Bushido

Bushido

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, meaning "Way of the Warrior-Knight", is a Japanese word which is used to describe a uniquely Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

ese code of conduct
Code of Conduct
A code of conduct is a set of rules outlining the responsibilities of or proper practices for an individual, party or organization. Related concepts include ethical codes and honor codes....

 and a way of the samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry
Chivalry
Chivalry is a term related to the medieval institution of knighthood which has an aristocratic military origin of individual training and service to others. Chivalry was also the term used to refer to a group of mounted men-at-arms as well as to martial valour...

. It originates from the samurai
Samurai
is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau...

 moral code and stresses frugality
Frugality
Frugality is the quality of being frugal, sparing, thrifty, prudent or economical in the use of consumable resources such as food, time or money, and avoiding waste, lavishness or extravagance....

, loyalty
Loyalty
Loyalty is faithfulness or a devotion to a person, country, group, or cause There are many aspects to...

, martial arts
Martial arts
Martial arts are extensive systems of codified practices and traditions of combat, practiced for a variety of reasons, including self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, as well as mental and spiritual development....

 mastery, and honor unto death
Death
Death is the permanent termination of the biological functions that sustain a living organism. Phenomena which commonly bring about death include old age, predation, malnutrition, disease, and accidents or trauma resulting in terminal injury....

. Born from Neo-Confucianism during times of peace in Tokugawa Japan and following confucian texts, Bushido was also influenced by Shinto
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

 and Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, allowing the violent existence of the samurai to be tempered by wisdom
Wisdom
Wisdom is a deep understanding and realization of people, things, events or situations, resulting in the ability to apply perceptions, judgements and actions in keeping with this understanding. It often requires control of one's emotional reactions so that universal principles, reason and...

 and serenity. Bushidō developed between the 9th and 12th centuries and numerous translated documents dating from the 12th to 16th centuries demonstrate its wide influence across the whole of Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, although some scholars have noted "the term bushidō itself is rarely attested in premodern literature."

Under the Tokugawa Shogunate
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...

, aspects of bushidō became formalized into Japanese Feudal Law.

History Of The Term


The word was first used in Japan during the 17th century. It came into common usage in Japan and the West after the 1899 publication of Nitobe Inazō's Bushido: The Soul of Japan
Bushido: The Soul of Japan
Bushido: The Soul of Japan written by Inazo Nitobe is, along with the classic text Hagakure by Tsunetomo Yamamoto , a study of the way of the samurai. A best-seller in its day, it was read by many influential foreigners, among them President Theodore Roosevelt, President John F. Kennedy and Robert...

.

According to the Japanese dictionary Shogakukan Kokugo Daijiten
Nihon Kokugo Daijiten
The , often abbreviated as the and sometimes known in English as Shogakukan's Japanese Dictionary, is the largest Japanese language dictionary published. In the period from 1972 to 1976, Shogakukan published the 20-volume first edition. The 14-volume second edition was published in the period...

, "Bushidō is defined as a unique philosophy (ronri) that spread through the warrior class from the Muromachi (chusei) period."

In Bushidō: The Soul of Japan
Bushido: The Soul of Japan
Bushido: The Soul of Japan written by Inazo Nitobe is, along with the classic text Hagakure by Tsunetomo Yamamoto , a study of the way of the samurai. A best-seller in its day, it was read by many influential foreigners, among them President Theodore Roosevelt, President John F. Kennedy and Robert...

(1899), author Nitobe Inazō wrote:

"...Bushidō, then, is the code of moral principles which the samurai were required or instructed to observe... More frequently it is a code unuttered and unwritten... It was an organic growth of decades and centuries of military career."

Nitobe was not the first person to document Japanese chivalry in this way. In his text Feudal and Modern Japan, (1896) Historian Arthur May Knapp wrote: (broken reference)
"The samurai of thirty years ago had behind him a thousand years of training in the law of honor, obedience, duty, and self-sacrifice..... It was not needed to create or establish them. As a child he had but to be instructed, as indeed he was from his earliest years, in the etiquette of self-immolation
Self-immolation
Self-immolation refers to setting oneself on fire, often as a form of protest or for the purposes of martyrdom or suicide. It has centuries-long traditions in some cultures, while in modern times it has become a type of radical political protest...

. The fine instinct of honor demanding it was in the very blood..."

Early history to 12th century



The Kojiki
Kojiki
is the oldest extant chronicle in Japan, dating from the early 8th century and composed by Ō no Yasumaro at the request of Empress Gemmei. The Kojiki is a collection of myths concerning the origin of the four home islands of Japan, and the Kami...

is Japan's oldest extant book. Written in 712, it contains passages about Yamato Takeru
Yamato Takeru
, originally Prince Ousu was a Japanese legendary prince of the Yamato dynasty, son of Keikō of Yamato, a legendary monarch who is traditionally counted as the 12th Tennō or Emperor of Japan. The tragic tale of this impressive figure is told in the Japanese chronicles Kojiki and Nihon Shoki...

, the son of the Emperor Keiko
Emperor Keiko
; also known as Ootarashihikooshirowake no Sumeramikoto, was the 12th emperor of Japan, according to the traditional order of succession.No firm dates can be assigned to this emperor's life or reign, but he is conventionally considered to have reigned from 71–130.-Legendary narrative:Keikō is...

