Bushido: The Way of the Samurai
Garden City Park, NY
After reading this book it is my belief that it is important for Westerners to understand the seemingly strange concepts of Bushido, not only as a guide to events of the past, but as a primer for understanding the Japanese business mentality of today. The first thought that comes to mind when Japanese work ethic is hard working, no breaks, complete commitment to ones job. There may be a reason why Japan was able to rebuild their country so quickly after World War II, this reason is Bushido, the principles of the samurai.
The origin of this book is from the Hagakure, which this book was based on was dictated by Tsunetomo Yamamoto, a samurai. And later scribed verbatim by Tsuramoto Tashiro over a period of seven years (1710-1716) in which they lived together in a far off mountain retreat in Japan. Tashiro was sworn to secrecy over the texts contents because the author believed the teachings to be far too radical and too militaristic for the then peaceful times during the Shogunate Rule (1603-1867). During this time of unusual calmness, the teachings of Buddhism and the ethical codes of Confucius permeated Japan, enriching every aspect of its culture from arts to politics. But the old samurai, Yamamoto, believed that the samurai, as a class, had become effeminate and weak. Yamamoto's basic premise was that the samurai could not serve two masters, religion and the clan, and by doing so had become less effective. The service of the lord and the clan should come first, and once this was done, one could then amuse oneself with the studies of the humanities.
In writing the Hagakure, Yamamoto hoped that someday the Samurai would return to the purity of its strong and compassionate past.
This book gives a unique look back to the late 18th century, when Yamamoto was active as a samurai. The view is unique, because Japan was unifying and there was less need for each minor lord to have an armed class. The warrior ethic was changing as war became less common. In some way, these notes seem to mourn the passing of the clearest, purest form of that ethic.
The warrior ethic only changed, though and still underlies many aspects of modern Japanese thought and policy. The feudal caste system still gives a fair description of different levels of management.
This book is not just about a time and a culture different from that in the modern West. It teaches personal responsibility, a lesson that too many people still need. In part, this means responsibility to one's self, in maintaining professional skills and personal credibility. It also means responsibility and loyalty towards one's employer. From a workers point of view I do not feel thoughtless in saying that, by accepting the pay that feeds and houses me, I have a duty to return the value given. Self interest, if not personal honor, should...