The subtitle to this article tells you most of what you need to know:
Christobel Hasting, “How Onna-Bugeisha, Feudal Japan’s Women Samurai, Were Erased From History: While most Japanese women were subject to rigid social expectations of domesticity, onna-bugeisha women warriors who were known to be to be every bit as strong, capable, and courageous as their male counterparts” https://broadly.vice.com/en_us/article/a383aj/female-samurai-onna-bugeisha-japan
My reaction when I saw this on twitter was
“Oh, no, Stephen Turnbull has another book. Massive conflation of eras and classes (Tokugawa-era samurai women described as ‘protecting their villages’!), uncritical use of sources (Tomoe Gozen, of Heike monogatari fame, of course), emergency measures as norms, etc.”
Obviously, I can’t tell until I see the book itself how many of these errors are built into the book and how many of them are the fault of the article-writer (It’s not a review, so much as an uncritical rehash). But I’ve read Turnbull works before, and I have not been impressed by his historical skills. He knows a lot, but he doesn’t know what to do with it.
In this case, there’s almost nothing in the article that isn’t pretty well-known to Japanese historians: Aside from Tomoe Gozen, the main figure in the article is the leader of the ‘women’s corps’ in the defense of Aizu during the Bakumatsu wars, who shows up in Shiba Goro’s and Yamakawa Kikue’s writings.
As usual, Turnbull makes way too much of Tokugawa era martial arts culture, and his argument about historical erasure would be much more convincing if historians hadn’t done all this work already.
I’ve reviewed Turnbull work before:
- On Ninja: http://www.froginawell.net/japan/2005/07/summer-reading-note-ninja/ (and https://www.froginawell.net/frog/2011/09/the-three-stages-of-ninja/ )
- On the Japanese invasions of Korea: https://www.froginawell.net/frog/2005/07/summer-reading-notes-turnbull/ (see also: https://www.froginawell.net/frog/2016/12/a-thought-on-military-and-transnational-history-in-lieu-of-a-review/)