. It provides an early indication of the values and literary self-image of the Bushidō ideal, including references to the use and admiration of the sword by Japanese warriors.

This early concept is further found in the Shoku Nihongi
Shoku Nihongi
The is an imperially commissioned Japanese history text. Completed in 797, it is the second of the Six National Histories, coming directly after the Nihon Shoki and followed by Nihon Kōki. Fujiwara no Tsugutada and Sugano no Mamichi served as the primary editors...

, an early history of Japan written in the year 797. The chapter covering the year 721 is notable for an early use of the term and a reference to the educated warrior-poet ideal. The Chinese term bushi had entered the Japanese vocabulary with the general introduction of Chinese literature, supplementing the indigenous terms tsuwamono and mononofu.

An early reference to saburau — a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person of high rank — appears in Kokin Wakashū, the first imperial anthology of poems, (early 10th century). By the end of the 12th century, saburai ("retainer") had become largely synonymous with bushi, and closely associated with the middle and upper echelons of the warrior class.

Although many of the early literary works of Japan contain the image of the warrior, the term "bushidō" does not appear in early texts like the Kojiki. Warrior ideals and conduct may be illustrated, but the term did not appear in text until the Sengoku period
Sengoku period
The or Warring States period in Japanese history was a time of social upheaval, political intrigue, and nearly constant military conflict that lasted roughly from the middle of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th century. The name "Sengoku" was adopted by Japanese historians in reference...

, towards the end of the Muromachi era (1336–1573).

13th to 16th centuries


From the literature
Literature
Literature is the art of written works, and is not bound to published sources...

 of the 13th to 16th centuries, there exists an abundance of references to the ideals of Bushidō. Carl Steenstrup
Carl Steenstrup
Carl Steenstrup is a Danish translator of Japanese literature.Carl Steenstrup is known for translating several works of Japanese literature, mostly those relating to the historical development of Bushido, Japanese Feudal Law, and the Kakun of famous Samurai Leaders Hōjō Shigetoki and Imagawa...

 noted that 13th and 14th century writings (gunki) "portrayed the bushi in their natural element, war, eulogizing such virtues as reckless bravery, fierce family pride, and selfless, at times senseless devotion of master and man."

Compiled in 1371, the Heike Monogatari chronicles the struggle between the Minamoto and Taira clans for control of Japan at the end of the 12th century—a conflict known as the Gempei War. Clearly depicted throughout the Heike Monogatari is the ideal of the cultivated warrior. The warriors in the Heike Monogatari served as models for the educated warriors of later generations, and the ideals depicted by them were not assumed to be beyond reach. Rather, these ideals were vigorously pursued in the upper echelons of warrior society and recommended as the proper form of the Japanese man of arms. By the time of Imagawa Ryoshun's "Regulations" at the beginning of the 15th century, the Bushidō ideal was fairly clear, and the term itself came into widespread use.

Other examples of the evolution in the Bushidō literature of the 13th to 16th centuries included:

  • The Message Of Master Gokurakuji - Hojo Shigetoki (1198–1261)
  • The Chikubasho - Shiba Yoshimasa (1350–1410)
  • The Regulations Of Imagawa Ryoshun - Imagawa Sadayo (1325–1420)
  • The Seventeen Articles Of Asakura Toshikage - Asakura Toshikage (1428–1481)
  • The Twenty-One Precepts Of Hōjō Sōun
    Hojo Soun
    was the first head of the Late Hōjō clan, one of the major powers in Japan's Sengoku period. Born Ise Moritoki, he was originally known as Ise Shinkurō, a samurai of Taira lineage from a reputable family of Shogunate officials...

     - Hojo Nagauji (1432–1519)
  • The Recorded Words Of Asakura Soteki - Asakura Norikage
    Asakura Norikage
    , also known as Asakura Sōteki , was the eighth son of Asakura Toshikage and one of the prime entities of power, under headship, during the early Sengoku Period of Feudal Japan....

     (1474–1555)
  • The Iwamizudera Monogatari - Takeda Shingen
    Takeda Shingen
    , of Kai Province, was a preeminent daimyo in feudal Japan with exceptional military prestige in the late stage of the Sengoku period.-Name:Shingen was called "Tarō" or "Katsuchiyo" during his childhood...

     (1521–1573)
  • Opinions In Ninety-Nine Articles - Takeda Nobushige
    Takeda Nobushige
    was a samurai of Japan's Sengoku period, and younger brother of Takeda Shingen. Takeda Nobushige held the favor of their father, and was meant to inherit the Takeda lands, wealth and power, becoming head of the clan. However, Shingen rebelled against their father and seized the lands and power for...

     (1525–1561)
  • Lord Nabeshima's Wall Inscriptions - Nabeshima Naoshige
    Nabeshima Naoshige
    a retainer of the Ryūzōji clan during the Sengoku period of the 16th century. Naoshige was the son of Nabeshima Kiyosada and was known as Nobumasa throughout half of his career under the Ryūzōji. Naoshige proved himself as being one of the greatest generals under Ryūzōji Takanobu...

