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About William De Lange
William de Lange is the author of books, ebooks and apps on Japan's traditional culture, from history, samurai culture, to arts & crafts, and language dictionaries.
Bio: William de lange was born in 1964 in Naarden, the Netherlands to Dutch and English parents. In the late 1980s, he aborted his English studies to embark on a journey that eventually led him to Japan, where he supported himself by making traditional Japanese scrolls and writing articles for the Japan Times Weekly. Following his graduation from Leiden University in 1994, he lived in Japan for the remaining decade, studying the art of Japanese fencing under Akita Moriji sensei, eighth dan master of the Shinkage-ryu. Since then he has written a large number of books on Japanese history and culture, including a highly acclaimed biography of Miyamoto Musashi. He is currently working on a history of the Yagyu clan.
William de Lange lives and works in the Netherlands and loves to travel, enjoying good food and wine with the love of his life.
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William de Lange has translated all known extant texts on Musashi and draws on his research to illuminate controversial or even unknown events of the swordsman's life. These include the source of his troubled relationship with his father, his whereabouts during the Battle of Sekigahara, his unheralded heroism in the summer siege of Osaka castle, and his adventures over the years that followed. We learn of the hidden anger that impelled him to kill his first opponent in duel at age twelve, his single-minded destruction of the reigning Yoshioka sword clan, and his meticulously orchestrated showdown with the great Sasaki Kojiro on Ganryu Island. And finally we follow the remarkable gestation of his Book of Five Rings, the summation of his martial philosophy.
Surpassing his teachers and peers Musashi created a school of swordsman- ship unprecedented in Japanese martial history, the art of fighting with two swords: Niten Ichi-ryu. Yet throughout his life a yearning for respect was overshadowed by his disdain of authority; an attraction to the mayhem of battle competed with a joy in the contemplation of beauty; and a ceaseless quest for perfection in his art denied him the emotional ties for which he longed. The complex portrait of Musashi that emerges here is a far cry from the one-dimensional caricature in film and folklore.
This groundbreaking encyclopedia is the first work in the English language to offer a comprehensive overview of the history, architecture, and all the attending aspects of Japanese castles. It references a total of 370 castles, giving unprecedented in-depth information on all of Japan’s remaining original castles, 101 of its reconstructions, and 68 of its major ruins. Comprised of five parts, it covers all aspects of Japan’s rich castle culture.
It covers their long and fascinating history: from the earliest fortifications during the late sixth century, the rise of mountain strongholds during the Kamakura period, the veritable explosion of castles during the Warring States period, the vast Tokugawa citadels of the early Edo period, the incredibly destructive years of the early Meiji period, the dramatic years of World War II, and the post-war decades of revival and reconstruction.
It covers their various functional aspects: the epic construction projects involving thousands of laborers and specialists, the emerging castle towns, the laws that regulated a castle’s garrison and its town’s populace. It deals with the various methods of siege warfare and the many other dangers facing a medieval castle. And it revisits what it was like to enter a magnificent stronghold such as Edo Castle at the height of its glory.
It covers the countless design features: the selection of their location, the layouts of their walls and moats. It describes in detail the types of keeps, turrets, gates, bridges, and many other castle structures. And it goes into the complicated terminology of their architectural details.
Its most impressive feature, however, is the 400-page long, one-by-one in-depth biography of each castle and ruin of note: their origin, their often dramatic history, the layout of their grounds, the architectural features of their buildings, their sad demise, and, in many cases, their remarkable recovery.
Further context and background information is given in an appendix with detailed maps, comprehensive lists of Japan’s castles at various time periods, those abolished during the Meiji period, and those in the top 100—all rounded off with an extensive 350-term glossary and an 1800-entry index.
For anyone with a serious interest in Japanese castles, this 600-page, full-color tome with over 700 images and maps is the ultimate go-to reference.
This first full Yagyū history in the English language recounts how, through a succession of misfortunes beyond their control, the Yagyū clan first lost its independence, then its castle and domains, until finally its members were thrown upon the mercy of a local temple. Yet it was in the very depth of those bleak and desperate years, that its leader, Yagyū Muneyoshi, discovered his true strength and began his clan's remarkable recovery—a recovery crowned with the ascendancy of his son, Munenori, to the exalted rank of Daimyō.
It is perhaps no coincidence that the two Chinese characters that make up the name of Yagyū stand for the willow tree and life, or the giving of birth, for both seem to sum up perfectly the particular characteristics that helped propel this ancient clan to such exalted heights. Like the pliable willow tree, it was their resilience in the face of irresistible forces that enabled the Yagyū to outweather the raging storms of fortune and remain standing, alive and well, their spirit intact. In doing so, the Yagyū gave birth to an art of fencing that has survived for more than five centuries. Among the countless schools of swordsmanship brought forth by Japan's feudal era the Yagyū Shinkage-ryū still stands out for its sheer continuity.
Part II, the Bukōden, is one of the earliest such records still in existence. It was completed in 1755 by Toyoda Masanaga, senior retainer to the Nagaoka, a clan closely involved in the events of Musashi's later life. The Bukōden throws a new and refreshing light on many aspects of especially Musashi's later life--his adoption of Iori, his return to Kyushu in 1634, and of course the gestation of his great work on the philosophy and art of Japanese swordsmanship, the Book of Five Rings. Now, for the first time in two-and-a-half centuries, Masanaga's insight into this enigmatic and solitary swordsman is available to the English reader.
