Bushido PDF Print E-mail
Written by Taty Sena   

What is Bushido?

Bushido (Japanese "way of the warrior", bushido), was the warrior code of the samurai developed in Japan between the Heian and Tokugawa Ages (9th-12th century) on a basis of national tradition influenced by Buddhism, Zen, Shintoism and Confucianism.

Samurai PosterBushido believes man and the universe were made to be alike in both the spirit and ethics. Along with these virtues, Bushido also holds justice, benevolence, love, sincerity, honesty, and self-control in utmost respect. Justice is one of the main factors in the code of the samurai. Crooked ways and unjust actions are thought to be lowly and inhumane. Love and benevolence were supreme virtues and princely acts. Samurai followed a specific etiquette in every day life as well as in war. Sincerity and honesty were as valued as their lives. Bushi no ichi-gon, or "the word of a samurai," transcends a pact of complete faithfulness and trust. With such pacts there was no need for a written pledge; it was thought beneath one's dignity. The samurai also needed self-control and stoicism to be fully honored.  

Bushido was a strict code that demanded loyalty, devotion, and honor to the death. Under Bushido, if a samurai failed to uphold his honor he could regain it by performing seppuku (ritual suicide). 


There are seven virtues associated with Bushido: 
Gi - Rectitude
Yu - Courage 
Jin - Benevolence 
Rei - Respect 
Makoto - Honesty 
Meiyo - Honor 
Chugi - Loyalty 

Samurais and Bushido: 


In Japan the warrior class was known as samurai, also called bushi (hence bushido). They formed a class in and of themselves during the 9th and 12th centuries. They emerged from the provinces of Japan to become the ruling class until their decline and later total abolition in 1876 during the Meiji Era. 

The samurai were fighting men, skilled in the martial arts. Samurai had extensive skills in the use of the bow and arrow and the sword. They could just as likely have killed you with their bare hands. Samurai were also great horsemen. These warriors were men who lived by Bushido; it was their way of life. The samurai's loyalty to the emperor and his overlord, or daimyo, was unsurpassed. They were trustworthy and honest. They lived frugal lives with no interest in riches and material things, but rather they were interested in honor and pride. They were men of true valor.

The samurai became the ruling class during the 1400s and the 1500s. In the 1600s there was a time of unification; warring in Japan had ceased. Then toward the end of the Tokugawa Era (the late 1700s), Japan began to move towards a more modernized and Western way of life. There was no need for fighting men, for warriors, for samurai. The samurai and their way of life was officially abolished in the early 1870s, but it was not forgotten. 

Main influences: 

~ Miyamoto Musashi 


His place and date of birth are in doubt but three places lay claim to this. Apparently he was born into a samurai family in the village of Miyamoto in the province of Mimasaka. His full name was Shinmen Musashi no Kami Fujiwara no Genshin. This means, "Member of Shinmen family, the family name Musashi, clan Fujiwara, adulthood name Genshin". His childhood name is either Takezo or Bennosuke. The name Musashi is taken from Musashibo Benkei, the warrior monk who served Minamoto no Yoshitsune and known as the great warrior who used 9 weapons.
He wrote Gorin No Sho, The Book of Five Rings with rules like:
- Do not think dishonestly.
- The Way is in training.
- Become acquainted with every art. 
- Know the Ways of all professions.
- Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters.
- Develop intuitive judgment and understanding for everything.
- Perceive those things which cannot be seen.
- Pay attention even to trifles.
- Do nothing which is of no use.

~ Tsunetomo Yamamoto (12 June 1659 - 1719)

He was a samurai of the Saga domain in Hizen Province under his lord Mitsushige Nabeshima. For thirty years Yamamoto devoted his life to the service of his lord and clan. When Nabeshima died in 1700, Yamamoto renounced the world and retired to a hernitage in the mountains.
Late in life (between 1709 and 1716), he narrated many of his thoughts to a fellow samurai, Tsuramoto Tashiro. These commentaries were later turned into the Hagakure (Hidden behind the Leaves).
The Hagakure was not widely known during the years following Tsunetomo's death, but by the 1930s it had become one of the most famous representatives of bushido thought in Japan. Tsunetomo believed that becoming one with death in one's thoughts, even in life, was the highest attainment of purity and focus. He felt that a resolution to die gives rise to a higher state of life, infused with beauty and grace beyond the reach of those concerned with self-preservation.

Tsunetomo's personal version of the Four Vows of a samurai, which he advocated reciting every morning:
- Do not fall behind in bushido!
- Be of use to my lord!
- Be filial toward my parents!
- Arouse great compassion, and be of use to other people!


By Taty Sena 


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