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Bushido: The Way of the Samurai [Paperback]

Tsunetomo Yamamoto
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Oct. 1 2001 Square One Classics

In eighteenth-century Japan, Tsunetomo Yamamoto created the Hagakure, a document that served as the basis for samurai warrior behavior. Its guiding principles greatly influenced the Japanese ruling class and shaped the underlying character of the Japanese psyche, from businessmen to soldiers. Bushido is the first English translation of this work. It provides a powerful message aimed at the mind and spirit of the samurai warrior. With Bushido, one can better put into perspective Japan’s historical path.


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Bushido: The Way of the Samurai + The Book of Five Rings + The Art of War
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Product Description

About the Author

Tsunetomo Yamamoto, a highly respected samurai warrior, renounced the world and retired to a hermitage in 1700. There, a disciple recorded Yamamoto’s thoughts on what it meant to be a Japanese warrior. His work, the Hagakure, served as the basis of Bushido.


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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
4.7 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A look into the warrior's mind April 3 2004
Format:Paperback
This book was written at the very start of the 19th century, by a samurai in retirement. It gives a unique look back to the late 18th, when Yamamoto was active as a samurai. The view is unique, in part, because Japan was unifying and there was less need for each minor lord to have an armed class. The warrior ethic was changing as war became less common. In part, these notes seem to mourn the passing of the clearest, purest form of that ethic.
The warrior ethic only changed, though and still underlies many aspects of modern Japanese thought and policy. The feudal caste system still gives a fair decription of different levels of management.
This book is not just about a time and a culture different from that in the modern West. It teaches personal responsibility, a lesson that many too many people still need. In part, this means responsibility to one's self, in maintaining professional skills and personal credibility. It also means responsibility towards one's employer. I do not feel crass in saying that, by accepting the pay that feeds and houses me, I have a duty to return the value given. Self interest, if not personal honor, should encourage me to support my employer well enough to keep supporting me and to support me better in the future.
I was also interested to see that a strict code of honor can include a strictly preserved set of personal freedoms. Yamamoto stresses the need to tolerate a few flaws in order to use a person's strengths. He also notes that samurai - or, I think, any professionals - can be effective only when free to make decisions on their own. This is not insubordination, quite the opposite. The skilled employee must be able to make decisions based on that skill. Too tight a managerial rein just strangles the professional's effectiveness.
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Format:Paperback
Often, if you take a course in business strategy, it will include the wonderful Art of War by Sun-Tzu. Sometimes you are asked to read Mushashi's Book of Five Rings, which is Japanese in origin, not Chinese like Sun-Tzu. It's more philosophical and etherial than Sun-Tzu's book, which can be compared to Von Clauswitz's "The Nature of War." But--if you study martial arts, or plan to work in Japan, have Japanese partners, or if you just enjoy learning about military philosophy as a part of business strategy, then "Bushido: The Way of the Samurai" is a fascinating book with a lot to offer the reader. In fact, this is probably one of the best books I could recommend to get to know the mindset of Japanese business leaders. Man of them come from old Samurai families, whose history and traditions go far, far back in time.
In particular, the book outlines the aspects of Bushido philosophy:
Justice
Courage
Benevolence
Loyalty
Honor
Self-control
Sincerity
The book of course gives the meaning of Samurai rituals, including seppuku (hari-kiri) and discussing the training of a warrior. Lest you think this is old hat, business leaders in Japan today all study Kendo, the martial art of the sword and the closest to Bushido's heart.
Even women are not exempted from the Bushido code. They are expected to do their part as warriors, and women traditionally have used the naginata (halberd or pike) as a defensive weapon. It's funny to think that the naginata is considered "effeminate" and watch a Japanese sportswoman wielding that deadly blade against eight opponents during a martial arts demonstration. It's wise not to take Japanese women in business lightly. They nearly all study naginata in school.
I've worked briefly in Japan and have studied Aikido in the past. I found "Bushido" to be one of the most valuable books I own on the subject of Japanese culture and mindset, as well as an additional good book on military philosophy.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent July 28 2011
By NaDoRu
Format:Paperback
It wasn't what I expected. It's a resume of the points made in the actual Bushido, but I found them much too watered down.
Still, it gives you an idea of what the books were about and it still gives you the impression of the "Way of the Samurai".
Not a bad book, not a great on. It was Ok.
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6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Creating Super-men... Dec 14 2003
Format:Paperback
The Hagakure was dictated by Yamamoto and later scribed verbatim by Tsuramoto Tashiro over a period of seven years (1710-1716) in which they lived together in a far off mountain retreat in Japan. Tashiro was sworn to secrecy over the texts contents because the author believed the teachings to be far too radical and too militaristic for the then peaceful times during the Shogunate Rule (1603-1867). During this time of unusual calmness, the teachings of Buddhism and the ethical codes of Confucius permeated Japan, enriching every aspect of her culture from arts to politics. But the old Samurai, Yamamoto, believed (though acknowledging the Buddha and the tenets of Confucius) that the Samurai, as a class, had become effeminate and weak. Yamamoto's basic premise was that the Samurai could not serve two masters (religion and the Clan) and by doing so had become less effective. The service of the lord and the clan should come first, and once this was done, one could then amuse oneself with the studies of the humanities. In writing the Hagakura, Yamamoto hoped that someday the Samurai would return to the purity of its strong and compassionate past. More than this, however, he wanted to create a class of super-men. As Tanaka explains in his historical overview:
"In his (Yamamoto) talks, he wanted every Samurai to become a super-man. But he wanted super-men who were capable of gaining great power, not for their own self-interest, but for the interest of the clan. He wanted super-men who were capable of operating effectively for the solidarity of the clan." (xv)
This is the key to the power and longevity of the way of the Samurai, and that is its notion of devout loyalty to the Lord of the Clan and the Clan itself. All other concerns in life are simply deemed irrelevant.
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