Does anybody have recommendations for samurai novels?

So, does anybody else like reading samurai and Edo-period historical fiction? I do, but I find it a bit tricky to identify authors who write interesting stories that aren’t too difficult to read, so I have a tendency to stick with the authors I know rather than branching out. So I figured I’d post a few authors I’ve enjoyed reading and see if anybody else had suggestions…

藤沢周平 : probably my favourite author. He likes writing about low-ranking samurai struggling with the demands of their situation (and often failing). I would recommend starting with 用心棒日月抄, which is about a samurai who runs away from his clan to Edo after being falsely accused of murder, and becomes a swordsman-for-hire/bodyguard to make enough money to eat. The book alternates stories of bodyguard work with a plot arc about identifying who framed him and gathering evidence to clear himself. Unlike some of the author’s other work, there’s a fair leavening of humour and it’s less downbeat. Language is what I would characterise as medium-ish difficulty. If you like that there are three more in the same series.

赤川次郎 : Akagawa has written so many books he’s done something in most genres, historical included. I like the 鼠 series (first book is 鼠、江戸を疾る) which are all short stories set in Edo starring a playboy-by-day master-thief-by-night. As usual for Akagawa, reading level is pretty easy (there are still the usual bits of genre vocabulary and a certain amount of samurai-speak to deal with, but that’s true of the whole genre and doesn’t take too long to get used to).

葉室麟 : I’ve only read a couple by this author, but I liked 辛夷の花, which is about 志桜里, who is living with her parents after the failure of her marriage, when a mysterious samurai who supposedly has sworn never to draw his sword again moves in next door…


吉川英治(よしかわえいじ)wrote 宮本武蔵(みやもとむさし)

I haven’t read it (though I plan to soon) , but I’ve scanned the first few pages on Aozora Bunko and it doesn’t look incredibly hard.

He also wrote an adaptation of 三国志 which doesn’t have anything to do with samurai, but might be of interest too.


Ah, I’ve read that in the English translation. It’s good (and looking at the Aozora Bunko text I agree that it looks straightforward) but it’s very long… my English copy is a 1000-page doorstop, and the Japanese paperback edition seems to be 8 volumes!