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Hagakure: The Book of the Samauri

Hagakure: The Book of the Samauri

4.4 24
by Tsunetomo Yamamoto, William Scott Wilson (Translator)
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


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.

Editorial Reviews

Yamamoto brought together three temperaments: loyalty to his master, a literary sensibility, and the enlightenment of Zen.
New York Review of Books
A Classic of Japanese thought...Poetic, robust...a feast of aphorisms and martial anecdotes.
East West Journal
The most influential of all samurai treatises ever written.—Prof. Ivan Morris

Product Details

Kodansha USA Publishing
Publication date:
Way of the Warrior Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 4.30(h) x 0.60(d)

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What People are Saying About This

Jim Jarmusch
HAGAKURE became a kind of magical discovery for me, and ‘hidden under its leaves’ were some important gifts.

Meet the Author

YAMAMOTO TSUNETOMO [1659-1719] was a samurai retainer of the Nabeshima Clan, Lords of Hizen province, who became a Buddhist monk in 1700 after the Shogunate government prohibited the practice of tsuifuku: suicide of a retainer on the death of his lord. The book was dictated to a younger samurai during the author's seclusion over a seven year period.

WILLIAM SCOTT WILSON, the translator, was born in 1944 and grew up in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. As an undergraduate student at Dartmouth College in 1966, he was invited by a friend to join a three-month kayak trip up the coast of Japan from Shimonoseki to Tokyo. This eye-opening journey, beautifully documented in National Geographic, spurred Wilson's fascination with the culture and history of Japan.

After receiving a B.A. degree in political science from Dartmouth, Wilson earned a second B.A. in Japanese language and literature from the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies in Monterey, California, then undertook extensive research on Edo-period (1603-1868) philosophy at the Aichi Prefectural University, in Nagoya, Japan.

Wilson completed his first translation, Hagakure, while living in an old farmhouse deep in the Japanese countryside. Hagakure saw publication in 1979, the same year Wilson completed an M.A. in Japanese language and literature at the University of Washington. Wilson's other translations include The Book of Five Rings, The Life-Giving Sword, The Unfettered Mind, the Eiji Yoshikawa novel Taiko, and Ideals of the Samurai, which has been used as a college textbook on Japanese history and thought. Two decades after its initial publication, Hagakure was prominently featured in the Jim Jarmusch film Ghost Dog.

Wilson currently lives in Miami, Florida.

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Hagakure: The Book of the Samauri 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 24 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is decent. It's not your everyday kind of read, but if you are into Japanese culture and literature, then you'll love it.
Lorg More than 1 year ago
This book was written by Tsunetomo Yamamoto who even though didn't live during the most influential time of the Samurai did his research and was well informed, I simply love his application of bushido (code of the samurai) to real life situations and he is defiantly one of the better writers of the Japanese masters. My only point against this book is that Yamamoto spends long chapters and pages about the religions (Buddhist, Confucius, and Shinto) in the area. All in all a wonderful collection of bushido and a worthwhile read for any Samurai historian.
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Nikao_Palladus More than 1 year ago
This is not your typical, sit down and read story in your leisure book. However, it can be read in leisure. But, if your mind is in this state, then you will not take the lever of understanding and pull on it, as it will be just a handle to you. I found the author of this book, Yamamoto, to be a very wise man. His knowledge of and insight into the samuri life is somehow a relevant translation of all human life. The stories and sayings he recorded, I imagine had a dircect impact on his world point of view, which is awesome in itself. Like an old proverb: "Your world is the one you see outside your window. How many worlds must thrive together?" As you go deeper into "Hagakure" you seem to go deeper into an understanding of yourself. I would say this book is the perfect gift for any soldier, warrior, poet, artist or musician. For more than likely, they are one in the same.......
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
JWalker27 More than 1 year ago
Hagakura, or In the Shadow of Leaves, is a translated book of how to be a samurai. Its complex in nature, and its nearly impossible to understand unless you have an open mind. It was written by Yamamoto Tsunetomo near the end of the Age of the Samurai.

This book explains things such as the attitude a samurai must maintain. One of honesty, fidelity, truth, and honor. It explains things in a way that this modern age considers foolish and immature, while in all reality if followed it can help attain balance within the mind.

This book was written by a retired samurai who found himself as a hermit. There are far many more pages than what this book presents, but the translator singled out these chapters because they were the most important.

If you are looking for a book written firsthand by a samurai in the 1500-1600 years of Japan, this book is for you. It allows an individual to analyze the mindset of those in Japan during that time, the economic policies, the government policies, and why even today the Japanese will commit suicide.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Guest More than 1 year ago
Wow, what a great book. I loved it. Now I¿m reading through for the second time and highlighting the passages that inspire me. I highly recommend this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a great book. It's easy to read yet full of profound insights. When I first read this book back in 1998, it had a tremendous impact on my life. It allowed me to look at things from a different perspective. I will continue to recommend it to everyone.
Guest More than 1 year ago
It is a good read. I am only 15 years old and I'm capable of just relaxing and reading it. It has many good stories from the past and it gives you a look at how things were back then. If you are someone who enjoys Japan, Samurai, & Short Stories, I recomend this book. ^_^
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book was vary good and i paln on reading it again and again but the fact that some of the book was cut out like over 200 pages is why i only gave it 4 stars but it was good any way, if you can find a longer hagakure get that one but this is the only one i can find
Guest More than 1 year ago
Here are the echoes of a samurai's words. You can almost feel Yamamoto Tsunetomo, sitting with you, telling his stories, perhaps some warm sake, and a moon bright in a cold dark sky! This is a glimpse into the daily life of a samurai, make no mistake it is brutal and most definately not for some, but, if you follow the way of the sword then this is an absolute must read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
it is an in depth look in the mind of a samaria
Guest More than 1 year ago
For lovers of Japan and the Samurai, this is essential. I loved the depictions of the Samurai, the swords, the fighting, etc...
Guest More than 1 year ago
If ancient Japan is a favorite in your case, then you need to read this book. If nothing else just read a couple passages and you'll want to read the rest. Samurais were very complicated, and this book provides a look into the beliefs and activities that are encorperated into the great Way!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I found that in many years studying Bushido, this book makes much of the Way of the Warrior more clear. Yamamoto Tsunetomo, even though I havn't heard of him, seemed like a great warrior. If you want to understand the mind of a Samurai, read this.
Guest More than 1 year ago
As most you already this book was showcased in the movie 'Ghost Dog, ' a great movie. This is what made me want to read the book for myself. I am a slow reader but this book took me no time to finish reading. The one thing I can say about this book is 'life changing.' This was really a great book, the philosophies/ ways of living really enlightened me to all the things I was doingwrong in my life. The little stories are just spectacular. Once you read this book you will understand what I see in this book. It will go done as th greatest book I read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Ok, this is without a doubt one of the greatesr books about the way of the warrior, the Samurai. Featured in the movie 'Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai', it features in short sayings the words of yamamoto tsunemoto, a 16th or 17th century Japanese samurai-turned monk. This definitaly rates up there with such short saying eastern works like the Dhammapada. There is just so much wisdom and insight in this book, I can highly reccomend it to all fans of Japanese culture, warriors, and historians. The only thing that might throw you off is that it was written a few decades after tokugawa rule had established itself in japan, and the author never participated in any war or duel. But the way I see it, he was living in a time where samurai were getting soft, and he wanted to reminisce about 'The Good Old Days.' A good read, any way you look at it.