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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

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  149 Ratings  ·  19 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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Jon(athan) Nakapalau
Japan is the only civilization to reject a weapon because it did not fit with the philosophical/cultural norms/values that the warrior class lived by (Bushidō).
Feb 09, 2008 Nick rated it really liked it
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
Aug 24, 2016 Brendan rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Gun Control Activists
This is a fairly small yet oddly dense read. Oddly dense because it's clearly two books mashed up into one. The first is a very poor, un-imagined, unrealistic history. the other is a thought provoking social essay that is VERY on point with gun control c.a. 2016 America.

The History... two major points.... the War Tales, like the 'Heike' are tales. Stories. Poems. They exemplify ideals! THEY ARE NOT HISTORY. They may follow real events, but that background is about where it stops. Those tales are
Sep 13, 2012 A rated it really liked it
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
Aug 22, 2007 Chantel rated it really liked it
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
Dec 24, 2008 David R. Godine rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
"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."
May 28, 2011 Vasha7 rated it really liked it
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
Dec 31, 2008 Bruce rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 26, 2007 Kanawinkie rated it liked it
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
Dec 25, 2013 Sasha rated it liked it
Shelves: educational
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.
Jun 14, 2011 Kara rated it it was ok
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.
Peter Wolfley
Nov 14, 2016 Peter Wolfley rated it liked it
The Japanese have an incredible culture and history. The fact that an entire County was able to turn it's back on a technology for the sake of culture and tradition is remarkable. After reading this one I felt like there are probably a few technological conveniences that we could probably do without and it would even do us some good.
Daniel Burton-Rose
Aug 01, 2012 Daniel Burton-Rose rated it liked it
Shelves: japan
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."
Feb 05, 2013 Mike rated it really liked it
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.
Jan 28, 2013 Mark rated it liked it
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.
Jul 01, 2008 Bean rated it liked it
Shelves: 2008-reads
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.
Chandra rated it really liked it
Oct 30, 2013
Adrián rated it liked it
Jun 28, 2011
Alan rated it really liked it
Jul 21, 2009
Phil Grant
Phil Grant rated it it was amazing
Jan 14, 2015
Andy rated it it was ok
Oct 08, 2013
Feb 10, 2011 elizabeth marked it as to-read
giving up the gun!♥ ahaha, i might want to read this book (:
Stephen C
Stephen C rated it liked it
Sep 30, 2010
Rob rated it really liked it
Oct 25, 2012
Kathryn rated it it was amazing
Jan 09, 2015
Michelle rated it really liked it
Aug 30, 2010
liz.nicole rated it really liked it
Oct 23, 2008
Matthew Ellis
Matthew Ellis rated it it was amazing
Jul 28, 2014
Rob Mason
Rob Mason rated it it was ok
Feb 15, 2014
Carolyn Norton
Carolyn Norton rated it liked it
Sep 18, 2013
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Japan and Guns 1 7 Apr 28, 2010 11:50AM  
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Noel Perrin was a professor of English literature, an essayist for the Washington Post, a hobbyist farmer, and a Korean War veteran.
More about Noel Perrin...

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