     (1538–1618)
  • The Last Statement of Torii Mototada - Torii Mototada
    Torii Mototada
    was a Japanese samurai of the Sengoku period through late Azuchi-Momoyama Period, who served Tokugawa Ieyasu. Torii died at the siege of Fushimi where his garrison was greatly outnumbered and destroyed by the army of Ishida Mitsunari...

     (1539–1600)
  • The Precepts of Kato Kiyomasa - Kato Kiyomasa (1562–1611)
  • Notes On Regulations - Kuroda Nagamasa
    Kuroda Nagamasa
    was a daimyo of Japan. He was the son of Kuroda Kanbei.In 1577, When Nagamasa was a small child, his father was condemned as a spy by Oda Nobunaga. Nagamasa was kidnapped and nearly killed as a hostage. Takenaka Hanbei ended up rescuing him....

     (1568–1623)


The sayings of Sengoku-period
Sengoku period
The or Warring States period in Japanese history was a time of social upheaval, political intrigue, and nearly constant military conflict that lasted roughly from the middle of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th century. The name "Sengoku" was adopted by Japanese historians in reference...

 retainers and warlords such as Kato Kiyomasa and Nabeshima Naoshige were generally recorded or passed down to posterity around the turn of the 16th century when Japan had entered a period of relative peace. In a handbook addressed to "all samurai, regardless of rank," Kato states:
"If a man does not investigate into the matter of Bushido daily, it will be difficult for him to die a brave and manly death. Thus, it is essential to engrave this business of the warrior into one's mind well."


Kato was a ferocious warrior who banned even recitation of poetry, stating:
"One should put forth great effort in matters of learning. One should read books concerning military matters, and direct his attention exclusively to the virtues of loyalty and filial piety....Having been born into the house of a warrior, one's intentions should be to grasp the long and the short swords and to die."


Naoshige says similarly, that it is shameful for any man to die without having risked his life in battle, regardless of rank, and that "Bushidō is in being crazy to die. Fifty or more could not kill one such a man." However, Naoshige also suggests that "everyone should personally know exertion as it is known in the lower classes."

17th to 19th centuries



Japan enjoyed a period of relative peace during the Sakoku
Sakoku
was the foreign relations policy of Japan under which no foreigner could enter nor could any Japanese leave the country on penalty of death. The policy was enacted by the Tokugawa shogunate under Tokugawa Iemitsu through a number of edicts and policies from 1633–39 and remained in effect until...

period from 1600 to the mid-19th century, also called the "Pax Tokugawa". During this period, the samurai class played a central role in the policing and administration of the country under the Tokugawa shogunate
Tokugawa shogunate
The Tokugawa shogunate, also known as the and the , was a feudal regime of Japan established by Tokugawa Ieyasu and ruled by the shoguns of the Tokugawa family. This period is known as the Edo period and gets its name from the capital city, Edo, which is now called Tokyo, after the name was...

. The bushidō literature
Bushido literature
Bushidō literature is the collection of written works that relate to Bushidō, a Japanese code of conduct loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry.-Kojiki:The Kojiki is Japan's oldest extant book. Written in 712 AD, it contains passages about...

 of this time contains much thought relevant to a warrior class seeking more general application of martial principles and experience in peacetime, as well as reflection on the land's long history of war. The literature of this time includes:
  • The Last Statement of Torii Mototada
    Torii Mototada
    was a Japanese samurai of the Sengoku period through late Azuchi-Momoyama Period, who served Tokugawa Ieyasu. Torii died at the siege of Fushimi where his garrison was greatly outnumbered and destroyed by the army of Ishida Mitsunari...

     (1539–1600)
  • Kuroda Nagamasa
    Kuroda Nagamasa
    was a daimyo of Japan. He was the son of Kuroda Kanbei.In 1577, When Nagamasa was a small child, his father was condemned as a spy by Oda Nobunaga. Nagamasa was kidnapped and nearly killed as a hostage. Takenaka Hanbei ended up rescuing him....

     (1568–1623)
  • Nabeshima Naoshige
    Nabeshima Naoshige
    a retainer of the Ryūzōji clan during the Sengoku period of the 16th century. Naoshige was the son of Nabeshima Kiyosada and was known as Nobumasa throughout half of his career under the Ryūzōji. Naoshige proved himself as being one of the greatest generals under Ryūzōji Takanobu...

     (1538–1618)
  • The Book of Five Rings
    The Book of Five Rings
    is a text on kenjutsu and the martial arts in general, written by the samurai warrior Miyamoto Musashi circa 1645. There have been various translations made over the years, and it enjoys an audience considerably broader than only that of martial artists: for instance, some business leaders find its...

    (Go Rin No Sho) by Miyamoto Musashi
    Miyamoto Musashi
    , also known as Shinmen Takezō, Miyamoto Bennosuke or, by his Buddhist name, Niten Dōraku, was a Japanese swordsman and rōnin. Musashi, as he was often simply known, became renowned through stories of his excellent swordsmanship in numerous duels, even from a very young age...

     (1584–1645)
  • Budoshoshinshu by Taira Shigesuke, Daidōji Yūzan
    Daidoji Yuzan
    was a samurai and military strategist of Edo period Japan. He was born in Fushimi in Yamashiro Province . Among the works he wrote in his late years was the widely circulated , an introduction to bushidō that was influential among middle- and lower-class samurai...

