Sunday, February 15, 2015

Bushido: The Soul of Japan by Inazo Nitobe

A century ago, when Japan was transforming itself from an isolated feudal society into a modern nation, a Japanese educator queried about the ethos of his people composed this seminal work, which with his numerous other writings in English made him the best, known Japanese writer in the West during his lifetime.

He found in Bushido, the Way of the Warrior, the sources of the virtues most admired by his people: rectitude, courage, benevolence, politeness, sincerity, honor, loyalty and self-control. His approach to his task was eclectic and far-reaching. On the one hand, he delved into the indigenous traditions, into Buddhism, Shintoism, Confucianism and the moral guidelines handed down over hundreds of years by Japan's samurai and sages. On the other hand, he sought similarities and contrasts by citing not only Western philosophers and statesmen, but also the shapers of European and American thought and civilization going back to the Romans, the Greeks and Biblical times.

This book is a classic to which generations of scholars and laymen alike have long referred for insights into the character of the Japanese people. And all of its many readers in the past have been amply rewarded, as will be all those who turn to its pages in the next and future decades. 

I've always been interested by Japanese history and the Samurais. I've been fascinated by the honor, the courage, the self-control these men were displaying. Also the noble and respectful way they were fighting an enemy by killing while reciting poems on the battle field.

In this book you have very interesting details about chivalry and philosophical views about samurai life and death.
The author mix Buddhism, Greek time with western philosophers and even talk about the women condition.
Very great to have a very old fashion and modern points of view on the Bushido.

I was also very enlightening to see Seppuku through the eyes of Japanese. It has often seemed to me as a romantic and noble gesture. Barbaric and unbelievably unfair other times too.
Maybe because my view were based on a story or a movie.

In this book, I've learned the codes. Almost like a dance with a particular technique. It was beautiful in a morbid beauty.
The author also answered some of my questions about the easiness some men may have chosen to die in a trendy way instead of showing their courage through life.

A really interested and captivating read.


"Bushido, then, is a code of moral principles which the knights were required or instructed to observe. It is not a written code; at best it consists of a few maxims handed down from mouth to mouth or coming from the pen of some well-known warrior or savant."
"Things which are serious to ordinary people, may be but play to the valiant. Hence in old warfare it was not at all rare for the parties to a conflict to exchange repartee or to begin a rhetorical contest. Combat was not solely a matter of brute force; it was, as well, an intellectual engagement."

No comments:

Post a Comment