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9784770011060

Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

Yamamoto Tsunetomo Author

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9784770011060: Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

| Hagakure ("In the Shadow of Leaves"') is a manual for the samurai classes consisting of a series of short anecdotes and reflections that give both insight and instruction-in the philosophy and code of behavior that foster the true spirit of Bushido-the Way of the Warrior. It is not a book of philosophy as most would understand the word: it is a collection of thoughts and sayings recorded over a period of seven years, and as such covers a wide variety of subjects, often in no particular sequence.

The work represents an attitude far removed from our modern pragmatism and materialism, and posesses an intuitive rather than rational appeal in its assertion that Bushido is a Way of Dying, and that only a samurai retainer prepared and willing to die at any moment can be totally true to his lord. While Hagakure was for many years a secret text known only to the warrior vassals of the Hizen fief to which the author belonged, it later came to be recognized as a classic exposition of samurai thought and came to influence many subsequent generations, including Yukio Mishima.

This translation offers 300 selections that constitute the core texts of the 1,300 present in the original.

"synopsis" may belong to another edition of this title.

About the Author:


YAMAMOTO TSUNETOMO [1659-1719] was a samurai retainer of the Nabeshima Clan, Lords of Hizen province, who became a Buddhist monk in 1700 after the Shogunate government prohibited the practice of tsuifuku: suicide of a retainer on the death of his lord. The book was dictated to a younger samurai during the author's seclusion over a seven year period.

WILLIAM SCOTT WILSON, the translator, took his B.A. at Dartmouth College, graduated as a Japanese specialist from the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies, and received his M.A. in Japanese literature from the University of Washington. He became acquainted with Japan at first-hand in 1966 on a coastal expedition-by kayak-from the western Japanese port of Sasebo to Tokyo. He later lived in the potter's village of Bizen, studied as a special student at Aichi Prefectural University, and was a counselor at the Japanese Consulate-General in Seattle. He now lives in his native Florida.

Among his highly regarded translations of original works of literature are The Unfettered Mind, The Roots of Wisdom: Saikontan, and Taiko.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

Although it stands to reason that a samurai should be mindful of the Way of the Samurai, it would seem that we are all negligent. Consequently, if someone were to ask, "What is the true meaning of the Way of the Samurai?" the person who would be able to answer promptly is rare. This is because it has not been established in one's mind beforehand. From this, one's unmindfulness of the Way can be known.

Negligence is an extreme thing.

The Way of the Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either/or, there is only the quick choice of death. It is not particularly difficult. Be determined and advance. To say that dying without reaching one's aim is to die a dog's death is the frivolous way of sophisticates. When pressed with the choice of life or death, it is not necessary to gain one's aim.

We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim and continuing to live is cowardice. This is a thin dangerous line. To die without gaining one's aim is a dog's death and fanaticism. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one's heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.

A warrior should be careful in all things and should dislike to be the least bit worsted. Above all, if he is not careful in his choice of words he may say things like, "I'm a coward," or "At that time I'd probably run," or "How frightening,'' or "How painful." These are words that should not be said even in jest, on a whim, or when talking in one's sleep. If a person with understanding hears such things, he will see to the bottom of the speaker's heart. This is something that should be carefully thought about beforehand.

In the words of the ancients, one should make his decisions within the space of seven breaths. Lord Takanobu said, "If discrimination is long, it will spoil." Lord Naoshige said, "When matters are done leisurely, seven out of ten will turn out badly. A warrior is a person who does things quickly."

When your mind is going hither and thither, discrimination will never be brought to a conclusion. With an intense, fresh and undelaying spirit, one will make his judgments within the space of seven breaths. It is a matter of being determined and having the spirit to break right through to the other side.

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