     (1639–1730)
  • Hagakure
    Hagakure
    Hagakure , or is a practical and spiritual guide for a warrior, drawn from a collection of commentaries by the samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo, former retainer to Nabeshima Mitsushige, the third ruler of what is now the Saga prefecture in Japan...

    as related by Yamamoto Tsunetomo
    Yamamoto Tsunetomo
    , also read Yamamoto Jōchō was a samurai of the Saga Domain in Hizen Province under his lord Nabeshima Mitsushige. For thirty years Yamamoto devoted his life to the service of his lord and clan...

     to Tsuramoto Tashiro
    Tsuramoto Tashiro
    was a young samurai who visited an aging recluse Yamamoto Tsunetomo on March 5, 1710 and remained fascinated by the older samurai of the Saga domain...

    .


The Hagakure
Hagakure
Hagakure , or is a practical and spiritual guide for a warrior, drawn from a collection of commentaries by the samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo, former retainer to Nabeshima Mitsushige, the third ruler of what is now the Saga prefecture in Japan...

contains many of the sayings of Sengoku-period
Sengoku period
The or Warring States period in Japanese history was a time of social upheaval, political intrigue, and nearly constant military conflict that lasted roughly from the middle of the 15th century to the beginning of the 17th century. The name "Sengoku" was adopted by Japanese historians in reference...

 retainer Nabeshima Naoshige
Nabeshima Naoshige
a retainer of the Ryūzōji clan during the Sengoku period of the 16th century. Naoshige was the son of Nabeshima Kiyosada and was known as Nobumasa throughout half of his career under the Ryūzōji. Naoshige proved himself as being one of the greatest generals under Ryūzōji Takanobu...

 (1537–1619) regarding Bushidō related philosophy early in the 18th century by Yamamoto Tsunetomo
Yamamoto Tsunetomo
, also read Yamamoto Jōchō was a samurai of the Saga Domain in Hizen Province under his lord Nabeshima Mitsushige. For thirty years Yamamoto devoted his life to the service of his lord and clan...

 (1659–1719), a former retainer to Naoshige's grandson, Nabeshima Mitsushige
Nabeshima Mitsushige
was a Japanese daimyo of the early Edo period. Famed for his forbidding of junshi, the form of traditional suicide whereby a retainer followed his lord in death. It was because of this dislike for junshi that one of his favorite retainers Yamamoto Tsunetomo would go on after his death to pen the...

. The Hagakure
Hagakure
Hagakure , or is a practical and spiritual guide for a warrior, drawn from a collection of commentaries by the samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo, former retainer to Nabeshima Mitsushige, the third ruler of what is now the Saga prefecture in Japan...

 was compiled in the early 18th century, but was kept as a kind of "secret teaching" of the Nabeshima clan until was the end of the Tokugawa era (1867). His saying "I have found the way of the warrior is death" was a summation of the willingness to sacrifice that bushido codified.

Tokugawa-era rōnin
Ronin
A or rounin was a Bushi with no lord or master during the feudal period of Japan. A samurai became masterless from the death or fall of his master, or after the loss of his master's favor or privilege....

 scholar and strategist Yamaga Sokō
Yamaga Soko
was a Japanese philosopher and strategist during the Tokugawa shogunate. He was a Confucian, and applied Confucius's idea of the "superior man" to the samurai class of Japan...

 (1622–1685) wrote extensively on matters relating to bushidō, bukyō (a "warrior's creed"), and a more general shido, a "way of gentlemen" intended for application to all stations of society. Sokō attempts to codify a kind of "universal bushidō" with a special emphasis on "pure" Confucian values, (rejecting the mystical influences of Tao and Buddhism in Neo-Confucian orthodoxy), while at the same time calling for recognition of the singular and divine nature of Japan and Japanese culture. These radical concepts — including ultimate devotion to the Emperor, regardless of rank or clan — put him at odds with the reigning shogunate. He was exiled to the Akō domain, (the future setting of the 47 Rōnin incident), and his works were not widely read until the rise of nationalism in the early 20th century.

The aging Tsunetomo's interpretation of bushidō is perhaps more illustrative of the philosophy refined by his unique station and experience, at once dutiful and defiant, ultimately incompatible with the mores and laws of an emerging civil society. Of the 47 Rōnin—to this day, generally regarded as exemplars of bushidō — Tsunetomo felt they were remiss in hatching such a wily, delayed plot for revenge, and had been over-concerned with the success of their undertaking. Instead, Tsunetomo felt true samurai should act without hesitation to fulfill their duties, without regard for success or failure.

This romantic sentiment is of course expressed by warriors down through history, though it may run counter to the art of war itself. This ambivalence is found in the heart of bushidō, and perhaps all such "warrior codes". Some combination of traditional bushidō's organic contradictions and more "universal" or "progressive" formulations, (like those of Yamaga Soko), would inform Japan's disastrous military ambitions in the 20th century.

