This is a more-or-less complete list of the books I have drawn upon when making this site. My "top three picks" are written in bold.


Birt, Michael P.Samurai in passage: The transformation of the sixteenth-century Kanto (Journal of Japanese studies, vol. 11) This essay looks at the process of divorcing the samurai from the soil, also touching the battlefield reasons which ultimately necessitated this. It deals especially with the Hojo and has some useful thoughts on the 1559 registry and the nature of the Hojo retainer band.
Jansen, Marius B. (ed.)Warrior rule in JapanComprised of chapters taken from Volumes 3 and 4 of The Cambridge History of Japan. Rather dry but very interesting reading especially on how the different shogunates, and later the baku-han system, worked.
Kure, MitsuoSamurai: an illustrated historyInteresting; it features a different take on some things than most other authors do. Not really trustworthy on all matters. It contains useful info on several campaigns. One of my favourite chapters is the one where he ridicules modern adherents of bushido, his "Chaos in the Kanto" chapter is also a lot of fun and contains lots of useful info.
Masaaki Hatsumi Ninjutsu: History and Tradition Very little history and tradition as such, quite a bit of equipment and techniques. Not very useful.
Miyamoto MusashiThe book of five rings (1643 AD)I found his chapter "On knowing the advantages of weapons in martial arts" (Earth Scroll) most interesting.
Sinclaire, CliveSamurai: the weapons and spirit of the Japanese warriorVery good on weapons; the history bit is sort of an abstract of Turnbull's "The Samurai: A Military History". Limited value for wargamers.
Solum, Terje"The Kai Takeda" series - my overview on the series "The Kai Takeda" series contains 4 books thus far. They contain a lot of detailed info, and draw heavily on the Koyo Gunkan and other primary sources. All the books have interspersed a lot of sketches; though prettily done they usually have nothing to do with the text in the book so provide little for me. The cupious photographs are sometimes of little value. The colour plates are pretty and sometimes valuable not only for a newbie. Several strategic maps are provided in each volume; though their colour coding is suboptimal they are indispensable for understanding the text, which often goes into a lot of depth. The books are IMO not a newbie's best introduction to Takeda history; however, with the wealth of facts presented they really are indispensable if you want to go somewhat deep into the subject matter.
Solum, TerjeTakeda Nobutora: The Unification of Kai - The Kai Takeda 2 (1494-1574)A lot of detail on a period of Takeda history only cursorily treated in most other works.
Solum, TerjeTakeda Shingen - The Kai Takeda 3 (1521 - 1548) More info on Singen's early years than you will find in any other work available in western languages. On some points I'm slightly suspicious of the text. It goes into a lot of detail on a multitude of shorter campaigns and engagements; you might loose the overall grasp of events unless consentrating and using the maps actively. For the serious Takeda student this book is a must. It can IMO with advantage be read in conjunction with e.g. the opening chapters of Turnbull's "Kawanakajima 1553-64", which presents an abstracted view of the same events.
Solum, TerjeShingen in Command - The Kai Takeda 4 (1549 - 1558)I haven't read this yet
Skoss, Diane (editor)Sword & Spirit: Classical warrior traditions of Japan volume 2 Contains several small essays, of interest to Takeda players is "Kyujukyu Kakun: The Ninety-Nine Precepts of the Takeda Clan" by Shingen's brother Takeda Nobushige (boring reading though most samurai moral laws are) and the interesting essay "Neglected Treasure: The Koyo Gunkan" by Alexander C. Bennett. The rest of the book consists of essays aimed at the parctitioner of bugei (traditional Japanese martial arts), though IMO advanced students of budo could equally benefit from reading them.
Turnbull, StephenThe Samurai SourcebookAn excellent book which contains a wealth of hard facts. If you have this book you can drop buying many of Turnbull's other books as pretty much all "core" samurai info is in it. There is a higher density of facts per word than in any other book by Turnbull, which makes for effective reading. Not a very exciting book so might not suit people of only a casual interest; if you have a genuine interest you really need to have this in your library.
Turnbull, StephenSamurai WarfareAnother excellent book which IMO is a must-buy for any wargamer or potential rules writer. Its main focus is on the Sengoku Jidai. Has info beyond the Samurai Sourcebook in its field; it traces developments in weaponry and tactics and goes into detail wrt things like army composition and how the sengoku battle was executed. In addition to being full of facts this book is exciting even for the reader with only a casual interest in the subject matter.
Turnbull, StephenThe Samurai: A Military HistoryUseful for the full timeline of samurai military history. Has info on several campaigns and battles.
Turnbull, StephenSamurai - the warrior traditionContains 2 books, "Samurai Warlords: The Book of the Daimyo" and "Samurai warriors". A very good book, easily accessible, pretty artwork of somewhat suspicious accuracy. Contains among other things petty much all info we have on Takeda heraldry, and the Takeda muster which appears in Koyo Gunkan. Non-Takeda players are as likely to find a lot of useful facts, esp. Uesugi and Hojo get a good treatment.
Turnbull, StephenThe Lone Samurai and the Martial Arts Of more interest to martial artists than wargamers, the book is still interesting, especially wrt weapon choice for the samurai through the ages.
Turnbull, StephenSamurai Invasion - Japan's Korean War 1592-1598Pretty complete info which is good. I personally had hoped for a bit more info on the makeup of the different contingents sent to Korea (not merely overall numbers per clan; a bit more detailed info for some contingents do exist) and, if this info exists at all, some info on the makeup of Korean and Chinese forces. You won't find a better book on the war, though. I found the way it deals with wartime atrocities fitting; something which is too frequently forgotten perhaps especially in samurai litterature.
Turnbull, StephenSamurai Warlords: The Book of the DaimyoSee "Samurai - the warrior tradition"
Turnbull, StephenSamurai warriorsSee "Samurai - the warrior tradition"
Turnbull, StephenEssential Histories: War in Japan 1467 - 1615A very good introduction to the period, consentrating on and explaining overall trends, usually using concrete examples.
Yagyu MunenoriThe book of family traditions on the art of war (1632 AD)I didn't fint this book very useful.

