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Zinovy Khokhlov
Zinovy Khokhlov

Bushido: The Spirit Of The Samurai

He also delved into the other indigenous traditions of Japan, such as Buddhism, Shintoism, Confucianism and the moral guidelines handed down over hundreds of years by Japan's samurai and sages.Nitobe sought similarities and contrasts by citing the shapers of European and American thought and civilization going back to the Romans, the Greeks and Biblical times. He found a close resemblance between the samurai ethos of what he called Bushido and the spirit of medieval chivalry and the ethos of ancient Greece, as observed in books such as the Iliad of Homer.

Bushido: The Spirit of the Samurai

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The book has been criticized as portraying the samurai in terms of Western chivalry which had different interpretations compared to the pre-Meiji period bushido as a system of warrior values that were focused on valor rather than morals.[2][3][4]

Ideas of the samurai code formalized earlier samurai moral values and ethical code, most commonly stressing a combination of sincerity, frugality, loyalty, martial arts mastery and honour until death.[7] The idea of a samurai code or codes was developed and refined centuries before the Edo period in the Kamukura period.[7]

Another early use of the written term is in the Kōyō Gunkan in 1616 by Kōsaka Masanobu. In 1685, the ukiyo-e book Kokon Bushidō ezukushi (古今武士道絵つくし, "Images of Bushidō Through the Ages") by artist Hishikawa Moronobu included the term and artwork of samurai with simple descriptions meant for children.[1] In 1642, the Kashoki (可笑記, "Amusing Notes") was written by samurai Saito Chikamori and included moral precepts which explained the theoretical aspects of bushido.[1][13] It was written with accessible kana and intended for commoners, not warriors.[1] It was very popular, demonstrating that the idea of bushido had spread among the population.[1] The Kashoki shows that moral values were present in bushido by 1642.[1][further explanation needed]

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. In order to become a samurai this code has to be mastered.[6]

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.[15]

Bushidō (武士道) is a Japanese word that literally means "warrior way". It is first attested in the 1616 work Kōyō Gunkan (甲陽軍鑑), a military chronicle recording the exploits of the Takeda clan.[16] The term is a compound of bushi (武士, "warrior", literally 'military + man'), a Chinese-derived word first attested in Japanese in 712 with the on'yomi (Sino-Japanese reading), and dō (道, 'road, way').[16][17][18] In modern usage, bushi is often used as a synonym for samurai;[16][17][18] however, historical sources make it clear that bushi and samurai were distinct concepts, with the former referring to soldiers or warriors and the latter referring instead to a kind of hereditary nobility.[19][20]

Bushido is often described as a specific moral code that all members of the samurai class were obligated to follow. However, historically the samurai adhered to multiple warrior codes and the interpretations varied per samurai clan, individuals and eras.[1][2][4][31][5] These codes and philosophies changed drastically during the different eras. The earliest proto-bushido type existed since the Kamakura period (1185).[23][24][9] The degrees of devoutness and interpretations varied between individuals.[5] Since at least the Sengoku period, samurai didn't have compunction to use certain weapons.[5] Retreating from battles did occur if it was unwinnable while others chose to fight till the end.[5] Samurai did not actively seek an honorable death.[5] However, it was honorable to die in the service of a daimyo only while furthering the daimyo's cause.[5]

