As someone finishing up a Master’s degree in late medieval Japanese history, I understand how frustrating finding resources in English can be. Therefore, today we’re going to feature a site for studying Japanese history that I’ve too long neglected to feature on Shinpai deshou. The Samurai Archives Japanese History Webpage is a great place to start for both beginning and advanced learners.
As the title suggests, the focus of the site is on warriors and military aspects of Japan. However, this does not preclude a lot of other fantastic pieces of historical information, and the outgoing and related links open up the materials to a number of different fields. The SA website aims to be an extensive database of various historical aspects of “old Japan.” There are so many great features on this site I could probably break them each down into a separate post and ramble forever, but here are the main highlights:
The Samurai Archives Japanese History Wiki is a great work in progress attempting to create a reliable database of articles properly cited and fact-checked for students and scholars to cross-reference historical events, people, dates, and many other items. Only approved editors can contribute and copy-paste jobs from the actual Wikipedia aren’t allowed, so people serious about looking for dependable facts will find the SA wiki a great way to get started. The Japanese History Wiki is the source of many of the main sections of the Samurai Archives website, such as famous samurai, famous women, emperors and empresses, and samurai battles, but there are a number of other great collections of information featured on the main page.
For example, those researching individual figures can find material on famous Sengoku generals of certain major houses like the Oda, Takeda, Mōri, among others. If politics is your area, you can find selected translations of daimyo house codes and lists of who held Sengoku era ranks and titles. For those artistically inclined like myself, I found the images of family crests and banners particularly awesome. I didn’t invest in any books of that sort while I was in Japan, but it’s great to know that if I come across a crest (or, you know, a tenugui full of them) I need to identify there’s a one-stop resource online for it. Also great for reference materials are the genealogies for major families, glossary of terms list, and the reference page for Japanese historical names with their kanji. Although there’s plenty more to be added, for those getting started without much Japanese under their belts or having a problem identifying the specifics of a figure or battle from a frustrating Japanese text, these pages will be really useful to kick off from or fall back on.
The Samurai Archives also maintains a number of blogs on historical topics, including their main history blog, an ancient history blog (dealing largely with archaeology), and the Samurai Archives’ recent venture into history podcasts (just last month they covered the AAS conference in Honolulu, so keeping up with the SA podcast will be a great way to be up to date with what’s going on in the academic field as well!). Plus, there’s an online forum where you can get involved in the Samurai Archives community that has tons more information on a variety of topics.
Better stop here before my history geekery gets any more intense (the longer I browse their cafepress shop online the more I want to buy an Oda crest shirt…), but I highly suggest you check out the numerous pages Samurai Archives offers and bookmark it as a future resource for all kinds of historical research. There’s so much history yet to be covered and you can be sure that the website will only keep expanding to offer more great things. You can keep up with the Samurai Archives updates via their forums, twitter account or Facebook page.