3, 30. 2006
Recently, some books on Bushido have gone on to become the best sellers. One of them is “Bushido-A Bilingual & Illustrated version” (Mikawa Shobo), which has notes and commentary added to the classical masterpiece “Bushido” by Inazo Nitobe. And the other one is “Kokka no Hinkaku (Dignity of a Nation) (Shinchosha) by Masahiko Fujiwara. In 2003, the film “The Last Samurai” directed by Tom Cruise with Ken Watanabe in the lead role became quite popular. Bushido and Samurai seem to be the keywords when talking of modern Japan.
Fujiwara’s book that has already sold over 1 million copies is a criticism of excessive stress on rationalism and logicism. It positions “Emotions” and “Form” on the opposite end of the spectrum. Form is the criterion for behavior based on the spirit of Bushido. Fujiwara writes, “Excessive Americanization has made inroads not only in the economy but even in our society, culture and the national character”. He laments that the Japanese are no longer concerned about being called coward or vulgar.
It gives solace to those who are displeased with business restructuring, take-over, and vulgar prosperity and who feel that the present trend of “the survival of the fittest” as reflected in bundling of the people together into “the Winners and the Losers” is going too far. It also works as a tranquilizer for those who are vexed with the lack of manners among the youth and increase in the number of the so-called NEET (Not in Employment, Education or Training). On reading “The earlier Japanese were really marvelous people”, those who dislike antagonistic China and South Korea or powerful America must be feeling proud. There are definitely many factors in this book that make it the best seller.
On the other hand, there is also criticism that such spiritualism should be shunned as it leads to nationalism.
Inazo Nitobe’s Bushido was originally published in America in 1899 in English. It was entitled “Bushido – The Soul of Japan”. It evoked interest across the world and was translated into many languages such as German, French and Chinese. Its Japanese version was published in 1900. It used typical terms like Makoto (honesty), Chugi (Loyalty), Hinsei (Character), Seppuku (Hara-kiri) and the Yamato(Japanese) spirit.
Soon thereafter, Russo-Japanese war broke out in 1904, which ended in Japanese victory in 1905. The victory was attributed to the Bushido.
Tetsujiro Inoue, a philosopher, poet and a Professor of the Tokyo Imperial University of the time, and Sukemasa Arima, a thinker co-authored the book “Bushido Classics” in 3 volumes soon thereafter. Major Publisher and Hakubunkan also published several books on Bushido such as “Theory of Bushido”, “Bushido Percepts” in rapid succession. It was around 1907. After the Meiji Restoration, Bushido was indeed a popular concept as the “Dignity of Nation” during the process of building of the nation.
Bushido concept is said to have been adopted as the norm for the Imperial Army. Imperial Instructions for military were issued in 1882 and they were based on the Bushido. Norms that constituted the standards for the warrior class became the foundation for the military formed by the commoners. It had 5 pillars namely loyalty, etiquette, valor, faithfulness and frugality. It is impossible to assume that they alone led to victory in the Russo-Japanese war but the basis for the argument that Bushido was behind the victory lies here.
Excuse me for being personal but my grand father Tatsuo Ninagawa, a moralist too wrote “History of Japanese Bushido” at that time published by Hakubunkan. He wrote grandiosely “Since the Russo-Japanese war, research on Bushido is a matter of great importance for everyone from politicians to businessmen, military-men and scholars”. He wrote in the conclusion that righteousness, integrity, honesty and valor ought to be practiced in business and it amounts to the so-called ‘gentleman-ship’ of the British. Indeed, isn’t it similar to ‘compliance’ in the corporate world in today’s jargon?