Part III, A Miscellany, presents translations of nearly two dozen texts describing important events in Musashi's life, dating from the mid-seventeenth to the late-nineteenth century. They include the Tomari jinja munefuda, by Musashi's adopted son Iori; the Yoshioka-den, the clan records of the rivaling Yoshioka clan, the Kōkō zatsuroku, describing Musashi's heroic role in the siege of Osaka castle; the Dobo goen, on his liaison with a Yoshiwara geisha; the Sōkyū-sama o-degatari on his role in the Shimabara Rebellion; and the Numata kaki, written by the keeper of the castle where Musashi stayed at the time of his famous duel on Ganryu Island.
Two such men were Ono Jirōemon Tadaaki and Yagyū Tajima no Kami Munenori. Tadaaki, a swordsman from the Kanto, had lost his family and home to become a rōnin, a masterless samurai, forced to lead the life of a wanderer. Munenori hailed from the Home Provinces. His clan had first lost its castle, then its lands, until finally they were thrown upon the mercy of a local temple. Having lost everything, both men staked their lives and futures on the victory of the eastern forces. Theirs’ is a story of loyalty, of betrayal, of seemingly insurmountable setbacks. Their courage in the face of overwhelming odds still stands as moving testimony to a kind of perseverance and dedication that can have no equal in times of peace.
Two such men were Iizasa Chōisai Ienao and Kami Izumi Nobutsuna. Both not only witnessed but actively participated in the dramatic events of the period at hand. Thus, Ienao served on the Shogunal guard when, following the outbreak of the Ōnin War in 1467, the capital Kyoto was reduced to ashes in a decade of trench warfare. And thus Nobutsuna had to witness how, in the terrible wave of anarchy that followed in its wake, all that his ancestors had toiled for was lost.
Part I, The Bushû denraiki is the earliest such record still in existence. Completed in 1727 by Tachibana Minehide, the fifth generation master of Musashi's Niten Ichi school of fencing, it is the most reliable record of Musashi's life and exploits outside those from the hand of the master swordsman himself. Now, after three centuries, Minehide's insight into this solitary and enigmatic swordsman are available to the English reader. His text throws a new and refreshing light on many aspects of especially Musashi's early life--his troubled relations with his father, his first battle experience during Japan's period of unification, the sad death of his illegitimate child, and of course his legendary duel on Ganryû island. For those interested in the sword culture of Japan, this true story of its most iconic figure is essential reading.
William de Lange draws on his extensive research to illuminate controversial or even unknown events of the swordsman's life: the source of his troubled relationship with his father, his whereabouts during the Battle of Sekigahara, his unheralded heroism in the summer siege of Osaka castle, and his adventures over the years that followed. We learn how he killed his first opponent in duel at age twelve, his single-minded destruction of the reigning Yoshioka sword clan, and his meticulously orchestrated showdown with the great Sasaki Kojiro on Ganryu Island. And finally we follow the remarkable gestation of his Book of Five Rings, the summation of his martial philosophy.
Surpassing his teachers and peers Musashi created a school of swordsmanship unprecedented in Japanese martial history, the art of fighting with two swords: Niten Ichi-ryu. Yet throughout his life a yearning for respect was overshadowed by his disdain of authority; an attraction to the mayhem of battle competed with a joy in the contemplation of beauty; and a ceaseless quest for perfection in his art denied him the emotional ties for which he longed. The complex portrait of Musashi that emerges here is a far cry from the one-dimensional caricature in film and folklore.
De Lange takes the reader right back to the 16th century’s closing decades. In the course of the ensuing journey, we witness the major battles fought by the country's three great unifiers: Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, and Tokugawa Ieyasu.
Quoting directly and at length from a wide range of contemporary sources, De Lange paints events and figures like no other, ‘so richly rendered,’ according to one critic, ‘that you’d swear he was present at the time, taking notes.’
Samurai Battles is an epic account of a dramatic period in Japanese history—a period in which the whole country was consumed by the fire of civil strife that raged hardest on the field of battle.
One such warrior was Yagyu Tajima no Kami Munenori (1571-1648), a great swordsman from the Kanto region. During the ferocious wars of the medieval era, his clan had first lost its castle, then its lands, until finally it was thrown upon the mercy of a local temple. Munenori was forced to become a ronin, a masterless samurai, destined to lead the life of a wanderer. Having lost everything, Munenori staked his future on the victory of the eastern forces. His is the story of the tragedy of civil war experienced at the personal level—a story of loyalty, of betrayal, of seemingly insurmountable setbacks. His courage in the face of overwhelming odds stands as moving testimony to the kind of perseverance and dedication that can have no equal in times of peace. Moreover, long after the fighting, the sword style and skills that saw him through the heat of battle lived on, and came to dominate the art of fencing during the Edo period, the Yagyū Shinkage-ryu.
About the Famous Samurai Series: No history of Japan’s medieval era can be complete without touching on the lives and exploits of those men who fought in its epic conflicts: the samurai. Of the thousands who took part in the major and minor battles of that turbulent period, a handful stood out; it was their martial skills that won the day and changed history. This series recounts their amazing but factual stories, and will include such famous warriors as Kamiizumi Nobutsuna, Ono Tadaaki, Itto Kagehisa, Nenami Jion, and Iizasa Ienao. Each volume includes many photos, maps, and diagrams, plus a chronology, glossary, and index.
Walking Japan's coastal route in search of beauty, William de Lange encounters a string of local characters. Recording their stories, he braids a travelogue deftly interwoven with his own experiences since he ﬁrst set foot in Japan some thirty years ago.
A sequel to A Fool's Journey, A Fool's Return is an exploration of one of Japan's perhaps less scenic but certainly most historic routes. Above all, it is a gaijin 's exploration of his relationship with a country that continues to defy deﬁnition.