The Bushido Code
We have all heard about the Samurai at least once. They are one of Japan’s most iconic figures in history. These are the noble military men serving the Imperial court, famous for wielding weapons such as the Katana sword. They have followed a life code of what we know as the Bushido Code.
But all that we know is their iconic figure. We are excited about buying Samurai swords, but do we know enough of the Samurai?
Do we know the historical facts? Let’s read on and take some time to digest some knowledge!
A History of Japan’s Government
Long ago, the Imperial Court of Japan started out strong. The court had its foundation built around the year 794 AD. These noble and spiritual warriors guarded the Court’s council. The Imperial Court was the primary ruling government of Japan with a monarchy type of ruling. Yet, as centuries passed by, it started growing weaker together with its nobility.
The court had trouble controlling and centralizing the nation. Because of this, they started obtaining goods and services to their former rivals. They would play the role of regional governors.
After some time, feudal lords or Daimyo ruled over territories as independent governors. The Imperial of the Court became weaker now, while so, the local governors have gained more power.
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In 1185, Minamoto No Yoritomo started the first military government, thus entering feudalism. The unity did not last long though.
Other systems rose but failed, leading the state in huge confusion and disruption. This era was then The Age of Wars. If the Samurai were once a symbol of nobility and peace, now its term means someone who can bring death.
There are two terms on being the best Samurai. First, they are those who are loyal to those whom they serve. And second, those who are true to the Bushido code. This is the unwritten code of honor, discipline, and morality of the Samurai.
The New Era and the End of the Samurai
The Samurai would rule as part of Japan’s government and lead the society until 1868. This started a new era where feudalism has ceased. The development of cities and commerce – the age known as the industrial age – replaced the old age.
Majority of the Samurai would adapt to the new world of Japan regardless of leaving the old ways. They joined the police and became elites to continue serving the nation.
Furthermore, they renewed the Bushido code as the conduct of all Japanese society.
The Bushido Code and Its Values
The Bushido Code is also known as “The Way of the Warrior”. Both the Samurai and civilians follow this code of conduct. It was successful in shining light to the Samurai, so it’s no surprise that they brought it back in the new age.
Dr. Inazo Nitobe is from Japan and is known in different educational fields. One of his main works is the book, “Bushido: The Soul of Japan”. His work helped build a bridge to the globe by interpreting the code of the Samurai and why they followed it.
In Nitobe’s book, he listed eight different values that a Samurai (or any noble individual) should have.
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When the word rectitude or justice comes in our mind, we think it’s something related to the court. While that is, in fact, true, that doesn’t always have to be the case. The goal of the Bushido code, after all, is not only for government purposes but for the individual soul as well. They practiced rectitude and justice for it is the strongest virtue. According to an ancient Samurai, it’s the foundation of a human body. It acts as a bone and gives sturdiness and frame.
What is the difference between bravery and courage? Well, bravery is more on the feeling itself. You’re not afraid of the dark, thus, you’re brave. You are not nervous about heights, so we conclude that you are brave.
Meanwhile, motivation is the base of courage. This is the more realistic value, as everyone is afraid of something. Despite having that fear, we push forward to face the grief and pain. Certain aspects like love and passion drive an individual to be courageous. Certain studies have shown that courage is a strong value for a good leader.
What do you expect when you visualize a warrior who carries deadly weapons? They’re likely to have these narrowed glared eyes which show murderous intent, don’t they? But the warriors of Japan knew how to handle a weapon right and to choose the right thing to do. Even Confucius and Mencius stated that it is the number one rule of being a ruler. Furthermore, with this virtue, society could trust their leaders without fear.
Without manners, the world would not be a lively place. Being polite encourages fellow men of society to do the same. If you say “thank you” when someone did something nice for you, they are more likely to repeat it again in the future. Another fact is that society is more attracted to people who do not hold a bad mouth. According to Joseph Joubert, a moralist, “Politeness is the flower of humanity.”
5. Honesty and Sincerity
“Men must grudge money, for riches hinder wisdom.” This is a direct quote coming from Dr. Nitobe. Talking about riches is lowly for the Samurai warriors. They must focus on sincere virtues instead of thinking about luxury. There’s a difference between serving for the money and serving for the country.
A Samurai should act like a Samurai. They should act as warriors chosen for the greater good. To show disgrace is every person’s fear. And so, fighting till the end is an honor. Serving till the end is an honor and surrendering is not. It is like a deep red stain visible in white cloth, and that still leaves a small mark on the beautiful linen. The Bushido Code is recognized as the Samurai Code of Honor.
Loyalty’s seen as great patience. Despite how harsh their masters may be, the Samurai will always show their loyalty. They were to stay true to those who remain powerful.
8. Character and Self-Control
An individual’s personality often develops through the influence of the society surrounding them. In the modern age, we go to work because if we don’t, society sees us as lazy people. Killing others is not the right thing because of beliefs, tradition, and laws. But if society wasn’t watching, would we still do the things we do?
This final virtue teaches everyone that we have our own sense of morals; we know what is right and what is wrong. We act on them because we know it in our hearts and minds, and not because the higher laws tell us so.
The Bushido teaches eight important virtues that not only a Samurai should follow. Anyone who learns of this code should apply it in their lives as well, whether they may be Japanese or not. The story of the Samurai may be the strongest Japanese memorabilia of all the wars. But the Bushido Code will be the lasting memory of what a Samurai is. Every Samurai can be noble, and everyone can be their own Samurai.