Bushido: The Soul of Japan

Introduction
After reading the book, I looked up some facts about it. It was written in 1899. The author Inazo Nitobe was a man of many talents whose interests ran from agriculture to philosophy. He was born in Japan but dedicated his life to promoting understanding between East and West. He was a cultured man. On Goodreads, the book is described as “an essential resource for anyone who wishes to understand Japan and the Japanese people in a realistic way.”

I am curious about Japan because I have always been impressed by their Art and their culture. My curiosity is piqued and I want to learn as much about Japan as I can. The Samurai are practically mythic to me. They are larger than life, heroes that protected the people and the Nation’s honor. Bushido was their code.

The book had many chapters. Each was dedicated to a different facet of the diamond that was their code. As the book makes the point, Bushido is part of Japan. The book is subtitled, “The Soul of Japan.”

A Quote
“The most improved guns and cannon do not shoot of their own accord; the most modern educational system does not make a coward a hero. No! What won the battles on the Yalu, in Korea and Manchuria, was the ghosts of our fathers, guiding our hands and beating in our hearts. They are not dead, those ghosts, the spirits of our war-like ancestors. To those who have his eyes to see, they are clearly visible. Scratch a Japanese of the most advanced ideas, and he will show a Samurai.” Bushido, Inazo Nitobe.

Reaction
The virtues were discussed by Inazo Nitobe with great eloquence. Loyalty to the nation and to the “Master” were important to the Samurai. They would die willingly and happily to preserve the life of the ruler. The writer told the story of a young boy who looked like the king’s son and so took his place at an assassin’s blade to save him. His mother was joyful and proud rather than resentful and sad. I think of those who guard the President in the Secret Service and it helps me make sense of it.

Samurai had a code of honor that prevented them from shedding innocent blood and would rather let an enemy go with a new attitude than a new wound. But that didn’t mean that they couldn’t fight. They were trained from the time that they were born to handle a sword. The soldiers just respected the value of life. I know how horrible it must be to take a life, especially a life of someone weaker and it must feel pretty terrible. I really related to this part of the book.

There was a section about women and it said that women were also trained to fight so that they could protect the children and their own honor. They were supposed to kill themselves rather than allow themselves to be raped. If they could, they would have had to find a way to take their own lives. When I was younger, I thought that I would only be with one person for my whole life. I related to this part, too.

The values that the author of the book describes are elements of most systems of ethics, except for its description of suicide. The author talks about witnessing a suicide and explains the reasons why it was done. The author helped me understand why Samurai would commit brutal acts like the revenge killing or the honor suicide and after reading, I could see why they would do something as horrific.

As a suicide survivor, I read this book and did not say to myself, “Wow, it would have been better had I died.” Reading about how important life was for these brave people and how even though honor was so important to them, they would only do something drastic if it was for virtue’s sake, made me thank God that I am still alive. I get to read about courage and understand that life is precious and not to be squandered away for just any problem. Relationships are wonderful when they last, but even the closest of friends sometimes is only part of your life for a season.

Conclusion
I enjoyed the book and would reread it. It made me want to learn more about Japan and her culture. I liked the author’s powerful use of words. He was clearly articulate and passionate. I recommend any student who enjoys reading about other cultures to read this book. It’s not that you have to be a university student, you can be a student of life and enjoy this book.






Location Miami, Florida USA E-mail helen@lemushelen.blog Hours M - Th 8 - 10 PM EST and Saturday 4 - 8 PM EST
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