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Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai Paperback – March 15, 1992
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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.
This translation offers 300 selections that constitute the core texts of the 1,300 present in the original.
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About 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, took his B.A. at Dartmouth College, graduated as a Japanese specialist from the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies, and received his M.A. in Japanese literature from the University of Washington. He became acquainted with Japan at first-hand in 1966 on a
coastal expedition-by kayak-from the western Japanese port of Sasebo to Tokyo. He later lived in the potter's village of Bizen, studied as a special student at Aichi Prefectural University, and was a counselor at the Japanese Consulate-General in Seattle. He now lives in his native Florida.
Among his highly regarded translations of original works of literature are The Unfettered Mind, The Roots of Wisdom: Saikontan, and Taiko.
- Publisher : Kodansha USA (March 15, 1992)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 180 pages
- ISBN-10 : 4770011067
- ISBN-13 : 978-4770011060
- Item Weight : 4.8 ounces
- Dimensions : 7 x 0.6 x 4.3 inches
- Best Sellers Rank: #267,492 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
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1 star for Kindle version, 5 for the hardcopy
Some parts of the book will sound exceedingly misogynistic and weird to our ears, but those are the parts you should pay attention to if you deal with the Japanese. Others are rather entertaining, and yet other are off the wall.
In summary, if you are interested in an unfiltered glimpse into the mind of a samurai turned clerk and in getting some insight into the way the Japanese view the world to this day, Hagakure is definitely worth your time!
Though there were a few words that were badly misspelled and somewhat confusing at first ( ie. "pot" in place of "got" "gut" for "cut") it was still easy to follow once you got past the misspelled words and worked out their true meaning. However, the content of the book was what I sought. I have read it in a matter of a couple of weeks, though it could be read in a day without interruption. But to read it quickly would be unwise. You'd miss much of what is really being said. I will read this book again in a month's time and try to absorb more of it's wisdom from the a true mast of his age.
Bushido: The Way of the Warrior is the Way of Death
I could see this book becoming easily misunderstood. It brims with warrior energy--especially beneficial for someone going through a particularly low or troubling period of their life where they need some motivation and can vicariously appreciate the struggles of others.
The simple message of the book is this: in order to master yourself you need to kill your self.
What does that mean? It doesn't mean suicide. Far from it--in fact it is the opposite: it is a birth or a rebirthing. What we are killing is that part of ourselves which confuses our values, which puts us in tension with ourselves: the ego. In the words of Guru Prem, Tsunetomo is asking that the EGO become an AMIGO. It is TAMING THE WILD HORSE--and, subsequently, breaking her.
The style is aphoristic. That means its EASY to digest and SIMPLE to navigate. You an really pick it up anywhere and read it from that point. It is not a linear and progressing narrative. You could read it completely out of order. This is great because Tsunetomo gets right to the point.
Check my blog post about it for a full detail of the points the book makes:
Top reviews from other countries
Running headlong into battle, the Yakuza are no longer an issue for this small village... I may however need to explain the dead boatman I cut down and beat to death for daring to not address me as "sire" as I passed him at the docks.
In terms of content, a lot of the thoughts are very insightful, timeless and still relevant. His thoughts on event randomness looks a bit like a 300 year older Taleb ( Fooled by Randomness: The Hidden Role of Chance in Life and in the Markets ). On the other hand some of the other thoughts appear somewhat random, short, almost haiku-like.
Unlike the other samurai treatises I have read, Hagakure touches on more topics but brushes them more lightly - so yo will have thoughts on the role of the wife, upbringing of offspring and homosexuality.
While you can pick it up, open on a random page and read, like mentioned by other reviewers and therefore makes it good as a gift, I still much prefer Musashi Miyamoto's The Book of Five Rings . It might be more accessible to a Western audience, or it might be that the completeness and structure just works much better. I suppose if you have not read much samurai writing, The Book of Five Rings might be an easier initiation to the topic, too.