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GURPS Japan – Cover

You can find an index of all the GURPS bibliographies we have online here. If you spot any broken links or other problems with this page, please report them to

Bibliography for GURPS Japan

General References

Collcutt, Martin, et al. Cultural Atlas of Japan.

De Mente, Boye Lafayette. The Japanese Have a Word for It: The Complete Guide to Japanese Thought and Culture. Although dealing with the modern Japanese language, most of the insights are applicable to the historic culture as well.

Dunn, Charles J. Everyday Life in Traditional Japan. Covers Tokugawa era Japan in detail, with many interesting illustrations.

Hearn, Lafcadio. Japan: An Attempt at Interpretation. Hearn lived and taught in Japan for many years. He studied its culture, history, and folklore, and his books are cited as sources by Japanese ethnologists.

Mitford, A.B. Tales of Old Japan. Gives a number of stories from the Ashikaga and Tokugawa eras as well as an appendix on proper etiquette for committing seppuku.

Nagel's Japan Travel Guide. Includes historical associations of almost every town in Japan, with extensive maps including diagrams of shrines and temples.

Papinot, E. Historical and Geographical Dictionary of Japan. Covers clans, historical figures, towns, castles, and more, with extensive maps.

Perkins, Dorothy. Encyclopedia of Japan. From abacus to zori.

Sansom, George. Japan: A Short Cultural History. A classic introduction to the people and events that shaped Japan. He also has a more in-depth three-volume work, A History of Japan. The second volume covers the Warring States Period, and the third the Tokugawa Era.

Schirokauer, Conrad. A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations. Especially useful if you plan to run a campaign including both countries.

Specialized Information

Dorson, Richard M. Folk Legends of Japan. A good collection of Japanese folklore.

Halford, Aubrey S. and Giovanna M. Halford. The Kabuki Handbook. Summarizes many kabuki plays and has useful notes on Japanese culture.

Morris, Ivan. The Nobility of Failure: Tragic Heroes in the History of Japan. Traces the Japanese idealization of the heroic failure from early mythology through Sugawara no Michizane, Minamoto Yoshitsune, and Amakusa Shiro to the kamikaze pilots of World War II.

Nozaki, Kiyoshi. Kitsuné: Japan's Fox of Mystery, Romance, and Humour. Comprehensive work on the most common hengeyōkai.

Ross, Catrien. Supernatural and Mysterious Japan: Spirits, Hauntings and Paranormal Phenomona. A treasure trove for Illuminated and other High Weirdness campaigns.

Sato, Hiroaki. Legends of the Samurai. A collection of original writings of samurai, translated with commentary by Sato. An great source of insight into the samurai mind.

Seki, Keiko. Folktales of Japan. Another good collection. Both this book and the Dorson book above are keyed to Stith Thompson Motif-Indexes of Folk Literature.

Statler, Oliver. Japanese Inn: A Reconstruction of the Past. An interesting and vivid presentation of Tokugawa Era history.

Totman, Conrad. Tokugawa Ieyasu: Shogun. One of the few samurai biographies currently available in English, and a good look at the machinations of the unification.

Martial Arts

Draeger, Donn F. and Robert W. Smith. Asian Fighting Arts. A well-researched and informative book on the schools of combat skills and combat arts.

Kim, Sun-Jin, et al. Tuttle Dictionary of the Martial Arts of Korea, China & Japan. All the little terms for distinguishing a ryogan tsuki (thrust to both eyes) from a ryote dori (seize both hands of the opponent).

Ratti, Oscar and Adele Westbrook. Secrets of the Samurai: A Survey of the Martial Arts of Feudal Japan. Lots of illustrations add to the detailed descriptions of the martial training of the samurai.

Turnbull, Stephen. Samurai Warfare. Dr. Turnbull has many excellent books about the samurai out, and they are widely available.

Yumoto, John. The Samurai Sword: A Handbook. Aimed primarily at katana collectors, this book has a lot of information on sword history.

