The Bushido Code: The Samurai Culture

Tuesday, January 18, 2022 9:22:53 PM

The Bushido Code: The Samurai Culture



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What is Bushido? The Soul of Japan Way of the Samurai

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The emperor's power was soon restricted to the capital, and across the country, the warrior class moved in to fill the power vacuum. After years of fighting, the samurai established a military government known as the shogunate. By the early s, the warriors had both military and political power over much of Japan. The weak imperial line received a fatal blow to its power in when Emperor Toba died without a clear successor. His sons, Sutoku and Go-Shirakawa, fought for control in a civil war known as the Hogen Rebellion of In the end, both would-be emperors lost and the imperial office lost all its remaining power.

During the civil war, the Minamoto and Taira samurai clans rose to prominence. They fought one another during the Heiji Rebellion of After their victory, the Taira established the first samurai-led government and the defeated Minamoto were banished from the capital of Kyoto. The two clans fought once more in the Genpei War of to , which ended in victory for the Minamoto. Following their victory, Minamoto no Yoritomo established the Kamakura Shogunate , retaining the emperor as a figurehead. The Minamoto clan ruled much of Japan until In , an external threat appeared. Fortunately for Japan, a typhoon destroyed the Mongols' ships, and a second invasion fleet in met the same fate. Despite such incredible help from nature, the Mongol attacks cost the Kamakura dearly.

Unable to offer land or riches to the samurai leaders who rallied to Japan's defense, the weakened shogun faced a challenge from Emperor Go-Daigo in After being exiled in , the emperor returned and overthrew the shogunate in The Kemmu Restoration of imperial power lasted only three years. In , the Ashikaga shogunate under Ashikaga Takauji reasserted samurai rule, though this new shogunate was weaker than that of the Kamakura. Regional constables called " daimyo " developed considerable power and meddled with the shogunate's line of succession. By , the daimyos were ignoring orders from the shogun and backing different successors to the imperial throne.

When the shogun, Ashikaga Yoshimasa, resigned in , a dispute between backers of his younger brother and his son ignited even more intense fighting among the daimyo. In , this squabbling erupted into the decade-long Onin War, in which thousands died and Kyoto was burned to the ground. Between and , various daimyos led their clans in a fight for national dominance, and nearly all of the provinces were engulfed in the fighting.

The Warring States Period drew to a close in when the warlord Oda Nobunaga defeated three powerful daimyos, marched into Kyoto, and had his preferred leader, Yoshiaki, installed as shogun. Nobunaga spent the next 14 years subduing other rival daimyos and quelling rebellions by fractious Buddhist monks. His grand Azuchi Castle, constructed between and , became of symbol of Japanese reunification. In , Nobunaga was assassinated by one of his generals, Akechi Mitsuhide.

Hideyoshi , another general, finished the unification and ruled as kampaku, or regent, invading Korea in and Hideyoshi exiled the large Tokugawa clan from the area around Kyoto to the Kanto region in eastern Japan. By , Tokugawa Ieyasu had conquered the neighboring daimyo from his castle stronghold at Edo, which would one day become Tokyo. Ieyasu's son, Hidetada, became shogun of the unified country in , ushering in about years of relative peace and stability for Japan. In accordance with Confucianism , one of their duties was to serve as a role model for society. They balanced their martial arts skills with peaceful accomplishments such as literature, poetry and the tea ceremony.

Our nation is a nation of arms. The land to the west [China] is a nation of letters. Nations of letters value the pen. Nations of arms value the sword. That's the way it has been from the beginning Our country and theirs are separated from one another by hundreds of miles, our customs are completely different, the temperaments of our people are dissimilar — so how could we possibly share the same Way? Nakamura cited in Watanabe During the Muromachi period — the way of the warrior began to refine by inserting in their daily activities, alongside martial training, Zen meditation, painting monochrome style , ikebana , the tea ceremony , poetry such as the death poem written by samurai before suicidal missions or battles [48] and literature. Carl Steenstrup noted that 13th- and 14th-century writings gunki monogatari "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".

