Bushido n : traditional code of the Japanese samurai which stressed courage and loyalty and self-discipline and simple living
- 義 - Gi - Rectitude (Right Decisions)
- 勇 - Yu - Courage
- 仁 - Jin - benevolence
- 礼 - Rei - Respect
- 誠 - Makoto - Honesty
- 名誉 - Meiyo - Honour
- 忠義 - Chugi - Loyalty
, meaning "Way of the Warrior", is a Japanese code of conduct and a way of the samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry. It originates from the samurai moral code and stresses frugality, loyalty, martial arts mastery and honour unto death. Born of two main influences, the violent existence of the Samurai was tempered by the wisdom and serenity of Confucianism and Buddhism. Bushidō developed between the 9th to 12th centuries and numerous translated documents dating from the 12th to 16th centuries demonstrate its wide influence across the whole of Japan.
According to the Japanese dictionary Shogakukan Kokugo Daijiten, "Bushidō is defined as a unique philosophy (ronri) that spread through the warrior class from the Muromachi (chusei) period." In the 20th century, Nitobe Inazō, in his book Bushidō: The Soul of Japan, described it in this way. "...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."
Under the Tokugawa Shogunate, aspects of Bushidō became formalized into Japanese Feudal Law.
Translation of documents related to Bushido began in the 1970's with Dr. Carl Steenstrup who performed a lifetime of research into the ethical codes of famous Samurai clans including Hojo Soun and Imagawa Ryoshun. Steenstrup's 1977 dissertation at Harvard University was entitled "Hôjô Shigetoki (1198–1261) and his Role in the History of Political and Ethical Ideas in Japan". Steenstrup holds two PhD's in Japanese History--one from Harvard in 1977 and another from The University of Copenhagen in 1979.
According to the editors of Monumenta Nipponica, "Tens of thousands of documents survive from the medieval period... Only a few have been translated into English, or are likely ever to appear in translation." One of the oldest English-language academic journals in the field of Asian studies, much of Dr. Steenstrup's significant findings were written for MN.
Primary research into Bushido was later conducted by William Scott Wilson 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 (712 AD), Shoku Nihongi (797 AD), the Kokinshu (early 10th century), Konjaku Monogatari (CA 1106 AD) and the Heike Monogatari (1371), as well as the Chinese Classics (the Analects, the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, and the Mencius (CA 500 BC)). Wilson holds a Master's Degree in Japanese Language and Literature from the University of Washington at Seattle in 1979 and served as a Consular Specialist for the Consulate General of Japan in Seattle in 1980. Mr. Wilson recently received Japan’s Foreign Minister’s Commendation from the Consulate General of Japan in Miami, Masakazu Toshikage on 2005 November 15.
Early history to 12th centuriesAccording to Wilson, the four Confucian classics: the Analects, the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, and the Mencius, are mentioned specifically in the warrior's own precepts as suggested reading. Takeda Nobushige included examples of what was considered proper reading for the educated warrior. His "Ninety-Nine Articles", lists the Analects of Confucius as one of the main texts of study. Wilson describes Confucianism as "Basically a philosophy of humanism which places much emphasis on education, rationalism, sincerity of action, and the relationships of people involved in society, rather than spiritual affairs or speculation on life after death."
TenetsBushido expanded and formalized the earlier code of the samurai, and stressed frugality, loyalty, mastery of martial arts, and honor to the death. Under the Bushido ideal, if a samurai failed to uphold his honor he could regain it by performing seppuku (ritual suicide).
In an excerpt from his book Samurai: The World of the Warrior, historian Stephen Turnbull 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.
Bushido was widely practiced and it is surprising how uniform the samurai code remained over time, crossing over all geographic and socio-economic backgrounds of the samurai. The samurai represented a wide populace numbering from 7% to 10% of the Japanese population, and the first Meiji era census at the end of the 19th century counted 1,282,000 members of the "high samurais", 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.
Other parts of the Bushido philosophy cover methods of raising children, appearance and grooming, and most of all, constant preparation for death. One might say that death is at the very center of Bushido as the overall purpose- to die a good death and with one's honor intact.
Seven virtues of BushidoThe Bushido code is typified by seven virtues:
- -Translations from: Random House's Japanese-English, English-Japanese Dictionary
Others that are sometimes added to these:
Some people in Japan as well as other countries follow the same virtues listed above under the philosophical term modern bushido. The idea was derived from the fact that the Japanese male should be able to adapt his beliefs and philosophies to a changing world.
In an excerpt of James Williams' article "Virtue of the sword", a fairly simple explanation of modern bushido can be found:
The warrior protects and defends because he realizes the value of others. He knows that they are essential to society and, in his gift of service, recognizes and values theirs... take the extra moment in dark parking lots at night to make sure that a woman gets into her car safely before leaving yourself. Daily involvement in acts such as these are as much a part of training as time spent in the dojo, and indeed should be the reason for that time spent training... When faced with a woman or child in a situation in which they are vulnerable, there are two types of men: those who would offer succor and aid, and those who would prey upon them.
Major figures associated with bushidō
- Battōjutsu - Japanese Martial Art - The Art of Drawing and Cutting with the Sword
- Iaido - Japanese Martial Art - The Art of Drawing the Sword
- Kendo - Japanese Martial Art - The Way of Sword
- Jodo - Japanese Martial Art - The Way of Stick
- Jujutsu - Japanese Martial Art - "Gentle Art" an Unarmed Self Defense Art of the Samurai
- Judo - Japanese Martial Art - "Gentle Way" a Modern Sport Art derived from Jujutsu
- Rinzai Zen
External links and further reading
- William Scott Wilson, Ideals of the Samurai: Writings of Japanese Warriors (Kodansha, 1982) ISBN 0-89750-081-4
- 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 Bushido
- Bushido Website: a good definition of bushido, 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 was honored for his research on Samurai and Bushido.
- Hojo Shigetoki (1198-1261)and His Role in the History of Political and Ethical Ideas in Japanby 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) — Complete text online
- Budoshoshinshu - The Code of The Warrior by Daidōji Yuzan (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) — Complete text online: The Hagakure Kikigaki
- Go Rin No Sho - Miyamoto Musashi (1645 A.D.) (ISBN 4-7700-2801-6 hardback, ISBN 4-7700-2844-X hardback Japan only) — Complete text online:
- The Unfettered Mind - Writings of the Zen Master to the Sword master by Takuan Sōhō (Musashi's mentor) (ISBN 0-87011-851-X)
- The Religion of the Samurai (1913), study of zen philosophy and discipline in China and Japan, by Kaiten Nukariya, professor of Kei-o-gi-Jiku University and of So-To-Shu Buddhist College, Tokyo — Complete text online
- Tales of Old Japan by Algernon Bertram Freeman-Mitford (1871) reprinted 1910 -- Complete text online
- 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
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