Japanese Castles: Strongholds of the Samurai

Third Thursday Lectures
Thursday 18 Dec 2014 | 6 pm

Weston Room, Norwich Cathedral Hostry

Dr Stephen Turnbull
SOAS, University of London

December TTL Image 3Every Third Thursday of the month, the Sainsbury Institute for the Study of Japanese Arts and Cultures hosts a lecture on a topic related to the art and culture of Japan. Talks begin at 6pm (50-minute lecture followed by refreshments). Speakers are all specialists in their field and the talks are intended to be accessible to those with no prior knowledge of Japanese history.

Admission is free and all are welcome. Booking essential.

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The lecture will be held at the Weston Room, Cathedral Hostry, Norwich NR1 4DH. The Third Thursday Lecture series is funded by the Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation, Yakult and the Robert and Lisa Sainsbury Charitable Trust.


About the Lecture

The magnificent castles of Japan such as Himeji, Hikone and Matsumoto are well known to visitors to Japan. In this lecture Stephen Turnbull looks beyond these palatial fortresses to the reality of castle construction and castle life during the time of Japan’s civil wars. Beginning with the fortified stockades of the Nara Period he shows how mountains were sculpted to create the classic yamashiro of the Age of War. He also shows how castles could be protected against siege attacks, earthquakes, bad weather and of course the famous ninja. The lecture will conclude with a behind-the-scenes account of how Stephen Turnbull was involved in the design, construction and stunt filming of the replica of Kumamoto Castle built at Shepperton Studios for the movie 47 Ronin.

About the Speaker

Stephen Turnbull took his first degree at Cambridge and has two MAs (in Theology and Military History) from Leeds University. In 1996 he received a PhD from Leeds for his work on Japan’s ‘Hidden Christians’. His work has been recognised by the awarding of the Canon Prize of the British Association for Japanese Studies and a Japan Festival Literary Award. In 2008 he was appointed Visiting Professor of Japanese Studies at Akita International University, a position he still holds. Now retired, Stephen Turnbull is also a Research Associate at SOAS and an Honorary Lecturer at Leeds. He currently divides his time between an annual trip to Akita to teach and much freelance research and advisory work. His interests are focused on Japanese religion and military history and he has published 72 academic and popular books on these themes together with several journal articles. His expertise was also put to use in helping design the award-winning computer strategy game Shogun Total War, and in 2010 he acted as Historical Adviser to Universal Pictures for the movie 47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves, a role that included helping with a full sized Japanese castle that was built on set. Dr. Turnbull’s current academic research projects include a study of Japanese mercenaries in South East Asia in the seventeenth century and a major comprehensive survey of Japan’s phallic shrines.

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A monthly lecture series supported by



The Great Britain Sasakawa Foundation