Let the Shadow Warrior Speak

Tuesday, September 1, 1998

Author: Hitomi Tonomura
Author email address: tomitono@umich.edu
Institution: University of Michigan

  • Department of History, 2633 Haven Hall, 647-7943
  • Center for Japanese Studies, 764-6307

Office hours in Haven Hall: Tue, 10:00 to 12:00 or by appointment

Rescued at an execution ground, the deceased overlord’s look-alike was fitted into the role of kagemusha (Shadow Warrior). Now the pillar of the Takeda house and guardian of its strength and honor, the former thief viewed the world from new heights. We will see the film, Kagemusha, and explore the historical time and place in which this shadow warrior found himself. The course investigates the social and political meanings of the “Country-at-war (sengoku),” Japan’s age of turmoil (16th century) which continues to stimulate the creative imagination of film directors, novelists and tour organizers. In my view, among the many popular samurai films, The Shadow Warrior (Kagemusha) stands closest to the actual historical events.

Broadly viewed, this is a course on the history of the samurai. Although officially abolished as a class in 1871, the figure of the samurai still occupies a central position in Japanese culture. After all, the country was politically and socially dominated by its professional warrior order for more than half its recorded history. By no means a singular historical character, however, the samurai transformed greatly over nearly a millenium of their history. How do we situate our Shadow Warrior in this history? Aspects to be considered include technology and social meanings of wars and battles, economic development and classes, education and cultural accomplishments, gender relations, and the movement toward pacification.


  • Class attendance and completion of occasional quizzes. (25%)
  • Two take-home essay-style examinations (50%)
  • A short investigation paper on a topic of your choice: for example, castle construction, technology of warfare, Zen and the samurai, sexuality and the samurai, marriage in the warring period, etc. (25%)

Graduate students are required to write an additional paper. Please discuss the theme with me and get my agreement for the topic chosen for the paper.


The following books can be purchased at Shaman Drum Bookshop, located at 313 S. State Street.

  • George Elison and Bardwell Smith, Warlords, Artists, and Commoners: Japan in the Sixteenth Century
  • A.L.Sadler, The Code of the Samurai (author, Daidôji Yûzan, 1639-1730)
  • Marius Jansen, ed., Warrior Rule in Japan
  • H. Paul Varley, Warriors of Japan

Your coursepack is at Accu-Copy (402 Maynard). Coursepack readings are marked * below.

All the readings, including these books and the coursepack, should be on reserve.