In another thread "Giving up the gun" by Noel Perrin was mentioned. The quotes posted below made me think that a seperate thread on this book may be helpful. I have read this book several times, and quoted from it as well. For me this is a very important and well written book, taking into account that the author was not a student of Japanese history and that this book was published in 1979, well before the internet made researching so much easier for authors to track down references which are used to back up what they write.
Before this book was written (especially when I was young) I can not remember any mention of samurai using guns, in writtings that I can remember reading and in illustrations I saw, samurai were depicted as wearing armor and fighting with swords and bows. Perrin's book brought a different perspective to the average person who had little access to historical documents and books. He included in his book illustrations of samurai and ashigaru actually using guns from period scrolls and books, something not seen before in any book that I am aware of from this time period. Since this book has been published I know of only a couple of other books on the subject of the introduction and use of matchlocks in Japan. Until the time that someone puts together all of the currently known information and writes a new book, this book is still one of the best references the average person can read.
In relation to the quotes below, I do not believe that Perrin ever stated that the Japanese totally abandoned the use of guns, or that as a whole they detested guns. He does state that some individual samurai were not thrilled with using guns for warfare. He mentions that samurai liked to use guns for hunting. He mentions that the Edo period government made extensive efforts to remove guns for the hands of non-samurai and to control their production. I think all of these things are verifiable.
Some people feel that Perrin was using his book as a way to suggest that in modern times we could follow the example of the samurai and stop using guns as well, you will have to read the book and decide for yourself if this is the case, but even if you find this to be true it does not change the value of this book when it comes to the primary subject. Anti-gun advocates have ocassionally used this book as an example of how we could change our views on guns / weapons, the military etc, and pro-gun advocates have tried to disparage Perrin's book completely in order to counter what they see as a book that advocates removing guns and disarming our society.
The fact is that the samurai did go from a society that heavily relied on guns in warfare to a society were guns were not commonly used for aggressive purposes and then back to a society were guns were once again heavily used in warfare. The reasons for this can be argued and disputed but written and pictoral evidence seems to show this to be true. The fact that the majority of samurai never switched over from the matchlock to other more modern forms of firearms when other cultures did is also a fact. Other forms of firearms were known and introduced and used but the primary firearm remained the matchlock up until the point were they had no choice and were virtually forced to change over to new modern firearms.
Peter Bleed, on 25 Mar 2016 - 1:59 PM, said:
In 1979 and thoughtful guy who knew very little about Japan - Noel Perrin - wrote book called "Giving up the Gun..." He said that the Japanese had copied European firearms in the 16th century - very well - but then proceeded to "give them up". For that reason the Japanese had to once again copy European firearms designs after they were forced into the modern world - yahhh dahhhh yahhh dahhh - in the 1850s. This story became very popular suggesting to some folks that 1) the Japanese are copiers or 2) peaceful, or 3) that disarmament can happen or 4) that it can't. It has also been the subject of lots of discussion as to whether or not it is true that the Japanese ever really and truly "gave up the gun.
Sources like the one we are discussing here clearly show that the Japanese did not simply or completely 'give up the gun'. Peter
Viper6924, on 26 Mar 2016 - 12:18 PM, said:
I think the biggest error with Noel's book is his notion that the samurai "gave up" the gun because of some sort of ethic reasons and that they also detested the very sight of a matchlock.
The samurai was warrior. If they would have gotten hold of a Tomahawk missile during the early 17th century they would have blown away half the main island without thinking twice about. If it killed the enemy = very good.
And had Noel taking his time to study local matchlock history, he would have found that some samurai during the relative peaceful 18-19th century honored the history of the local style of matchlock and actually spent money ordering new guns instead of spending them on the real symbol of the warrior class, the sword. Jan