Osprey Military

Osprey publishes a wide range of books, aimed primarily at the miniatures gamer, covering soldiers and their weapons around the world and through the ages. They are lavishly illustrated.

Bryant, Anthony. The Early Samurai. (Elite Series #23).

Bryant, Anthony. Samurai: 1550-1600. (Warrior Series #7).

Bryant, Anthony. Sekigahara 1600. (Campaign Series #40).

Turnbull, Stephen. Samurai Armies: 1550-1615. (Men-At-Arms Series #86).


Blaker, Richard. The Needle Watcher. A more historically accurate telling of the story found in Clavell's Shōgun.

Clavell, James. Shōgun. Perhaps the best-known English novel of feudal Japan.

Hearn, Lafcadio. Kwaidan. An anthology of traditional tales.

Rowland, Laura Joh. Shinjū. Not so much a murder mystery as a look at the police procedure of the time, and at the place of the samurai during the extended period of peace. Other books by this author: Bundori, The Way of the Traitor, The Concubine's Tattoo, The Samurai's Wife, Black Lotus, The Pillow Book of Lady Wisteria, The Dragon King's Palace, The Perfumed Sleeve, The Assassin's Touch, Red Chrysanthemum, and The Snow Empress.

Sakai, Stan. Usagi Yojimbo. An anthropomorphic comic series set in 17th-century Japan. Several softcover collections are available.

Yoshikawa, Eiji. Musashi. A top-notch fictionalization of the life of legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi. The hardcover edition is a good value – it was split into five books for paperback publication.


Chushingura (Hiroshi Inagaki, 1962). One of the many retellings of The 47 Rōnin, and perhaps the best.

Kagemusha (Akira Kurosawa, 1980). Set in 1574, during the unification of Japan. A common thief poses as the recently assassinated Takeda Shingen to keep the enemies of the Takeda from seizing the opportunity to strike.

Kwaidan (Masaki Kobayashi, 1964). Japanese ghost stories, including a Snow Maiden story.

Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985). Kurosawa's homage to King Lear.

Shōgun (Jerry London, 1980). The mini-series based on the book. There is also an abridged one-tape VHS version, but it omits too much and becomes jumbled. It does have a more reasonable price-tag, though . . .

Yojimbo (Akira Kurosawa, 1962). Set in 1860, the sunset of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Remade as a western (A Fistful of Dollars), a fantasy (The Warrior and the Sorceress) and a gangster movie (Last Man Standing).


Roleplaying Games

There are many roleplaying games and game supplements with Asian flavor; the list here concentrates on those that deal primarily with historical Japan.

Bushido (Fantasy Games Unlimited), by Robert Charrette and Paul Hume.

Land of the Rising Sun (Fantasy Games Unlimited), by Lee Gold.

Sengoku (Gold Rush Games), by Anthony J. Bryant and Mark Arsenault.

Ninja Hero (Hero Games/Gold Rush Games), by Aaron Allston.

In addition, Grey Ghost Games' A Magical Medley includes a chapter on Chinese magic which is quite usable as a Japanese magic system as well.

Tabletop Games

Honor of the Samurai (Gamewright), by Scott Kimball. A card game, but with some historical information.

Killer Katanas (Bradford & Fyvie), by Brian Bradford and Robert Fyvie. Miniatures rules for samurai warfare.

Samurai (The Avalon Hill Game Company), by Dan Campagna. A light grand strategic game with a system similar to Kingmaker.

Samurai (GMT Games), by Richard Berg and Mark Herman. Chits-and-hexes simulation of six battles during the sengokujidai.

Samurai (Hans im Gluck/Rio Grande Games), by Reiner Knizia. Not a simulation, but rather a strategy game based on Knizia's earlier Euphrat & Tigris.

Samurai Swords (Milton Bradley). Part of their GameMaster series of light grand strategy games.

Shogun Triumphant (XTR Games), by Richard Berg. Published in Command Magazine #23. The Battle of Sekigahara.

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