19th and 20th centuries


Recent scholarship in both Japan and abroad has focused on differences between the samurai class and the bushidō theories that developed in modern Japan. Bushidō in the prewar period was often emperor-centered and placed much greater value on the virtues of loyalty and self-sacrifice than did many Tokugawa-era interpretations. Bushidō was used as a propaganda tool by the government and military, who doctored it to suit their needs. Scholars of Japanese history agree that the bushidō that spread throughout modern Japan was not simply a continuation of earlier traditions.

More recently, it has been argued that modern bushidō discourse originated in the 1880s as a response to foreign stimuli, such as the English concept of "gentlemanship," by Japanese with considerable exposure to Western culture. Nitobe Inazo's bushidō interpretations followed a similar trajectory, although he was following earlier trends. This relatively pacifistic bushidō was then hijacked and adapted by militarists and the government from the early 1900s onward as nationalism increased around the time of the Russo-Japanese War.

The junshi
Junshi
, refers to the medieval Japanese act of vassals committing seppuku upon the death of their lord...

suicide of General Nogi Maresuke and his wife on the death of Emperor Meiji occasioned both praise, as an example to the decaying morals of Japan, and criticism, explicitly declaring that the spirit of bushido thus exemplified should not be revived.

During pre-World War II and World War II Shōwa Japan
Showa period
The , or Shōwa era, is the period of Japanese history corresponding to the reign of the Shōwa Emperor, Hirohito, from December 25, 1926 through January 7, 1989.The Shōwa period was longer than the reign of any previous Japanese emperor...

, bushido was pressed into use for militarism, to present war as purifying, and death a duty. This was presented as revitalizing traditional values and "transcending the modern." Bushido would provide a spiritual shield to let soldiers fight to the end. As the war turned, the spirit of bushido was invoked to urge that all depended on the firm and united soul of the nation. When the Battle of Attu
Battle of Attu
The Battle of Attu, which took place from 11-30 May 1943, was fought entirely between forces of the United States and the Empire of Japan on Attu Island off the coast of Alaska. The action, which was part of the Aleutian Islands Campaign during the Pacific War, was the only land battle of World War...

 was lost, attempts were made to make the more than two thousand Japanese deaths an inspirational epic for the fighting spirit of the nation. Arguments that the plans for the Battle of Leyte Gulf
Battle of Leyte Gulf
The Battle of Leyte Gulf, also called the "Battles for Leyte Gulf", and formerly known as the "Second Battle of the Philippine Sea", is generally considered to be the largest naval battle of World War II and, by some criteria, possibly the largest naval battle in history.It was fought in waters...

, involving all Japanese ships, would expose Japan to serious danger if they failed, were countered with the plea that the Navy be permitted to "bloom as flowers of death." The first proposals of organized suicide attacks met resistance because while bushido called for a warrior to be always aware of death, but not to view it as the sole end, but the desperate straits brought about acceptance. Such attacks were acclaimed as the true spirit of bushido.

Denials of mistreatment of prisoners of war declared that they were being well-treated by virtue of bushido generosity. Broadcast interviews with prisoners were also described as being not propaganda but out of sympathy with the enemy, such sympathy as only bushido could inspire.

Tenets



Bushidō expanded and formalized the earlier code of the samurai, and stressed frugality, loyalty, mastery of martial arts
Martial arts
Martial arts are extensive systems of codified practices and traditions of combat, practiced for a variety of reasons, including self-defense, competition, physical health and fitness, as well as mental and spiritual development....

, and honor to the death. Under the bushidō ideal, if a samurai failed to uphold his honor he could only regain it by performing seppuku
Seppuku
is a form of Japanese ritual suicide by disembowelment. Seppuku was originally reserved only for samurai. Part of the samurai bushido honor code, seppuku was either used voluntarily by samurai to die with honor rather than fall into the hands of their enemies , or as a form of capital punishment...

 (ritual suicide
Suicide
Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one's own death. Suicide is often committed out of despair or attributed to some underlying mental disorder, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, alcoholism, or drug abuse...

).

In an excerpt from his book Samurai: The World of the Warrior, historian Stephen Turnbull
Stephen Turnbull (historian)
Stephen Richard Turnbull is a historian specializing in eastern military history, especially the samurai of Japan. The books he wrote are mainly on Japanese and Mongolian subjects.He attended Cambridge University where he gained his first degree...

 describes the role of seppuku in feudal Japan:

In the world of the warrior, seppuku was a deed of bravery that was admirable in a samurai who knew he was defeated, disgraced, or mortally wounded. It meant that he could end his days with his transgressions wiped away and with his reputation not merely intact but actually enhanced. The cutting of the abdomen released the samurai’s spirit in the most dramatic fashion, but it was an extremely painful and unpleasant way to die, and sometimes the samurai who was performing the act asked a loyal comrade to cut off his head at the moment of agony.


Bushidō was widely practiced, varying little over time, and across the geographic and socio-economic backgrounds of the samurai
Samurai
is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. According to translator William Scott Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning to wait upon or accompany a person in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau...

, who at one time represented up to 10% of the Japanese population. The first Meiji era census at the end of the 19th century counted 1,282,000 members of the "high samurai", allowed to ride a horse, and 492,000 members of the "low samurai", allowed to wear two swords but not to ride a horse, in a country of about 25 million.

