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13: Bushi-do of Inazo Nitobe (1) 【Kusahara Katsuhide, Chairman of JKA 】

13: Bushi-do of Inazo Nitobe (1) 【Kusahara Katsuhide, Chairman of JKA 】

13: Bushi-do of Inazo Nitobe (1) 【Kusahara Katsuhide, Chairman of JKA 】

Budo is “a culture of physical activity derived from the bushido tradition.” Today, Inazo Nitobe’s famous book, Bushido, always appears when discussing bushido. However, unlike Miyamoto Musashi’s The Book of Five Rings and other works, it teaches nothing about martial arts techniques. It is a treatise on Japanese thought and culture initially written in English for Western intellectuals.

So, what is written in Nitobe’s Bushido? As used in the book’s title, Nitobe first explains the meaning of the word “BUSHIDO.” Bushido, he says, is “the code of the bushi (i.e., samurai)” and “the duties associated with the status of the warrior class,” in other words, “noblesse oblige.” It is clear. With this single word, Western intellectuals can understand that Japanese warriors are as noble as Western aristocrats.

The author then takes up the virtues required of a samurai, such as justice, courage, benevolence, politeness, sincerity, honor, and loyalty, and explains their meanings in an easy-to-understand manner for Westerners, citing specific examples.

These virtues are familiar to us and often used in our daily lives, but the following is a brief summary of the main points.

Justice or righteousness means to be following the way of humanity and to be right. It is the strictest of the virtues in the code of the warrior. Mencius once said, “Benevolence is man’s heart, and righteousness is man’s way.” As such, it is the righteous cause or justice that one should fulfill, and it is considered a despicable act to go against righteousness. Nothing was more detestable to a samurai than a dirty or sneaky act.

Couage means to have a strong and brave heart. As it is said, “Perceiving what is right and not doing it is lack of courage ” (from Analects of Confucius). Courage is doing what is right to fulfill righteousness. Courage has no value as a virtue unless it is done for the sake of righteousness. Courage is “to live when one should live and die when one should die.” Dying in a way that is not worth risking one’s life for was ridiculed and called “inu-jini (dog’s death).” The dojo-kun also warns against the “unworthy valor.”

Benevolence is compassion. Both Confucius and Mencius repeatedly state that the highest requirement of a ruler is benevolence. Bushido considers benevolence to be the highest virtue because it is the basis of all other virtues and the primary requirement for anyone who stands above others.

Whereas justice is masculine, benevolence has a feminine kindness and persuasiveness. What’s important is the sense of love attached to justice. This is what people identify with as samurai compassion. Benevolence, especially toward the weak, the inferior, and the defeated, was praised as a virtue befitting a samurai.

Politeness is the outward expression of consideration for others. It implies a rightful respect for what is just. Politeness can sometimes be too rigid, but with proper etiquette, one can “bring all the organs and functions of the body into perfect order. Moreover, through harmonizing the body with its environment, one can exercise mastery of the mind,” thus avoiding unnecessary use of force. Politeness, therefore, is the most appropriate way to achieve a certain result and is the most graceful and elegant way to achieve it, as exemplified by the tea ceremony.

Sincerity is the absence of lies and deceit. It is an internal virtue, without which politeness would be nothing more than a farce or theatrics. Without sincerity, righteousness cannot be demonstrated either. Lying and deceiving were considered cowardly. A word from a samurai was a guarantee of truth, and a real samurai never went back on his word. Therefore, a samurai does not take an oath. In this respect, Nitobe said, they are very different from Christians, who, despite the teaching “Do not swear,” constantly break it.



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