New: Osprey – Samurai Heraldry

Samurai Heraldry

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Author: Stephen Turnbull
Illustrator: Angus McBride
Publication Date: 25 Mar 2002
Number of Pages: 64

The dazzling spectacle presented by the armies of medieval Japan owed much to the highly developed family and personal heraldry of samurai society.

From simple personal banners, this evolved over centuries of warfare into a complex system of flags worn or carried into battle, together with the striking ‘great standards’ of leading warlords. While not regulated in the Western sense, Japanese heraldry developed as a series of widely followed practices, while remaining flexible enough to embrace constant innovation.

Scores of examples, in monochrome and full colour, illustrate this fascinating explanation of the subject by a respected expert on all aspects of samurai culture.

Biographical Note

Stephen Turnbull is a leading English language authority on medieval Japan and the samurai. He has travelled extensively in the Far East, particularly in Japan and Korea, and is the author of a number of major books on the subject.

He has contributed several titles to the Osprey Military list since his original Men-at-Arms 86, Samurai Armies 1550-1615, in 1979. Angus McBride, one of the world’s most respected historical illustrators, has contributed to more than 70 Osprey titles.

He worked in advertising agencies from 1947, and is a self-taught artist. In 1953 Angus emigrated to South Africa. He came back to the UK in 1961, and has worked freelance ever since. With his family he returned to South Africa in 1976, since when he has lived and worked in Cape Town.


  • Appearance of mon as early as Nara period 12th C Taira & Minamoto wars, hata-jirushi 13th
  • 14th Cs: the Mongol invasions period, 15th
  • 16th Cs: heraldry carried on shields, nobori banners, sashimono flags attached to armour, maku screens Army organisation produces system of coloured unit flags
  • symbols Buddhist & Christian symbolism Uma-jirushi commanders’ flags Tsukai-ban messenger corps: the horo displayed cloak
  • 17th C: the fully developed system of the early Edo period.

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