Bushidō includes compassion for those of lower station, and for the preservation of one's name. Early bushidō literature further enforces the requirement to conduct oneself with calmness, fairness, justice
Justice
Justice is a concept of moral rightness based on ethics, rationality, law, natural law, religion, or equity, along with the punishment of the breach of said ethics; justice is the act of being just and/or fair.-Concept of justice:...

, and propriety. The relationship between learning and the way of the warrior is clearly articulated, one being a natural partner to the other.

Other parts of the bushidō philosophy cover methods of raising children, appearance, and grooming, but all of this may be seen as part of one's constant preparation for death — to die a good death with one's honor intact, the ultimate aim in a life lived according to bushidō. Indeed, a "good death" is its own reward, and by no means assurance of "future rewards" in the afterlife
Afterlife
The afterlife is the belief that a part of, or essence of, or soul of an individual, which carries with it and confers personal identity, survives the death of the body of this world and this lifetime, by natural or supernatural means, in contrast to the belief in eternal...

. Notable samurai, though certainly not all (e.g. Amakusa Shiro), have throughout history held such aims or beliefs in disdain, or expressed the awareness that their station — as it involves killing — precludes such reward, especially in Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

. On the contrary, the soul of a noble warrior suffering in hell or as a lingering spirit is a common motif in Japanese art and literature. Bushidō, while exhibiting the influence of Dao
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

 through Zen Buddhism, is a philosophy in contradistinction to religious belief, with a deep commitment to propriety in this world for propriety's sake.

Modern translations


Modern Western translation of documents related to Bushidō began in the 1970s with Carl Steenstrup
Carl Steenstrup
Carl Steenstrup is a Danish translator of Japanese literature.Carl Steenstrup is known for translating several works of Japanese literature, mostly those relating to the historical development of Bushido, Japanese Feudal Law, and the Kakun of famous Samurai Leaders Hōjō Shigetoki and Imagawa...

, who performed research into the ethical codes of famous Samurai clans including Hōjō Sōun
Hojo Soun
was the first head of the Late Hōjō clan, one of the major powers in Japan's Sengoku period. Born Ise Moritoki, he was originally known as Ise Shinkurō, a samurai of Taira lineage from a reputable family of Shogunate officials...

 and Imagawa Sadayo
Imagawa Sadayo
, also known as ', was a renowned Japanese poet and military commander who served as tandai of Kyūshū under the Ashikaga Bakufu from 1371 to 1395. His father, Imagawa Norikuni, had been a supporter of the first Ashikaga Shogun, Ashikaga Takauji, and for his services had been granted the position...

.

Primary research into Bushidō was later conducted by William Scott Wilson
William Scott Wilson
William Scott Wilson is known for translating several works of Japanese literature, mostly those relating to the martial tradition of that country. He is recognized by as "today’s foremost translator of classic Samurai texts." Mr. Wilson is also described as the world's foremost expert on the...

 in his 1982 text Ideals of the Samurai: Writings of Japanese Warriors. The writings span hundreds of years, family lineage, geography, social class and writing style — yet share a common set of values. Wilson's work also examined the earliest Japanese writings in the 8th century: the Kojiki
Kojiki
is the oldest extant chronicle in Japan, dating from the early 8th century and composed by Ō no Yasumaro at the request of Empress Gemmei. The Kojiki is a collection of myths concerning the origin of the four home islands of Japan, and the Kami...

, Shoku Nihongi
Shoku Nihongi
The is an imperially commissioned Japanese history text. Completed in 797, it is the second of the Six National Histories, coming directly after the Nihon Shoki and followed by Nihon Kōki. Fujiwara no Tsugutada and Sugano no Mamichi served as the primary editors...

, the Kokin Wakashū, Konjaku Monogatari, and the Heike Monogatari, as well as the Chinese Classics (the Analects, the Great Learning
Great Learning
The Great Learning was one of the "Four Books" in Confucianism. The Great Learning had come from a chapter in the Classic of Rites which formed one of the Five Classics. It consists of a short main text attributed to the teachings of Confucius and then ten commentary chapters accredited to one...

, the Doctrine of the Mean
Doctrine of the Mean
The Doctrine of the Mean , is both a concept and one of the books of Confucian teachings. The composition of the text is attributed to Zisi the only grandson of Confucius, and it came from a chapter in the Classic of Rites...

, and the Mencius
Mencius
Mencius was a Chinese philosopher who was arguably the most famous Confucian after Confucius himself.-Life:Mencius, also known by his birth name Meng Ke or Ko, was born in the State of Zou, now forming the territory of the county-level city of Zoucheng , Shandong province, only thirty kilometres ...

).

In May 2008, Thomas Cleary
Thomas Cleary
Thomas Cleary is a prolific author and translator of Buddhist, Taoist, Confucian and Muslim classics, and of the Chinese Art of War tradition of strategy and statecraft. He lives in Oakland, California in the United States.-Life and work:...

 translated a collection of 22 writings on Bushido "by warriors, scholars, political advisers, and educators". The comprehensive collection provides a historically rich view of samurai life and philosophy. The book, Training the Samurai Mind: A Bushido Sourcebook, gives an insider's view of the samurai world: "the moral and psychological development of the warrior, the ethical standards they were meant to uphold, their training in both martial arts and strategy, and the enormous role that the traditions of Shintoism, Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

, Confucianism
Confucianism
Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...

