Title: The Last Shogun: The Life of Tokugawa Yoshinobu
Author: Ryotaro Shiba (司馬 遼太郎, SHIBA Ryōtarō)
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Kodansha America (August 20, 2004)
Product Dimensions: 8 x 5.4 x 0.9 inches
When someone mentioned "The Last", what would come into your mind?
And when someone mentioned the word "Shogun", what would have also come into your mind?
Some of you might have known the title "The Last Samurai", but this review is not about that one. This is about "The Last Shogun".
Now, bringing to you: "The Last Shogun: The Life of Tokugawa Yoshinobu", the English translation from Japanese original "Saigo No Shogun".
This book is about the life story of Tokugawa Yoshinobu, the 15th and fascinating final successor to the powerful Tokugawa shogunate. The book tells us the story from his birth into the Mito clan, until his ascension to the title of shogun.
The story is well written and narrated by Japan's popular and prolific Shiba Ryotaro, a historical novelist and newspaper reporter, and translated into English by Juliet Winters Carpenter.
There is something that readers will probably notice: it is like reading a Japanese book in English, instead of reading an English book based upon the Japanese one. A reader who knows Japanese language will recognize the style in this historical novel, and Shiba's deep appreciation for Tokugawa Yoshinobu is easy to understand. Shiba took the facts about Tokugawa Yoshinobu's life (1837-1913) and created a book of reality, I mean, history ... that reads like fiction perfectly. I read somewhere, when this book was originally released, it was published as "historical fiction," since it followed a much more narrative style than most history books usually do. But this is indeed a history book!
The Last Shogun is mesmerizingly a good read, and absorbing. This is an awesome exploration towards a well known person throughout Japan's history, a hero who was also a loner. This is not only about the final successor to the powerful Tokugawa shogunate, this is also about his unique characteristic before and after becoming the Shogun, his exploration, his wisdom and way of thinking, and his own life. His way of thinking might be applicable even in the present Japanese politics.
Those who wish to know more about Japanese history and shogun, this book is recommended for you. A book that might trigger most readers to wonder "What if Tokugawa Yoshinobu had ...?" and to even start digging further about Japanese culture.
Absorbing reading. Those who enjoy such historical and political genre, would mostly enjoy reading this historical novel and the narrative exploration. In my humble opinion, the English translation alone is also worth five stars.