Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Books read in 2014: No. 51 -- Bushido, the Soul of Japan

by Inazo Nitobe

Started: Oct. 4
Finished: Oct. 7

Notes: When I'm in the mood for something truly different, I'll go perusing through the Amazon listings of old and free e-books, many from the 19th Century and earlier, some great works of literature but others often enough long forgotten pieces, sometimes fiction and sometimes not. This particular book originally came out in 1899. The author came to the U.S. and was a professor, agriculturalist, delegate to the League of Nations, eventually a Quaker, and much more. In part, he wrote this little book to help show non-Japanese how ethics were passed from generation to generation, and to explain a little history, often through comparisons (where appropriate) to European history.

Mini review: You're not going to find anything here on swordplay or warfare. In fact, the two are rarely mentioned. What you will find, however, is a treatise on the "knightly virtues" of Bushido, basically the code of chivalry (for lack of a better word) for samurai or bushi, the traditional Japanese warrior class of nobles. Though a code of sorts for nobility, the author also talks about how the notions behind bushido have spread into the non-noble sectors of Japan and Japanese life. Treating bushido as a religion, the author extols the many virtues of this code, though he does not shy from giving his opinion on some of the negatives. Also, though a Christian convert, his love of Japan and to bushido shines through. Of particular interest to me was the last chapter in which the author talks about the future of bushido, which he sees as slowly fading away much as did the code of chivalry; keeping in mind when this book was originally published and the history of Japan during the next century, these are what drew me to that last paragraph.

1 comment:

Charles Gramlich said...

I should probably study more on this topic. The Warrior code. I feel like I kind of understand it but have never verbalized it clearly.