, and Taoism
Taoism
Taoism refers to a philosophical or religious tradition in which the basic concept is to establish harmony with the Tao , which is the mechanism of everything that exists...

 had in influencing samurai ideals." The translations, in 22 chapters, span nearly 500 years from the 14th to the 19th centuries.

Major figures associated with Bushidō

  • Miyamoto Musashi
    Miyamoto Musashi
    , also known as Shinmen Takezō, Miyamoto Bennosuke or, by his Buddhist name, Niten Dōraku, was a Japanese swordsman and rōnin. Musashi, as he was often simply known, became renowned through stories of his excellent swordsmanship in numerous duels, even from a very young age...

  • Morihei Ueshiba
    Morihei Ueshiba
    was a famous martial artist and founder of the Japanese martial art of aikido. He is often referred to as "the founder" or , "Great Teacher".-Early years:Morihei Ueshiba was born in Tanabe, Wakayama Prefecture, Japan on December 14, 1883....

  • Yamaga Sokō
    Yamaga Soko
    was a Japanese philosopher and strategist during the Tokugawa shogunate. He was a Confucian, and applied Confucius's idea of the "superior man" to the samurai class of Japan...

  • Yamamoto Tsunetomo
    Yamamoto Tsunetomo
    , also read Yamamoto Jōchō was a samurai of the Saga Domain in Hizen Province under his lord Nabeshima Mitsushige. For thirty years Yamamoto devoted his life to the service of his lord and clan...

  • Katō Kiyomasa
    Kato Kiyomasa
    was a Japanese daimyō of the Azuchi-Momoyama and Edo period.-Origins and early career:Kiyomasa was born in Owari Province to Katō Kiyotada. Kiyotada's wife, Ito, was a cousin of Toyotomi Hideyoshi's mother. Kiyotada died while his son was still young...

  • Torii Mototada
    Torii Mototada
    was a Japanese samurai of the Sengoku period through late Azuchi-Momoyama Period, who served Tokugawa Ieyasu. Torii died at the siege of Fushimi where his garrison was greatly outnumbered and destroyed by the army of Ishida Mitsunari...

  • Ogami Itto
  • Imagawa Ryōshun
  • Sakanoue no Tamuramaro
    Sakanoue no Tamuramaro
    was a general and shogun of the early Heian Period of Japan. He was the son of Sakanoue no Karitamaro.-Military career:Serving Emperor Kammu, he was appointed shogun and given the task of conquering the Emishi , a people native to the north of Honshū, which he subjugated...

  • Asano Naganori
    Asano Naganori
    was the daimyo of the Akō Domain in Japan . His title was Takumi no Kami . He is known as the person who triggered a series of incidents retold in a story known as Chushingura, one of the favourite themes of kabuki, joruri and Japanese books and films.He was born in Edo as the eldest son of Asano...

  • Tokugawa Ieyasu
    Tokugawa Ieyasu
     was the founder and first shogun of the Tokugawa shogunate of Japan , which ruled from the Battle of Sekigahara  in 1600 until the Meiji Restoration in 1868. Ieyasu seized power in 1600, received appointment as shogun in 1603, abdicated from office in 1605, but...

  • Tadakatsu Honda

See also

  • Budō
    Budo
    is a Japanese term describing martial arts. In English, it is used almost exclusively in reference to Japanese martial arts.-Etymology:Budō is a compound of the root bu , meaning war or martial; and dō , meaning path or way. Specifically, dō is derived from the Buddhist Sanskrit mārga...

  • Hagakure
    Hagakure
    Hagakure , or is a practical and spiritual guide for a warrior, drawn from a collection of commentaries by the samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo, former retainer to Nabeshima Mitsushige, the third ruler of what is now the Saga prefecture in Japan...

  • Japanese martial arts
    Japanese martial arts
    Japanese martial arts refers to the enormous variety of martial arts native to Japan. At least three Japanese terms are often used interchangeably with the English phrase "Japanese martial arts": , literally meaning "martial way", , which has no perfect translation but means something like science,...

  • The Unfettered Mind
    The Unfettered Mind
    is a three-part treatise on Buddhist philosophy and martial arts written by Takuan Sōhō, a Japanese monk of the Rinzai sect. The title translates roughly to "The Mysterious Records of Immovable Wisdom". The treatise was written as correspondence to Yagyū Munenori, inheritor to the Yagyū...

  • Zen
    Zen
    Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

  • Zen at War
    Zen at War
    Zen at War is a book written by Brian Daizen Victoria, first published in 1997. The second edition appeared in 2006. The book focuses on the history of Zen Buddhism and Japanese militarism from the time of the Meiji Restoration through the Second World War and the post-War period...


