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Hagakure - a Samurai Bible

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Hagakure

Hagakure, also known as the samurai bible, is a book that represents the attitude that goes beyond the modern pragmatism or the love for materialism to the overall spiritual development of individuals. Despite the interpretations that people have had on this book, Hagakure applies to more than just samurai lifestyle. It gives intuitions into the teachings of Yamamoto Tsumetomo and is based on sincerity and the mora guidance used in modern life . Hagakure represents various rationales in life and the way and the way a real samurai should serve the people and his leaders. Hagakure can sometimes be seen to represent the ancient japan or the old system of leadership; however, the teachings of Hagakure can be applied in every aspect of life.

Loyalty and Honorable Death

The work indicates that not all samurai warriors were willing to conform to the Bushido ways of life, least of them all Yamamoto, the real narrator of the book Hagakure. Yamamoto questioned the real work of warriors in eras of peace throughout his narration. Hagakure’s presentation of Bushido is, with no doubt, expressed in the distressing statement that “the way of samurai is found in death”. This argument bases its statements on the belief that everyone wants to live, which implies that the transcendence of this fantasy marks the predetermined heroic motive, a feeling reflected in the notion that “death is the only sincerity”. Therefore, the codes of a warrior highlighted by Yamamoto in the Hagakure focuses on the combination of honorable death and loyalty as the real values of a real Japanese warrior, stating that altering these qualities is doing the complete opposite of Tokugawa values.

Yamamoto’s assessment of the role of Hagakure to modern-day warriors attracts several critiques of the changing samurai values during Tokugawa’s era. One primary value that requires extensive examination is that of loyalty, especially in the manner it is being shown within Tokugawa’s system, which attracted attention from samurai leaders. Also, Yamamoto seeks from the idealized belief of honorable death, synthesizing the two ideals of loyalty and honorable death that work to bring a connection between his values those of great Japanese heroes. The ideal of honorable death may sometimes have critics due to the attitudes that arise with time. Warriors need to be loyal, but the ones willing and prepared to die at any moment for the sake of their lords are limited. The strong beliefs in death are long gone since “we all want to live”.

Samurais and Modernity

In an important text, Yamamoto highly criticizes the contemporary attitudes of Tokugawa regarding the samurai’s increasing fondness of academia and arts, arguing that “outside learning for retainers and warriors is worthless” and the only concern for a samurai should be “nothing other than doing his job”. His condemnation was not entirely motivated by the hatred of formal education but rather by his inadequate perceptions in a period of peace. In reality, his view was behind time because there were no longer arenas available for warriors and samurais to demonstrate either their courage, military prowess, or their loyalty. Warring days were long gone, and there existed no need for warriors willing to die for their lords. The changing culture in Japan is what called for the need for samurais to acquire formal education to provide diversified services to their lords.

Importance of Loyalty

During the Edo period, the legal system allowed for severe punishment of traitors and fought disloyalty to the point of losing lives. Yamamoto strongly argues that only when “a warrior makes loyalty and filial piety one load and carries these twenty-four hours a day until his shoulders wear out, he will be a samurai”. The actual aim of this text is not to show the need for abject loyalty, but rather an effort to bring back the sense of purpose to samurai warriors lost in the present age of peace. Yamamoto continues to argue that the meaning of being a samurai is seriously subjecting one’s soul and body to his lord, thereby using loyalty as the point around which the lost identity of samurai can be rebuilt. The decline of martial necessity came as a result of prolonged periods of peace, which eroded the true essence of samurai.

Hagakure’s importance in guiding modern warrior-bureaucrats who have never experienced war comes in handy after Tokugawa’s regime decides to open trade relations with the west. Tokugawa’s leadership fails to come up with a more appropriate way to open relations with the west, although several accords had previously opened Japanese ports to merchants from the west. These initiated trade between japan and other western countries and came as the last blow to the importance of retainers whose services have decreased as compared to the past times. At this point, japan not only opened its economy to foreigners but continued to emulate them as a way of becoming more modernized.

Several texts in the Hagakure strongly state the roles of the samurai and the deliberate efforts of Yamamoto to make retainers as important as possible in a vain attempt of returning the Tokugawa society to the militant past which would cease to make him a person who only existed in the past.

The political context of Hagakure

From a political perspective, Hagakure gives a reflection and an insight into the philosophy of behaviour. The Spirit of Bushido was the way of the Warrior, and it encouraged servants to be loyal to their rulers. This is a philosophical book that makes people understand the world from a variety of subjects and can be applied in modern society. Consequently, the book cannot be dismissed as being inappropriate or inapplicable in the contemporary world. Instead, the way of the Samurai shows the dedication that the Citizens should have towards their leaders.

Political rulers can lead their people through the most relevant or applicable ways knowing that they are loyal to them. The style of the Samurai represents an attitude that could be said to come from the modern pragmatism and the belief that people have towards materialism. Everyone possesses the intuition of the modern-day Nationalism. The Samurai has a significant influence on the political system experienced in the modern world, especially in modern-day Japan. Hence, Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s Hagakure is still a valuable guide in the contemporary society of peace, and it is not a fantasy book that is not applicable.

The Contents of Hagakure in Relation to Modern Society

Hagakure gives accounts of the views by Tsunetomo on his opinion about bushido. Bushido is the code of the worrier that was used by the Samurai, however. Bushido has also been interpreted to mean the way of dying or living through the already dead. Therefore, the book encourages that the Samurai have to be willing to lose his life anytime for his lord. This shows how true he is to his lord. However, according to the views the society today, the way of the worrier still has the same beliefs but with a looser commitment.

Yamamoto had great wisdom together with several interesting stories to pass during his time. Several ideas that existed in the 1600s and to the early part of the 1700s are still applying today and can be used as life lessons. As a tool that advocates for the betterment of oneself, Hagakure demands purity and ultimate loyalty. These are virtues that Japanese people have always been known for even during international sports events. Despite the references that are changing through time, several ideas have remained the same and will continue to inspire people through the generations to come.

Conclusion

In conclusion, Hagakure is a Japanese book that was written by Yamamoto Tsunetomo. The book was not published until laters despite being written in the 1700s.  However, Hagakure is still a valuable guide for warrior-bureaucrats in an age of peace; and is not an anachronistic neither is it closer to work of fantasy fiction. Hagakure is still applicable in the world of today and has political and social perspectives that relate directly to the way people live today. The method of a Warrior may be translated to represent the willingness to die for a Cause. However, this is the same mentality that the Japanese people have today where people are dedicated to what they like within the society. Hagakure advocates for a pure heart and ultimate sacrifice for people to serve their leaders, and protect their land. Even in a civilized Society, Hagakure still applies in many areas of life, including businesses and the political setup.

Bibliography

  1. Yamamoto, T. (1979). Hagakure: The book of the Samurai (WS Wilson, Trans.). Retrieved From https://books.google.com/books?id=hW7YDUQfHWEC&pg=PP1#v=onepage&q&f=false
  2. Hane, M. (2018). Modern Japan: A historical survey. Routledge. Retrieved from
  3. http://www.misterdann.com/syllabusproject/PowellEModernEgypt.pdf

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