Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
For other uses of the term bushido see bushido (disambiguation)
Bushido (Japanese lit. "way of the warrior", 武士道, bushidō), was an ethical code of conduct, developed in the 12th to 14th centuries and was formalized during the opening years of the Tokugawa shogunate for the members of the Samurai class. According to the Japanese Dictionary Shogakkan Kokugo Daijiten: "Bushido is defined as a unique philosophy (ronri) that spread through the warrior class from the Muromachi (chusei) period."
The famous warlord and writer Imagawa Ryoshun would write in 1412: "In Governing the country, it is dangerous to lack even one of the virtues of humanity, righteousness, etiquette and wisdom. It is forbidden to forget the great debt of kindness one owes to his master and ancestors and thereby make light of the virtues of loyalty and filial piety.....There is a primary need to distinguish loyalty from disloyalty and to establish rewards and punishments.....it is written in the Four Books and Five Classics as well as in the military writings that in protecting the country, if one is ignorant in the study of literature, he will be unable to govern. Just as Buddha preached the various laws in order to save all living beings, one must rack one's brains and never depart from the Ways of both Warrior and Literary Man."
Several famous Sengoku Daimyo mention Bushido in their writings. Lord Kato Kiyomasa (1562-1611) orders his men to follow it: "If a man does not investigate into the matter of Bushido daily, it will be difficult for him to die a brave and manly death. Thus it is essential to engrave this business of the warrior into one's mind well.....One should put forth great effort in matters of learning. One should read books concerning military matters, and direct his attention exclusively to the virtues of loyalty and filial piety.....Having been born into the house of a warrior, one's intentions should be to grasp the long and the short swords and to die."
In August 1600, Lord Torii Mototada cited Bushido as his reason for staying behind in a doomed castle with his 1,800 man garrison, knowing that Ishida Mitsunari's 40,000 soldiers were approaching: "I will stand off the forces of the entire country here....and die a resplendant death....It is not the Way of the Warrior to be shamed and avoid death even under circumstances that are not particularly important.....Even if all the other provinces of Japan were to unite against our lord, our descendants should not set foot inside another fief to the end of time....."
Torii Mototada's 10 day siege likely changed the course of Japanese history, enabling Ieyasu Tokugawa to win the Battle of Sekigahara. Fushimi Castle would fall after its defenders fought heroically to the last man and as was custom, Torii Mototada would kill himself rather than be taken alive.
Bushido expanded and formalized the earlier code of the samurai, and stressed frugality, loyalty, mastery of martial arts, and honor to the death. Under the Bushido ideal, if a samurai failed to uphold his honor he could regain it by performing seppuku (ritual suicide). According to Inazo Nitobe, Author of "Bushido: The Soul of Japan", "As to strictly ethical doctrines, the teachings of Confucius were the most prolific source of Bushido.....Next to Confucius, Mencius exercised an immense authority over Bushido. His forcible and often quite democratic theories were exceedingly taking to sympathetic natures, and they were even thought dangerous to, and subversive of, the existing social order, hence his works were for a long time under censure. Still, the words of this master mind found permanent lodgment in the heart of the samurai."
Bushido ethics were tightly connected to the Rinzai school of Zen Buddhism, which promoted austerity, detachment and "no-mind" concentration as an ultimate approach to combat situations as well as daily life, and considered martial arts as a way to self-realization and to the expression of one's Buddha-nature.
Bushido was widely practiced and it is surprising how uniform the samurai code remained over time, crossing over all geographic and socio-economic backgrounds of the samurai. The samurai represented a wide populace numbering between 7 to 10% of the Japanese population, and the first Meiji era census at the end of the 19th century counted 1,282,000 members of the "high samurais", allowed to ride a horse, and 492,000 members of the "low samurai", allowed to wear two swords but not to ride a horse, in a country of about 25 million. ("Japan. A historical survey" Mikiso Hane). Although Japan enjoyed a period of peace during the Sakoku ("Closed country") period from the 17th to the mid-19th century, the samurai class remained and continued to play a center role in the policing of the country. The status of the samurai was abolished after the Meiji restoration, but the former samurai continued to play a key role in the industrialization of Japan.
Bushido ethics enjoyed a revival during World War 2 as a way to build up Japanese fighting spirit. It was particularly reinforced among the fighting forces as a means of portraying the value of self-sacrifice and loyalty, and culminated with the self-sacrifice of the kamikaze pilots.
Seven virtues associated with bushido
- 義 - Gi - Rectitude (Right Decisions)
- 勇 - Yu - Courage
- 仁 - Jin - Benevolence
- 礼 - Rei - Respect
- 誠 - Makoto - Honesty
- 名誉 - Meiyo - Honor
- 尽忠 - Chugi - Loyalty
Major figures associated with bushido
- William Scott Wilson, "Ideals of the Samurai: Writings of Japanese Warriors" (Kodansha,1982)
- THE REGULATIONS OF IMAGAWA RYOSHUN (1412 A.D.)
- THE FINAL STATEMENT OF TORII MOTOTADA (1600 A.D.)
-LETTER OF ADMONISHMENT TO HIS SON http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Torii_Mototada
- AN INTERVIEW WITH WILLIAM SCOTT WILSON ABOUT BUSHIDO --An Expert Speaks
- BUSHIDO WEBSITE-- A GOOD DEFINITION OF BUSHIDO: http://mcel.pacificu.edu/as/students/bushido/bindex.html
- Website of William Scott Wilson:
- BUSHIDO--THE SOUL OF JAPAN by Inazo Nitobe (1905) Complete text online:
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