External links and further reading


  • "Bushido Arcade" a Contemporary translation of the Bushido http://www.rgbproject.com
  • William Scott Wilson, Ideals of the Samurai: Writings of Japanese Warriors (Kodansha, 1982) ISBN 0-89750-081-4
  • Training the Samurai Mind: A Bushido Sourcebook by Thomas Cleary 288 pages Shambhala (May 13, 2008) ISBN 1590305728 ISBN 978-1590305720
  • Katsumata Shizuo with Martin Collcutt, "The Development of Sengoku Law," in Hall, Nagahara, and Yamamura (eds.), Japan Before Tokugawa: Political Consolidation and Economic Growth (1981), chapter 3.
  • K. A. Grossberg & N. Kanamoto 1981, The Laws of the Muromachi Bakufu: Kemmu Shikimoku (1336) and Muromachi Bakufu Tsuikaho, MN Monographs (Sophia UP)
  • Hall, John C. "Japanese Feudal Laws: the Magisterial Code of the Hojo Power Holders (1232) ." Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan 2nd ser. 34 (1906)
  • "Japanese Feudal laws: The Ashikaga Code." Transactions of the Asiatic Society of Japan 1st ser. 36 (1908):
  • John Allyn, "Forty-Seven Ronin Story" ISBN 0-8048-0196-7
  • Imagawa Ryoshun, The Regulations of Imagawa Ryoshun (1412 A.D.) Imagawa Ryoshun
  • Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale, Final Statement of the 47 Ronin (1701 A.D.)
  • The Message Of Master Gokurakuji — Hōjō Shigetoki (1198A.D.-1261A.D.) Hojo shigetoki
  • Sunset of the Samurai--The True Story of Saigo Takamori Military History Magazine
  • Onoda, Hiroo, No Surrender: My Thirty-Year War. Trans. Charles S. Terry. (New York, Kodansha International Ltd, 1974) ISBN 1-55750-663-9
  • An interview with William Scott Wilson about Bushidō
  • Bushidō Website: a good definition of bushidō, including The Samurai Creed
  • The website of William Scott Wilson A 2005 recipient of the Japanese Government's Japan’s Foreign Minister’s Commendation, William Scott Wilson
    William Scott Wilson
    William Scott Wilson is known for translating several works of Japanese literature, mostly those relating to the martial tradition of that country. He is recognized by as "today’s foremost translator of classic Samurai texts." Mr. Wilson is also described as the world's foremost expert on the...

     was honored for his research on Samurai and Bushidō.
  • Hojo Shigetoki (1198-1261)and His Role in the History of Political and Ethical Ideas in Japan by Carl Steenstrup; Curzon Press (1979)ISBN 0-7007-0132-X
  • A History of Law in Japan Until 1868 by Carl Steenstrup; Brill Academic Publishers;second edition (1996) ISBN 90-04-10453-4
  • Bushido — The Soul of Japan by Inazo Nitobe (1905) (ISBN 0-8048-3413-X)
  • Budoshoshinshu - The Code of The Warrior by Daidōji Yūzan
    Daidoji Yuzan
    was a samurai and military strategist of Edo period Japan. He was born in Fushimi in Yamashiro Province . Among the works he wrote in his late years was the widely circulated , an introduction to bushidō that was influential among middle- and lower-class samurai...

     (ISBN 0-89750-096-2)
  • Hagakure-The Book of the Samurai By Tsunetomo Yamamoto (ISBN 4-7700-1106-7 paperback, ISBN 4-7700-2916-0 hardcover)
  • Go Rin No Sho - Miyamoto Musashi (1645) (ISBN 4-7700-2801-6 hardback, ISBN 4-7700-2844-X hardback Japan only)
  • The Unfettered Mind - Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword master by Takuan Sōhō
    Takuan Soho
    was a major figure in the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism.Takuan Sōhō was born into a family of farmers in the town of Izushi, located in what was at that time called Tajima province . At the age of 8 in 1581 young Takuan began his religious studies and 2 years later he entered a Buddhist monastery...

     (Musashi's mentor) (ISBN 0-87011-851-X)
  • The Religion of the Samurai (1913 original text), by Kaiten Nukariya, 2007 reprint by ELPN Press ISBN 0977340074
  • Tales of Old Japan by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford
    Algernon Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale
    Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford, 1st Baron Redesdale GCVO, KCB , of Batsford Park, Gloucestershire, and Birdhope Craig, Northumberland, was a British diplomat, collector and writer...

     (1871) reprinted 1910
  • Sakujiro Yokoyama's Account of a Samurai Sword Duel
  • Death Before Dishonor By Masaru Fujimoto — Special to The Japan Times: Dec. 15, 2002
  • Osprey, "Elite and Warrior Series" Assorted. http://www.ospreysamurai.com/
  • Stephen Turnbull, “Samurai Warfare” (London, 1996), Cassell & Co ISBN 1-85409-280-4
  • Lee Teng-hui
    Lee Teng-hui
    Lee Teng-hui is a politician of the Republic of China . He was the 7th, 8th, and 9th-term President of the Republic of China and Chairman of the Kuomintang from 1988 to 2000. He presided over major advancements in democratic reforms including his own re-election which marked the first direct...

    , former President of the Republic of China
    President of the Republic of China
    The President of the Republic of China is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the Republic of China . The Republic of China was founded on January 1, 1912, to govern all of China...

    , "武士道解題 做人的根本 蕭志強譯" in Chinese,前衛, "「武士道」解題―ノーブレス・オブリージュとは" in Japanese,小学館,(2003), ISBN 4093873704