Osprey books

Most Osprey books are OK, but limited. You can mostly drop buying any of them if you have 2-3 books of more substance in your library. Exceptions to this rule are noted.

Bryant, Anthony JThe Samurai (Elite 23)
Bryant, Anthony JEarly Samurai AD 200-1500 (Elite)
Bryant, Anthony JSamurai 1550-1600 (Warrior 7)
Bryant, Anthony JSekigahara 1600 (Campaign 40)This is OK
Turnbull, StephenJapanese Castles 1540-1640 (Fortress 5)Pretty good IMO - but I have little else on fortifications
Turnbull, StephenNagashino 1575 (Campaign 69)Good on this campaign and especially the Takeda army - though most info on the Takeda army can be gleaned from the Samurai Sourcebook.
Turnbull, StephenAshigaru 1467-1649 (Warrior 29)Quite useful unless you have a lot on ashigaru already. Useful excerpts from Zohyo Monogatari though I believe they can all be found in "The samurai sourceook".
Turnbull, StephenSamurai Heraldry (Elite 82)Very useful for a wargamer. There isn't too much here on the famous clans, which can all be found in other works. This might come as a surprise to some.
Turnbull, StephenSamurai Armies 1550-1615 (Men-at-Arms 86)
Turnbull, StephenKawanakajima 1553-64 (Campaign 130) Very good on this campaign and the Suwa campaign preceding it, adds lots of colour, very nice and historically sound colour plates, a must-buy for Takeda players. If you require more detail it can be found in appropriate volumes of Solum's "The Kai Takeda" series - though I suggest you get this one first.
Turnbull, Stephen Ninja AD 1460-1650 (Warrior 64) Very good, actually.
Turnbull, Stephen Samurai commanders (1) 940-1576 (Elite 125)
Turnbull, Stephen Samurai commanders (2) 1577-1638(Elite 125) Good on Maeda Toshiie and Sasa Narimasa; all else is better covered in a lot of other books.

In general, I've been surprised at all the historically incorrect information found in various works aimed at martial artists.

Rules systems

I've also been surprised at the lack of rule sets which actually have some luck recreating the Sengoku Jidai battlefield. We made a set of our own, which combines our preferences:

Gameplay is fairly similar to the DBx family of games. The system doesn't provide a lot of colourful "fantasy samurai" elements, but will provide solid, enjoyable games.

You can download the Gekokujo rules set if you're interested.

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