The Fifth Ishibashi Foundation Lecture Series (2018)

External event - Kokugakuin University

Sunday 9 December, 2018

Tokiwamatsu Hall, Kokugakuin University

Blades, Bushi and Benkei: Weapons and Warfare in Premodern Japan

In association with the Organization for the Advancement of Research and Development, Kokugakuin University
Sponsored by the Ishibashi Foundation

Opening remarks
Masuhisa Akai, President, Kokugakuin University
David Richardson,  Chair of the Sainsbury Institute & Vice-Chancellor of UEA

Lecture 1
Searching for the Swordsmen: A Short History of Battle
Karl Friday, Saitama University & University of Georgia

While early modern warriors worshiped swords as “the soul of the samurai,” and modern audiences, schooled on samurai movies, envision medieval battlefields as melees of close-quarter combat with bladed weapons, in reality swords played only a tiny, auxiliary role in premodern warfare. This lecture will explore the evidence supporting this conclusion; the social, cultural and political reasons why swords played such a small part in battles; and the difficulties inherent in efforts by earlier generations of historians to identify a point at which swords came to dominate Japanese battles.

Lecture 2
Monastic Warfare and Sōhei in Japanese History
Mikael Adolphson, University of Cambridge

Benkei is an iconic figure in Japanese history, representing a group of monastic warriors known as sōhei. Prevalent in many representations from the late medieval and the eraly modern age, these sōhei are almost without exception depicted with head cowls and naginata, seen as typical for these warriors. But is this how they really fought? How can we know that such images represent the particular warfare strategies by monastic forces? These and other questions surrounding the weapons and battle strategies used by the so-called sōhei will be explained in this lecture.

Panel Discussion
Takashi Uchikawa, Kokugakuin University

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