.

He packs in a lot of information and provides a wide range of sources and docume
There were more samurai in Japan than there were nobles in Europe (8% of the population as opposed to 1% of the population. For fifty years before the ban the Japanese were very good gunsmiths and musketeers. The Japanese were such fierce fighters that they didn’t fear invasion. The sword had great symbolic value. It was the only token of nobility, the “soul of the samurai,” and also a major work of art. They made no distinction between the beautiful and the utilitarian. The ban was both an anti ...more
I read this more for study purposes rather than for enjoyment, but it was a really nice introduction. Perrin manages to write concisely as to not bore the reader and makes interesting comparisons West vs. East. He illustrates things wonderfully with his, at times quite humorous, anecdotes and makes it less heavy to read.

While upon further research not all his statements in the book might be true, it is still a wonderful introduction to the topic.
Eh...the answer to why the Japanese gave up the gun and reverted to the sword was because they preferred swords, and because they were isolated so they never fought in wars. We didn't need a whole book about that. This book was not as fascinating or revelatory as I had hoped it would be. The author had a bone to pick about dialing back the clock on I think nuclear proliferation that he quietly wove throughout the book. It would have worked better as an article.
Daniel Burton-Rose
An admirable attempt to use the example of Edo Japan's strict control and eventual rejection of the superior military technology of firearms to implicitly think through the feasability of nuclear non-proliferation. Only problem is, according to more recent social historians, guns were everywhere in the Japanese countryside: they were never "given up."
I thought the book was really interesting because it contained many woodblock prints of the "gun-jutsu" before the samurai officially gave up the gun. I can't really remember any real parts from the book beside the fact that I read the entire thing in one sitting after work at B&N.
This was an interesting look at how Japan gave up an entire form of technology in the 17th century. While Perrin is no expert on Japan, and his overall observations about technology are a little dated, he is a superb writer who makes his arguments effectively and with passion.
I good, brief introduction to the prominence of the sword and its victory over the gun for so long. Makes me want to read an entire history of the country. But that will have to wait.
Pretty cool history of "Japan's Reversion to the Sword, 1543-1879".
Feb 10, 2011 elizabeth marked it as to-read
giving up the gun! ahaha, i might want to read this book (: ...more
Dan Goodman
"Japan's Reversion to the Sword, 1543-1879."
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