Every farmer was basically also a warrior until Hideyoshi confiscated weapons through a nation-wide "sword-hunt" in On the other hand, the Heike recitations also propagated civic virtues: loyalty, steadfastness in adversity, and pride of family honor. Thus, it is essential to engrave this business of the warrior into one's mind well. 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.

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". By the midth century, several of Japan's most powerful warlords began to vie for supremacy over territories amidst the Kyoto government's waning power. With Kyoto's capture by the warlord Oda Nobunaga in , the Muromachi period concluded.

The description of Francis shows that honor , weaponry and warfare were valued of utmost importance in Japanese culture. The Japanese are very ambitious of honors and distinctions, and think themselves superior to all nations in military glory and valor. They prize and honor all that has to do with war, and all such things, and there is nothing of which they are so proud as of weapons adorned with gold and silver. They always wear swords and daggers both in and out of the house, and when they go to sleep they hang them at the bed's head. In short, they value arms more than any people I have ever seen. They are excellent archers, and usually fight on foot, though there is no lack of horses in the country.

They are very polite to each other, but not to foreigners, whom they utterly despise. They spend their means on arms, bodily adornment, and on a number of attendants, and do not in the least care to save money. They are, in short, a very warlike people, and engaged in continual wars among themselves; the most powerful in arms bearing the most extensive sway. They have all one sovereign, although for one hundred and fifty years past the princes have ceased to obey him, and this is the cause of their perpetual feuds. The practice of decapitating and collecting enemy heads is an example of honor in samurai culture.

Despite the war-torn culmination of this era and the birth of the Edo period, Samurai codes of conduct continued to extend beyond the realms of warfare. Forms of Bushido-related Zen Buddhism and Confucianism also emerged during this period. Japan enjoyed two and a half centuries of relative peace during the Edo period to the midth century. Japan didn't have domestic or international conflict. These peaceful times in Tokugawa society enabled bushido to be refined from a focus on valor in battle to more moral integrity. The Tokugawa shogunate — codified aspects of the Samurai warrior values and formalized them into parts of the Japanese feudal law.

The new edicts made clear the shogunate's authority and its desire to assert control. During this period, the samurai class played a central role in the policing and administration of the country. In Koyo Gunkan , Bushido is a survival technique for individual fighters, and it aims to make the development of the self and the clan troupe advantageous by raising the samurai name. The feature is that it also contains the cold-hearted philosophy. These are mainly related to the way of life as a samurai, and they are the teachings of each family, and they are also equivalent to the treatment of vassals.

Hiroko Willcock senior lecturer at Griffith University , Australia explained Koyo Gunkan is the earliest comprehensive extant work that provides a notion of Bushido as a samurai ethos and the value system of the samurai tradition. Emphasized by Thomas Cleary, "Confucianism, Buddhism, and Shinto were each represented by a variety of schools, and elements of all three were commonly combined in Japanese culture and customs.

As the embodiment of Samurai culture, Bushido is correspondingly diverse, drawing selectively on elements of all these traditions to articulate the ethos and discipline of the warrior". For the first time, Confucian ethics such as Honor and Humanity", "filial piety" became the norm required by samurai. The kashoki are 5 scrolls with wide-ranging content, including samurai knowledge with moral precepts, [1] the knowledge of ordinary people, the teachings of Confucian Buddhism, and narrative ones.

It has moral precepts which explain theoretical aspects of Bushido. Being a good samurai takes more than merely a willingness to lay down one's life. The kashoki was important with promulgating the bushido spirit among the common population. Master swordsman Miyamoto Musashi 's life exemplifies bushido. A daimyo should know the strength of his troops and how to properly deploy them. Devote yourself to training to master a way, avoid evil acts and thoughts, broaden perspectives with arts and knowledge about different professions, make objective judgments etc.

He was fluent in Japanese and learned about Bushido. Dai criticized the supposedly violent nature of the traditional Japanese feudal class structure before the Meiji period. Dai said the samurai brutally exploited the class structure to abuse and kill people below them in the social order and biasedly claimed the opposite for Chinese society as peace-loving. According to Dai, after Confucianism became influential in the 17th century, it brought ideas of benevolence and humanity that pacified the cruel samurai and set Japan upon the course to become a modern and civilized society. Dai also appreciated aspects of the samurai.

