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Bushido: The Soul of Japan by Inazo Nitobe

Bushido: The Soul of Japan (1908)

by Inazo Nitobe, Akiko Shimojima (Illustrator)

Other authors: Inazo Nitobe (Author)

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Recently added bymkayc7, isobeBill, fheaden, Ludo-Berghs, Floyd3345, kevinkear, Xenstone, wrevans, yamuath, private library



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English (7)  Spanish (2)  Japanese (1)  All languages (10)
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
This slim volume talks about the various precepts of Bushido. One chapter easily segues into the next and covers seven essential virtues, along with the history and potential future of Bushido.

I enjoyed it a lot, though I suppose I was expecting it to be longer, in one sense it is good that it wasn't really lengthy. It gets to the point by naming a number of European counterparts for each virtue and how Europe fared under their Feudal System. The author is well read, he is familiar with Cato, Shakespeare, Virgil and others. ( )
  Floyd3345 | Jun 15, 2019 |
This book is short, and accessibly written (provided you view ordinary late nineteenth-century writing as accessible).

When reading this book, it is important to remember two things:

1. It was written in 1900. The approach and the ethics therefore reflect the attitudes and society of the nineteenth century, not the twenty-first.
2. It was written by a Japanese man who had seen the fall of the feudal system, to explain Japanese and, particularly, samurai culture to Westerners. In fact, it was originally written in English and only later translated into Japanese.

Some people have criticised this book for its ethics in general - but I think this is unjust, as it's a book of its time. Although there are parts which do more than merely raise eyebrows, it is only fair to the book, and to the author, to acknowledge that our ethics are a century away from Nitobe's. It is unfair to expect a nineteenth-century Japanese man to have exactly the same moral values as twenty-first century Westerners.

Others have criticised the book for its very intent: to explain Japanese culture in terms that Westerners could understand. Again, it's very easy to criticise from our twenty-first century internet-enabled Western point of view. If we want to know about Japan, or any other country, we can look it up on the internet in a few moments. In fact, nowadays, it's very hard not to know at least a little about other cultures unless you deliberately shut yourself off.

It was different at the end of the nineteenth century: Japan had only just emerged from its isolation, and not only was its culture strange to the Western world, but most societies were much less multicultural than they are now, so people were less likely to have encountered a culture other than their own.

Thus, Nitobe discusses Bushido with lots of Western and Christian comparisons and examples, because these are what will make sense to his chosen audience.

The result is a very interesting book.

Nitobe himself was born in 1862, so he was eight years old when feudalism was abolished, and ten when the carrying of swords was forbidden. This not only gives Nitobe a unique perspective, but also means that when the book was written, many Japanese people would have remembered the feudal system. To them, it was not some foreign (or even barbaric) practice - it was their own culture. It was normal.

So with this book, there is a strange mix of explanation and defence. Nowadays, it's shocking to read the story of an eight-year-old samurai boy being order to commit seppuku (ceremonial suicide by disembowelment) and actually doing it. But under bushido - and to Nitobe, who seems to have been of the samurai class himself, or close to it - the story emphasises the strength of devotion to duty, and courage, of even samurai children.

The attitude to women, too, is shocking nowadays. However, it's important to remember that since this was written in 1900, the attitude to women in the West wasn't much different. Admittedly, young girls in the West weren't given daggers in case they needed to commit suicide to protect their honour - but then, neither were boys. If you read much about the life of women in the West during the late 19th century, you do wonder who had the better deal: the samurai girl in feudal Japan, or the middle-class young woman in London.

