Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

Overview

Hagakure ("In the Shadow of Leaves") is a manual for the samurai classes consisting of a series of short anecdotes and reflections that give both insight and instruction in the philosophy and code of behavior that foster the true spirit of Bushido -- the Way of the Warrior. It is not a book of philosophy as most would understand the word: it is a collection of thoughts and sayings recorded over a period of seven years, and as such covers a wide variety of subjects, often in no ...
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Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

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Overview

Hagakure ("In the Shadow of Leaves") is a manual for the samurai classes consisting of a series of short anecdotes and reflections that give both insight and instruction in the philosophy and code of behavior that foster the true spirit of Bushido -- the Way of the Warrior. It is not a book of philosophy as most would understand the word: it is a collection of thoughts and sayings recorded over a period of seven years, and as such covers a wide variety of subjects, often in no particular sequence.

The work represents an attitude far removed from our modern pragmatism and materialism, and posesses an intuitive rather than rational appeal in its assertion that Bushido is a Way of Dying, and that only a samurai retainer prepared and willing to die at any moment can be totally true to his lord. While Hagakure was for many years a secret text known only to the warrior vassals of the Hizen fief to which the author belonged, it later came to be recognized as a classic exposition of samurai thought and came to influence many subsequent generations, including Yukio Mishima.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“This is a great book for anyone looking for a more centered way of life, or just some good advice about living.”—Sacramento Book Review
New York Review of Books
A Classic of Japanese thought...Poetic, robust...a feast of aphorisms and martial anecdotes.
Choice
Yamamoto brought together three temperaments: loyalty to his master, a literary sensibility, and the enlightenment of Zen.
East West Journal
The most influential of all samurai treatises ever written.—Prof. Ivan Morris
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781590309858
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 5/15/2012
  • Edition description: Translatio
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 185,539
  • Product dimensions: 5.66 (w) x 7.60 (h) x 0.78 (d)

Meet the Author

WILLIAM SCOTT WILSON is the foremost translator into English of traditional Japanese texts on samurai culture. He received BA degrees from Dartmouth College and the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies, and an MA in Japanese literary studies from the University of Washington. His best-selling translations include The Book of Five Rings, The Unfettered Mind, and Taiko.

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Table of Contents

Foreword 7
Introduction 9
From the 1st Chapter 17
From the 2nd Chapter 65
From the 3rd Chapter 89
From the 4th Chapter 91
From the 6th Chapter 93
From the 7th Chapter 99
From the 8th Chapter 111
From the 9th Chapter 128
From the 10th Chapter 137
From the 11th Chapter 153
Late Night Idle Talk 167
Notes 170
Names, Places and Words 174
Bibliography 179
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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted May 6, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Hagakure: Book of the Samurai was written by Yamamoto Tsunetomo,

    Hagakure: Book of the Samurai was written by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, a samurai who lived from 1659-1719. The version that I read was translated by William Scott Wilson.

    The book was written in short thoughts and anecdotes, this combination gives the reader a look into not only the mind of the samurai but it also helps the reader understand the times and the culture of the samurai.

    As one would expect there are many thoughts and stories about what death and honor meant to the samurai. But it also covers some less expected subjects, such as education, religion, compassion, politeness, and even thoughts on homosexuality (seemed that sexuality wasn't nearly as important as duty).

    There are many things in the book for the reader to think about and several may be a bit difficult for people of modern times to understand, like the fact that by the age of 15 a samurai was expected to go to where the condemned prisoners are kept and practice decapitation. Or committing ritual suicide to follow their retainer into the afterlife. One of the things that really made me stop and think; loyalty equals sincerity.

    Even though there are things that might be difficult for people of today to relate to there are several thoughts that people of today would be all the better if they incorporated into their lives.

    Yamamoto Tsunetomo tells his thoughts on the younger samurais of his day compared to the older samurai of just 50 yrs before and the story reminded me that the more things change the more they stay the same. I can't remember his exact words, so I'll paraphrase: “Damn kids today have no respect or idea of how things should be done” (and yes I even pictured him shaking his fist in the air as he said it).

    Overall I enjoyed the book and it did give me a lot to think about and a better understanding of a people. Highly recommend Hagakure to anyone interested in samurai, the people or the philosophy.

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