For example Dai said: Japan continued to benefit from their spirit of self-sacrifice, selfless loyalty, and—after Confucianism was introduced—compassion. Dai blamed the problems of modern Japan post-Meiji restoration due to the loss of samurai virtues when the former merchant class gained power and large corporations started to steer government policy.

The Hagakure was compiled in the early 18th century, but was kept as a kind of "secret teaching" of the Nabeshima clan until the end of the Tokugawa bakufu The true meaning is by having a constant consciousness of death, people can achieve a state of freedom that transcends life and death, whereby " it is possible to perfectly fulfill one's calling as a warrior. These radical concepts—including ultimate devotion to the Emperor, regardless of rank or clan—put him at odds with the reigning shogunate.

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 throughout history, though it may run counter to the art of war itself. Recent scholarship in both Japan and abroad has focused on differences between the samurai caste and the bushido theories that developed in modern Japan. Bushido changed considerably over time. Bushido in the prewar period centered around the emperor and placed greater value on the virtues of loyalty and self-sacrifice than many Tokugawa-era interpretations. Prominent scholars [ who?

When Japan was unified, the role of samurai included public administrative responsibilities, such as public order preservation, judicial responsibility, infrastructure maintenance, disaster recovery, farmland development, healthcare administration and industrial promotion. The samurai class was abolished in the s and the role of those in it grew more bureaucratic, focusing on the formation of a modern nation-state. With the diminishing of social classes, some values were transferred to the whole population, such as loyalty to the emperor. Dai Jitao credited the samurai with sole responsibility for the Meiji Restoration , which enabled Japan's modernization, while the populace merely allowed it to happen.

It did not exist in Chinese or Indian thought. Bushido was used as a propaganda tool by the government and military, who doctored it to suit their needs. Such debt must be repaid through physical or mental exertion. This idea did not exist in earlier bushido. Chinese writer Zhou Zuoren regarded the bushido promoted by the military as a corruption of a noble and ancient tradition. He discussed the Sakai incident , in which 20 samurai from Tosa Domain committed seppuku in for attacking French sailors. These examples were compared with the soft punishment given to the soldiers who assassinated Prime Minister Inukai Tsuyoshi in Zhou condemned them for not taking responsibility by committing suicide like traditional samurai. Bushido regained popularity and became intertwined with Japan's nationalist expression in the mids in response to Britain's invasion of China in the First Opium War.

Xenophobia toward Westerners rose in Japan during the s and s which contributed to the perceived legitimacy of the imperial restoration. Use of "bushido" in text increased during this period and its concept was viewed with more positivity. While it disappeared during the s, it reappeared in the s to express the loss of traditional values during the rapid introduction of Western civilization and a renewed sense of urgency to defend Japanese traditions. The researcher Oleg Benesch argued that the concept of modern bushido changed throughout the modern era as a response to foreign stimuli in the s, such as the English concept of the gentleman. This relatively pacifistic bushido was hijacked and adapted by militarists and the government from the early s as nationalism increased around the time of the Russo—Japanese War.

The entrepreneur Fukuzawa Yukichi appreciated bushido and emphasized that maintaining the morale of scholars is the essence of eternal life. For women, bushido means guarding their chastity, educating their children, supporting their husbands and maintaining their families. The junshi suicide of General Nogi Maresuke and his wife on the death of Emperor Meiji earned praise as an example of opposition to the trend of decaying morals in Japan. It also earned criticism from those who believed that aspect of bushido should not be revived. Honoring tradition through bushido-inspired martial skills enabled society to remain interconnected, harnessing society's reverence of ancestral practices for national strength. Patterson, "The martial arts were seen as a way not to maintain ancient martial techniques but instead to preserve a traditional value system, Bushido, that could be used to nurture national spirit.