All in all, this is a very interesting and thought-provoking book - and not the least because it's not written as a scholarly study by an outsider, but by a man trying to explain (and, in some senses, justify) his own culture. It therefore has the result of telling the reader perhaps more about feudal Japanese society and culture than even the author intended. ( )
1 vote T_K_Elliott | Mar 12, 2017 |
Calling this adapted version of Bushido: The Soul of Japan a graphic novel is, at best, a stretch. An illustrated adaptation would be a more apt description as, with a few small exceptions, the images are in no way required to “tell the story.” And I can't avoid harping on my personal pet peeve regarding the “graphic novel” boom. A novel is a book of fictitious prose, I repeat, fictitious. A nonfiction title that uses a symbiotic combination of words and pictures to tell a story is graphic nonfiction. Additionally, I generally expect a graphic adaptation to be more accessible to a wider range of readers but, if that was a goal of this title, it certainly isn't evident. Many sections parse poorly for a modern reader of English and the teen manga fans who I hoped might enjoy this title would have a hard time getting through it. ( )
  TeenCentral | Sep 9, 2016 |
What I actually got out of the book is what an educated Japanese man at the turn of the century thought of European culture. The parallels he draws between Japanese and European culture are pretty awesome. ( )
  SPQR2755 | May 25, 2015 |
Anche questo testo, come "La struttura dell'Iki" rappresenta un tentativo (da parte di un Giapponese colto e esperto di cultura occidentale) di spiegare uno degli elementi fondamentali della cultura (ma anche delle società, storia e identità) del Giappone.

Il libro è del 1899, per cui sul Bushido e sulla tradizione dei Bushi si allunga già l'ombra della modernizzazione e trasformazione del paese. L'autore ne è ben conscio, e dedica il due capitoli finali proprio alla domanda se il Bushido possa soppravvivere man mano che il Giappone si trasforma in qualcosa la cui stessa natura nulla sembra avere a che fare con quella del passato. ( )
  pamar | Aug 25, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Inazo Nitobeprimary authorall editionscalculated
Shimojima, AkikoIllustratormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Nitobe, InazoAuthorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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--that way
Over the mountain, which who stands upon,
Is apt to doubt if it be indeed a road;
While if he views it from the waste itself,
Up goes the line there, plain from base to brow
Not vague, mistakable! What's a break or two
Seen from the unbroken desert either side?
And then (to bring in the fresh philosophy)
What if the breaks themselves should prove at last
The most consumate of contrivances
To train a man's eye, teach him what is faith?
--William Browning Spencer, Bishop Blougram's Apology
There are, if I may so say, three powerful spirits, which have from time to time, moved on the face of the waters, and given a predominant impulse to the moral sentiments and energies of mankind. These are the spirits of liberty, of religion, and of honor.
--Hallam, Europe in the Middle Ages
Chivalry is itself the poetry of life.
--Schlegel, Philosophy of History
To my beloved uncle Tokitoshi Ota who taught me to revere the past and to admire the deeds of the samurai I dedicate this little book.
First words
(Preface): About ten years ago, while spending a few days under the hospitable roof of the distinguished Belgian jurist, the lamented M. de Laveleye, our conversation turned, during one of our rambles, to the subject of religion.
Chivalry is a flower no less indigenous to the soil of Japan than its emblem, the cherry blossom; nor is it a dried-up specimen of an antique virtue preserved in the herbarium of our history.
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Book description
CHIVALRY is a flower no less indigenous to the soil of Japan than its emblem, the cherry blossom; nor is it a dried-up specimen of an antique virtue preserved in the herbarium of our history. It is still a living object of power and beauty among us; and if it assumes no tangible shape or form, it not the less scents the moral atmosphere, and makes us aware that we are still under its potent spell.
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0897500318, Paperback)

This reprint of the 1899 original is perhaps the most complete study of samurai life, exhaustively researched using original documents.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:02 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

"Bushido, the unwritten code governing the lives and conduct of the samurai, is one of the cornerstones of Japanese culture. With roots in Buddhism, Shinto, and Confucianism, and incorporating the knightly ideals of honesty, courage, and honor of the samurai, bushido continues to influence every level of Japanese society." --Page 4 of cover.… (more)

» see all 6 descriptions

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