An Encyclopedia of Japan's Cultured Warriors

by Constantine Nomikos Vaporis


Samurai were a large-scale military aristocracy who were able to impose and maintain a period of peace in Japan that lasted more than two centuries.

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March 2019


Pages 419
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics World History/Culture
  Military History/General

Alphabetically arranged entries along with primary source documents provide a comprehensive examination of the lives of Japan's samurai during the Tokugawa or Edo period, 1603–1868, a time when Japan transitioned from civil war to extended peace.

The samurai were an aristocratic class of warriors who imposed and maintained peace in Japan for more than two centuries during the Tokugawa or Edo period, 1603–1868. While they maintained a monopoly on the legitimate use of violence, as a result of the peace the samurai themselves were transformed over time into an educated, cultured elite—one that remained fiercely proud of its military legacy and hyper-sensitive in defending their individual honor.

This book provides detailed information about the samurai, beginning with a timeline and narrative historical overview of the samurai. This is followed by more than 100 alphabetically arranged entries on topics related to the samurai, such as ritual suicide, castles, weapons, housing, clothing, samurai women, and more. The entries cite works for further reading and often include sidebars linking the samurai to popular culture, tourist sites, and other information. A selection of primary source documents offers firsthand accounts from the era, and the volume closes with a selected, general bibliography.


  • Highlights important events related to the samurai and overviews the background of the samurai
  • Offers more than 100 alphabetically arranged reference entries for authoritative information about the samurai and their world
  • Includes sidebars of interesting facts, notes the role of the samurai in popular culture, and mentions various tourist sites for readers to visit
  • Provides suggestions for further reading, and an end-of-work bibliography directing users to other important works about the samurai
  • Features more than 50 photos related to the samurai and their world
Author Info

Constantine Nomikos Vaporis, PhD, is professor of history at University of Maryland, Baltimore County. He is author of Breaking Barriers: Travel and the State in Early Modern Japan; Tour of Duty: Samurai, Military Service in Edo; The Culture of Early Modern Japan; Nihonjin to sankin kôtai (The Japanese and Alternate Attendance); and Voices of Early Modern Japan: Contemporary Accounts of Daily Life during the Age of the Shoguns, which received the 2013 Franklin R. Buchanan Prize for Curricular Materials from the Association for Asian Studies.



"Vaporis has accomplished what no scholar has before; a thorough, reliable encyclopedia of samurai culture and history useful for students, scholars, and casual readers alike. A classic that won't be surpassed anytime soon."—Michael Wert, Associate Professor, Marquette University

"This reference work by a cutting-edge academic is exceptional. As a single-authored encyclopedia with entries of uniform quality and lots of rare photographs, it fills a glaring educational need among students and general readers. Vaporis vividly conveys what life was like for samurai in the period 1568 to 1871. His breadth, judiciousness, and reliability of factual coverage, as well as his concise, enjoyable style, are superb for popularizing without watering down the material in a way that specialists will find enlightening."—Bob Tadashi Wakabayashi, Emeritus Professor of History, York University

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