In the midst of modernization the Japanese were struggling to hold onto some traditions that were uniquely Japanese and that could unify them as countrymen. Among these, the samurai spirit should be celebrated even in today's society. It called for Japan to become a totalitarian "national defense state". As the Second World War turned, the spirit of bushido was invoked to urge that all depended on the firm and united soul of the nation. However, superior American pilot training and airplanes meant the Japanese were outclassed by the Americans. While bushido called for a warrior to be always aware of death, they were not to view it as the sole end.

However, desperation brought about acceptance [87] and such attacks were acclaimed as the true spirit of bushido. Bushido regarded surrender as cowardly. Those who did forfeited their honor and lost dignity and respect: [89]. As Japan continued its modernization in the early 20th century, her armed forces became convinced that success in battle would be assured if Japanese soldiers, sailors, and airmen had the "spirit" of Bushido. The result was that the Bushido code of behavior "was inculcated into the Japanese soldier as part of his basic training".

Each soldier was indoctrinated to accept that it was the greatest honor to die for the Emperor and it was cowardly to surrender to the enemy. Those who had surrendered to the Japanese—regardless of how courageously or honorably they had fought—merited nothing but contempt; they had forfeited all honor and literally deserved nothing. Consequently, when the Japanese murdered POWs by shooting, beheading, and drowning, these acts were excused since they involved the killing of men who had forfeited all rights to be treated with dignity or respect.

While civilian internees were certainly in a different category from POWs, it is reasonable to think that there was a "spill-over" effect from the tenets of Bushido. The practice of beheading captured soldiers and prisoners originates from samurai culture in the 14th century or earlier. During the Second World War, many Japanese infantry were trapped on Guam , surrounded by Allied forces and low on supplies.

Bushido is still present in the social and economic organization of Japan. Bushido affects myriad aspects in Japanese society and culture. In addition to impacts on military performance, media, entertainment, martial arts, medicine and social work, the Bushido code has catalyzed corporate behavior. It is the mode of thought which historically structured the capitalist activity in the 20th century. Business relations, the close relationship between the individual and the group to which he or she belongs, the notions of trust, respect and harmony within the Japanese business world are based on bushido. It allowed the country to become, with the Japanese economic miracle , the economic leader of Asia in the post-war years of the s. Bushido principles indicate that rapid economic growth does not have to be a goal of modern existence.

Principles like Honorable Poverty, "Seihin," encourage those with power and resources to share their wealth, directly influencing national success. Eloquently described by Fujimura, "The moral purpose that bushido articulates transcends booms and busts Bushido, then, is part of the basis for a sense of national identity and belonging—an ideal that says the Japanese are one people, in it together. In Taiwan there continued to be positive views of bushido. In utilization of Bushido's seven virtues, the Samurai code has been renewed to contribute towards development of communication skills between adult Japanese couples.

Composed in , the empirical document "The Bushido Matrix for Couple Communication" identifies a methodology which can be employed by counseling agents to guide adults in self-reflection and share emotions with their partner. The bushido spirit exists in Japanese martial arts. While all of these things are important to the martial arts, a much more important thing is missing, which is personal development. Bushido's art taught soldiers the important secrets of life, how to raise children, how to dress, how to treat family and other people, how to cultivate personality, things related to finances.

All of these things are important to be a respected soldier. Although the modern Bushido is guided by eight virtues, that alone is not enough. Bushido not only taught one how to become a soldier, but all the stages of life. The warrior described by Bushido is not a profession but a way of life. It is not necessary to be in the army to be a soldier. The term "warrior" refers to a person who is fighting for something, not necessarily physically. Man is a true warrior because of what is in his heart, mind, and soul. Everything else is just tools in the creation to make it perfect. Bushido is a way of life that means living in every moment, honorably and honestly. All this is of great importance in the life of a soldier, both now and in the past.

In the book Kata — The true essence of Budo martial arts? According to Todd and Brown Budo is a redevelopment of traditional Kamakura period martial arts principles; Budo defines the way of the warrior through roots in religious ethics and philosophy. The martial art form's translation binds it to Confucian and Buddhist concepts of Bushido: [37]. Conversely, Budo could be considered the "artof living or life" and enables a practitioner to live "honestly and righteously or at least with principles".