Samurai had dark customs, the most notable: Kiri-sute gomen was the right to strike lower class who dishonored them.[5] Seppuku was ritual suicide to die honorably or restore one's honor.[5][32] Tsujigiri (crossroads killing) to attack a human opponent to test a weapon or skill became rampant in the early Edo period until a ban was issued.[5][33] The exact frequency of tsujigiri is unknown and it was never condoned by any samurai clan.[34] Samurai did head collection with a ritual to beautify severed heads of worthy rivals and put on display.[35] The samurai applied various cruel punishments on criminals. The most common capital punishments up until the Meiji Restoration were (in order of severity): decapitation, decapitation with disgraceful exposure of head post-death, crucifixion (for e.g. parricide), and death by burning with incendiaries.[32] Members of the samurai class had the privilege to perform hara-kiri (suicide disemboweling).[32] If it was not lethal then a friend or relation performed decapitation (kaishaku).[32] In 1597, Toyotomi Hideyoshi ordered the prosecution of 26 Martyrs of Japan.[36] They were tortured, mutilated, paraded through villages and executed by crucifixion, tied to crosses on a hill and impaled by lances (spears).[37] In the 17th century, the Tokugawa Shogunate executed over 400 Christians (Martyrs of Japan) for being more loyal to their faith than the Shogunate.[36] The capital punishments were beheading, crucifixion, death by burning and Ana-tsurushi (穴吊るし, lit. "hole hanging").

Bushido has been described as Japanese chivalry,[5] and samurai in general have been described as being like Western knights.[38] There are notable similarities and differences depending on which bushido type is compared with chivalry. Christianity had a modifying influence on the virtues of chivalry,[39] whereas bushido was influenced by Zen Buddhism, Shinto, and Confucianism.[40][1][41] Bushido is commonly associated with the moral norms of Nitobe Inazō's Bushido: The Soul of Japan (1900), because his book popularized the term bushido internationally. However, it is a romanticized interpretation of bushido which differs from other historical literature by samurai. Thus, the morals defined by Nitobe do not represent all of bushido. Some researchers claim that chivalric bushido as defined by Nitobe (a.k.a. Meiji Bushido) was invented in the 19th century. However, there is a plethora of historical literature about Japanese warrior codes, practices, philosophies since the Kamakura period. These types can be categorized by era into Sengoku, Edo, Meiji and Contemporary Bushido.[1][42][25][4][40][43][10][28] Therefore the term bushido can be used as an overarching term for all the codes, practices, philosophies and principles of samurai culture.[5]

Towards the 10th and 11th centuries we began to use expressions such as the way of the man-at-arms (Tsuwamon no michi), the way of the bow and arrows (Kyûsen / kyûya no Michi), the way of the bow and the horse (Kyûba no Michi). These expressions refer to practices which are the ancestors of the way of the warrior (bushidô) but they did not then imply any relation whatsoever to a morality. These were only practices focused on training for real combat and which therefore had to do with the samurai ways of life in the broad sense.[citation needed]

The practice of decapitating and collecting enemy heads is an example of honor in samurai culture.[35][63] The decapitated heads were shown to a general as evidence that they killed wanted opponents and to collect rewards.[63] More heads meant higher prestige, honor and rewards.[63] A beautification ritual of the decapitated heads called Ohaguro was performed.[64][35] Prestigious heads were arranged on a table and presented in front of the warriors.[35][63] All heads were identified and marked to prevent mistakes.[63] The guards were left and right of the general and cited spells to transfix demonic spirits of the enemy.[63] Then a samurai said his own name, lifted a box to show and describe the decapitated head.[63] The general inspected the trophy heads while holding a fan so that the dead could not recognize his face.[63] If the claimed head was correct then the samurai received a payment otherwise he was dismissed.[63][35]

During this period, the samurai class played a central role in the policing and administration of the country.[68] The bushidō literature 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.[citation needed] The literature of this time includes:

Dr. 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.[70] However, it does not have a set of principles regarded as "true" or "false", but rather varying perceptions widely regarded as formidable throughout different centuries. Emphasized by Thomas Cleary,

In 1642, the Kashoki (可笑記, "Amusing Notes") was written by samurai Saitō Chikamori (斎藤親盛, 1603-1674) (ex-vassal of the Mogami clan from Yamagata Domain) and published.[1][13] Chikamori's pen name was Nyoraishi (如儡子). 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.[1] The 5th scroll has an important definition that was made by a samurai:[1] Thus the first known description of morality in bushido and the bushido spirit was the Kashoki.[1] 041b061a72

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