Bushido: The Way of the Warrior
Bushido is known as the code of the samurai, but it is much more than that. Bushido is a way of life. Bushido is an ancient code of conduct for the samurai of feudal Japan. Bushido is one of the few things that has not changed threw the years. Bushido first appears in 712AD in one of the oldest books of Japan. Bushido has been compared by many to the English Knights’ Chivalry. Even though they have some of the same principles, they have little in common. Bushido was only truly formed in the twelfth century. It developed under the Tokugawa’s rule of Japan. As I have said Bushido is the Samurai’s code so before I can describe Bushido I must explain the Samurai. The teachings of Bushido set down strict rules that revolve over seven virtues which I will explain the most importance of all the teachings and virtues of Bushido. I will also examine the affect of Bushido on the Japanese social system from its first development to modern times. During the thirteenth threw seventeenth centuries Bushido changed slowly, and almost un-noticeably, so I will explain Bushido in the 1700s to the present day. The final part of Bushido I will examine is its effect on popular culture.
The Samurai were some of the most honorable warriors of all time. “Do not forget preparedness for battle” (French 206). As the warriors of Japan the Samurai were each adapt at fighting, and warfare. Some of the weapons the Samurai employed included: the katana, bow and arrows, spears, bo staffs, kamas. In Japanese Samurai literally means to serve, and as such the Samurai served their lords. The Samurai also were very loyal, if they believed they disobeyed or dishonored their lords they would ask for the chance to commit seppuku (seppuku is a ritual suicide). The Samurai’s were divided into family based clans. As clans gathered manpower and resources and struck alliances with each other. When the clans would come together they would pick a leader to rule them. The leaders were each in some way related to a high noble family, or the emperor. At this earlier point in history there were three noble families, the Fujimaru, the Minamori, and the Tairi. Because of their rising military and economic power, the clans ultimately became a new force in the politics. The Shogunate ruled over all Japan, including the clans. So in this time with samurais ruling Japan, Bushido was now wide-spread, across the country.
Bushido was a mixture of many other teaching in Japan. “The code of these new samurai knights melded the values of Shinto, Confucianism, Taoism, and Zen Buddhism.” (French 205). Bushido expanded code of the samurai, and stressed frugality, loyalty, mastery of martial arts, and honor to the death. Bushido had seven main virtues and they were: Courage, Benevolence, Respect, Honesty, Honor, Loyalty, and Righteousness. Bushido also taught that you should not fear death, and should strive for a form of enlightenment. It also has similar vows of Buddhism. The first vow of Bushido is to never to be outdone in your way of life. To practice Bushido you must be good to your master. In the same respect you must be honorable to your children, as if they are your master. The final vow of Bushido is to show great compassion to all people. They believed that by reciting these vows they could gain strength, and prosperity. Judgment is the power of deciding upon a certain course of conduct in accordance with reason, without wavering. “You can not judge whether one is good or evil by there prosperity” (Tanaka 29) Judgment is the bone that gives firmness and stature. As without bones the head cannot rest on the top of the spine, nor hands move nor do feet stand. Without good Judgment a Samurai could not discern the best path. Next in the line of virtues was Courage. Courage is doing what is right. Going though all kinds of hazards, to jeopardize one's self was part of Courage. This is what courage was taught to be in Bushido. Many thought...
Cited: French, Shanon “The Code of the Warrior: Exploring the Values of Past and Present” Oxford: Rowman and Littlefield Publishing 1999. 205-208.
Tanaka, Minoru “Bushido The Way of the Samurai” Garden City Park, NY: Square One Publishing 2006. 28-29
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