Taiko: An Epic Novel of War and Glory in Feudal Japan by Eiji Yoshikawa
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
So, I finally finished Eiji Yoshikawa's "Taiko" and what can I say? It's a beautifully written book of war and glory that focuses mainly on two famous generals in Japanese history-Nobunaga and Hideyoshi. Honestly, I've heard of Nobunaga from the video game series, "Nobunaga's Ambition," but I wasn't familiar with Hideyoshi, who is the focal character of this book, until I read about him here. And man, this guy could talk his way out of anything. He'd turn enemies into lifelong companions, and with such humility and kindness that it would seem outright genuine. Who knows? Hideyoshi, as shown in this book, just might have been. The author, Yoshikawa, never makes Hideyoshi seem like he had ulterior motives, and instead paints him as an ambitious man who rose from nothing and became the man who shaped Japan. It's an inspiring and wonderful read.
That said, it's not as good as "Musashi," which Yoshikawa also wrote. There are too many scenes of war in this book, and too many battles on display. It gets a little tiresome in the middle, and you actually crave more quiet time with the characters. Amidst all the violence, those are the highlights.
There are also a lot of Japanese names being thrown around here, and as a historical text, I know they're important, but I liked the focus more on one or two characters in "Musashi." "Taiko" is a very broad book, while "Musashi" was a much smaller one in scope with a larger than life central protagonist. I liked that honed in focus more.
Still, "Taiko" is a must-read. If you love reading about Japanese history in the feudal times and have also read the James Clavell novels, then you should definitely pick up this book. But, if you have a choice, read "Taiko" first and then "Musashi." You'll be all the better for it.
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