Expanding on both these points, Deshimaru , p. Modern combat sports like kendo derive their philosophy from Bushido; Unlike other martial arts, prolonged contact or multiple hits tend to be disadvantaged in favor of simple, clean attacks on the body. Bushido has also inspired the code of honor for disciplines such as aikijutsu , aikido , aikibudo , judo , jujitsu , Kyudo , or the chanbara.

Kendo has the bushido spirit such as epitomized by the motto Ken Zen Ichi Nyo lit. There are people who use bushido as a way of life. For example, the Japanese music artist Gackt said that his philosophical way of life is similar to bushido. I believe it is my role to share this beautiful culture with the world. Bushido is a big part of me personally as well as in my professional career. Other notable people who use bushido in life are for example: former ROC president Lee Teng-hui Bushido is only used symbolically for example with names for combat exercises such as Exercise Bushido Guardian Since , numerous general officers proclaimed the importance of bushido with lectures.

Some critics say that excessive praise of bushido could repeat the mistakes of the former Imperial Armed Forces. By having officers act like soldiers to earn their loyalty with the courage of bushido, it causes sleep-deprivation. There was a case of a National Police Reserve member who committed seppuku to apologize for being unable to become an ideal soldier. Another example was a young squadron commander who failed an exercise due to repeating to attack rather than change tactics. Multiple Bushido types have existed through history. The code varied due to influences such as Zen Buddhism , Shinto, Confucianism as well as changes in society and on the battlefield. The bushido of the old samurai is distinguished by the idea of overwhelming others by exercising ability.

The Genpei War — is exemplary of the ancient bushido type. The old samurai didn't discuss morals of the modern samurai. The exception is feelings of mercy and natural feelings. The focus was overwhelming others by force, governing and protecting the land. The substantive aspect was important. The samurai of this time were terrifying and pure fighters. During this era the daimyo expanded their territory by force and strategy.

Battles occurred frequently in various places. The purpose was to expand one's power. The killing of the enemy in a battle led to evaluation. Certain daimyos wrote about moral codes with influence from Zen Buddhism and Confucianism. There was not yet a strong attachment to moral values apart from honor in samurai society. Honor, weaponry and warfare were valued of utmost importance in Japanese culture.

After the chaotic Sengoku period, politics were carried out in orderly fashion, and peace was maintained. The samurai could no longer obtain merit on the battlefield. They found more significance of the samurai's existence in areas other than battle. As per Confucianism, it was valued to work for morals and the public, not for personal reasons. In addition, there were many martial arts who included religious boundaries such as Buddhism and Shinto. A famous example is a passage in the Hagakure : "Bushido is realised in the presence of death. In the case of having to choose between life and death you should choose death. There is no other reasoning. Move on with determination. That appeared in the Taihei era of the Edo period. There are many expressions that criticize the samurai who are associated with Confucianism and Buddhism that were popular at the time.

There are many works that guide the art of treatment while describing the spirit of the samurai of the Sengoku period. Buddhist precepts of serenity, stoicism, and non-attachment to life. Shinto notions of fidelity and patriotism, and 3. Confucian morality. 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.

Indeed, a "good death" is its own reward, and by no means assurance of "future rewards" in the afterlife. Some samurai , though certainly not all e. Japanese beliefs surrounding the samurai and the afterlife are complex and often contradictory, while the soul of a noble warrior suffering in hell or as a lingering spirit occasionally appears in Japanese art and literature, so does the idea of a warrior being reborn upon a lotus throne in paradise []. Meiji bushido added emperor worship with an emphasis on loyalty and self-sacrifice. However, the morals that he described are romanticized interpretations and do not represent all of Bushido through history. He spent some time as a vassal of Tokugawa Yoshinobu , and since the Meiji era, he was a businessman and involved in the establishment of hundreds of corporations.

He linked the spirit of the samurai Bushido with the influence of Confucianism to economic activity and denied immoral merchants for self-interest. Be acutely honest throughout your dealings with all people. Believe in justice, not from other people, but from yourself.

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