Inazo Nitobe lays out a beautiful and nostalgic picture of Japanese culture before it opened to Western Culture in 1853. The book allows a glimpse into the mythology and epic poetry of a bygone world. Bushido, the Soul of Japan argues that although the Bushido ethos is gone, it remains an integral part of Japanese identity.
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.
About the Author
Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933): agriculturalist, scholar, Quaker, philosopher, statesman, educator.Inazo Nitobe was educated at Sapporo Agricultural College, University of Tokyo, Johns Hopkins, and University of Halle (Germany). Early in his life he expressed the desire to be a "bridge over the Pacific" and he devoted much of his life to promoting trust and understanding between the United States and Japan.
Nitobe Inazō (September 1, 1862 – October 15, 1933) was a Japanese agricultural economist, author, educator, diplomat, politician, and Christian during the pre-World War II period.
Nitobe was born in Morioka, Mutsu Province (present-day Iwate Prefecture). His father Nitobe Jūjirō was a retainer to the local daimyō of the Nanbu clan. His grandfather is Nitobe Tsutō. His great-grandfather is Nitobe Denzō [ja] (Koretami). His one of cousin is Nitobe Inao [ja]. His infant name was Inanosuke. Nitobe left Morioka for Tokyo in 1871 to become the heir to his uncle, Ōta Tokitoshi, and adopted the name Ōta Inazō. He later reverted to Nitobe when his an older brother Nitobe Shichirō died.
Nitobe was a prolific writer. He published many scholarly books as well as books for general readers. He also contributed hundreds of articles to popular magazines and newspapers. Nitobe, however, is perhaps most famous in the west for his work Bushido: The Soul of Japan (1900), which was one of the first major works on samurai ethics and Japanese culture written originally in English for Western readers (The book was subsequently translated into Japanese and many other languages). Although sometimes criticized as portraying the samurai in terms so Western as to take away some of their actual meaning, this book nonetheless was a pioneering work of its kind.
The reception and impact of Bushido: The Soul of Japan were quite different in Japan and the West, however, with Japanese scholars such as Inoue Tetsujirō and Tsuda Sokichi criticizing or dismissing the book. It was not until the 1980s that Bushido: The Soul of Japan reached the height of its popularity in Japan, and is now the most widely available work on the subject of bushido. In the West, Bushido: The Soul of Japan has been a best-seller since the outbreak of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-05, and has been translated into dozens of languages.
Nitobe's writings are now available in Nitobe Inazō Zenshū (the Complete Works of Inazo Nitobe), a 25-volume set from Kyobunkan, 1969–2001. His English and other western language work are collected in the 5 volume Works of Inazo Nitobe, The University of Tokyo Press, 1972. (wikipedia.org)
Bushido, which literally means "the way of warriors" is a code of conduct, based upon a set of honors and ideals associated with the samurai way of life, that has greatly influenced the culture and people of Japan. The origin of bushido likely dates to sometime between the 16th and 20th century in Japan, though some scholars argue that it may have been built upon much earlier traditions. Born from the Neo-Confucianism of the Edo period, bushido emphasizes the eight virtues of righteousness, heroism, compassion, respect, honesty, honor, loyalty, and self-control. Noted diplomat, statesman, economist, educator, and author, Inazo Nitobe helped to introduce the culture of Japan to a western audience. Today he is best remembered for his work "Bushido: The Soul of Japan". First published in English in 1900, the work explores how the influence of the ancient code of bushido has had such a lasting effect on the culture and traditions of Japan. Drawing in the eastern traditions of Buddhism, Shintoism, and Confucianism, Nitobe compares and contrasts bushido with the foundations of Western culture finding common ground in the spirit of medieval chivalry and the ethos of ancient Greece. While criticized in Japan contemporarily for presenting bushido from too Western of a perspective, the work is today recognized as a classic on the subject. This edition is printed on premium acid-free paper and includes an introduction by William Elliot Griffis.
This new 2018 revised edition of the standard English translation of Bushido updates some of the more archaic spelling and phraseology into modern American English.
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