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Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai [Paperback]

Yamamoto Tsunetomo , William Scott Wilson
4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)

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Book Description

3 April 2000
Hagakure ("In the Shadow of Leaves"') is a manual for the samurai class, consisting of a series of short anecdotes and reflections that give both insight and instruction in the philosophy and code of behaviour that foster the true spirit of Bushido - the Way of the Warrior. The work represents an attitude far removed from our modern pragmatism and materialism, and possesses 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. Hagakure was featured prominently in the film Ghost Dog by Jim Jarmusch.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha Europe (3 April 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770026129
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770026125
  • Product Dimensions: 11.5 x 1.4 x 18.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (53 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 180,019 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Hagakure became a kind of magical discovery for me, and 'hidden under its leaves' were some important gifts." --Jim Jarmusch, Director of Ghost Dog

"A classic of Japanese thought Poetic, robust a feast of aphorisms and martial anecdotes." --New York Review of Books

"The most influential of all samurai treatises ever written." --Ivan Morris, author and teacher in the field of Japanese Studies

From the Publisher

An invaluable guide to the discipline of thought and action required of those seeking to realise a focused and uncompromising life.

Inside This Book

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First Sentence
Although it stands to reason that a samurai should be mindful of the Way of the Samurai, it would seem that we are all negligent. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Learn the true meaning of Seppuku 17 May 2001
By A Customer
Hagakure may be familiar to anyone who has seen the film 'Ghost Dog'. It contains anecdotes relating to the way of the samurai, but can be (unfairly) summarised as follows: the way of the samurai lies in death, death must be contemplated on a daily basis, even the slightest example of disrespect should be met by immediate and fatal remedy. In particular, seppuku (hiri kiri) is the noble and glorious end to virtually all anecdotes.
It is a remarkable book, and probably the most interesting of the Samurai guides (eg Book of Five Rings). However, it should be remembered that Hagakure was considered exceptionally fundamentalist when it was written (17th century) and was disapproved of due to its overemphasis on death.
It was also a favourite text of Yukio Mishima, which if you know about Mishima, tells its own story.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the gentlemans guide to death 29 Nov. 2000
this is a stirling example of Mr Wilsons work as translator. Both understanding the history and culture of japan and the original text while firmly keeping an eye on the audience, Mr Wilson's first commercial translation is a masterpiece. Full of practical advice and juicy tidbits of feudal samurai gossip[for want of a better word] and background. The text itself is easily accessible and makes for light reading that can be appreciated in greater depth at a later reading.
In embracing death and gentlemanly values, it is reminiscent of early victorian writings as well as Confuscian texts. With this in mind, it is sometimes a little outdated and contradictory but one must consider the age of the source text and the fact that it was considered out-dated when first commited to paper. This translation is a compendium of extracts from an 1100 page work and the source itself contradicts itself and sometimes feels incomplete.
All this aside though, this is on the most fundemental books i have read and essential for anyone who is interested in this field or would like an interesting read. It is also a good introduction to more complex and specialist translations especially by the same author.
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38 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favourite books 1 Mar. 2004
Despite being written 300 years ago in Japan, this book contains so much wisdom and insight that can be successfully applied to modern life. It is very easy to read because it is made up of short passages usually only a paragraph long, so it is excellent to read a few pages at a time for a little inspiration. The stories are sometimes funny, and frequently confusing and illogical to the western mind which makes it a great read. This book is a great insight into the philosophy and mindset of the samurai. I would recommend it to anyone, and it makes a great gift.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
As an Iaido practitioner I was first interested in this book for it's relation to the Samurai. However, the further I got into it the more I realised it can be of interest for anyone. Although the text is obviously rooted in the world of medieval Japan, it is easy to read between the lines and see the relevance it offers people today. That is not to say it is a philosophy as such, but that it offers a fascinating insight into a truly insightful and original mind.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The book is one of the samurai treatises but as opposed to some others in the same area, works a bit differently - it is a collection of thoughts, rather than a concise guide. The translator selected 300 out of the original 1300 and while most work well, it is hard to say if the complete set would make more sense.

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.
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24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Face death with dignity 18 Jan. 2005
The beauty of this book is the fact that it can be picked up and opened at any page and you will find a paragraph or event that will captivate you and urge you to read on, discovering an insight to the bottled up world of feudal Japan, from the sacred code of the Samuari to the work of an ordinary peasent.
As you make your way through the book you can easily relate some of the events to your own everyday encounters with the world (with exempt to cutting down passers by over seemingly minor reasons), this is a book that dosent try to educate or be something its not but is naturally bursting with politeness and touching to read.
This book has great meaning to me as it helped my way of thinking. Do not hesitate buy this book, you wont regret it.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars "Make a decision within 7 breaths" -Good
Good quality to the book 100% as described. Quick delivery. On subject matter this is an excellent book!
Published 2 months ago by Roberts
4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars
Great book, really enjoying reading it.
Published 5 months ago by Luke Clark
2.0 out of 5 stars Content is good but it literally looks like someone copied and pasted...
Content is good but it literally looks like someone copied and pasted a PDF file and printed it out as a book without using spell check. Horrendous that they can sell it like this.
Published 6 months ago by Amazon customer
1.0 out of 5 stars " I wish I'd bought a better edition.
Gets words wrong in English eg. "Fleas do .." rather than "Please do..." and things "passed down through the apes.." rather than "through the ages. Read more
Published 6 months ago by rvmj
4.0 out of 5 stars Some of it is in today's context, pointless. ...
Some of it is in today's context, pointless. However, interesting to see the philosophical thinking of that time in that place.
Published 6 months ago by Mr. Wc Shacklock
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Very interesting book. The information seems basic but its quite insightful.
Published 6 months ago by Jaroof
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Great book!
Published 7 months ago by G G Slaytor
5.0 out of 5 stars ahh so
Read a page a day . Some defining moments .....truly
Published 10 months ago by crofty
5.0 out of 5 stars The Way To Die.
Hagakure, or the way to die, will challenge you to consider what is loyalty and to what and whom should we be loyal to? Read more
Published 14 months ago by Mr. K. Sonola
5.0 out of 5 stars Must read
The best book I've seen for learning about how the samurais lived. Brilliant book would recommend to anyone interested in learning the samurai way
Published 14 months ago by Aaron Armstrong
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