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.
This version of the book is terrible in terms of quality. I wish that I had looked at it more closely before ordering it - the title alone gives an indication of the quality since the word "samurai" is spelled incorrectly. I read two paragraphs, spotted three of four typos, compared it to an online PDF version to double-check and then threw it in the bin. Money well spent.
'Hagakure: The Way of the Samurai' was heavily featured in the movie Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai by Jim Jarmusch. The film displays sections of the book throughout and I would advice anyone who has seen the film to read the book as it is very interesting although should not be taken literally. I had not even heard of the book until I saw the film but as soon as I saw the film I went out and got the book and really enjoyed it. The book can basically be described as a collection of advice and although based in ancient Japan a lot of the advice holds true even in modern times. A deep, philosophical book that is well worth a read.
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 With this in mind, it is sometimes a little outdated and contradictory but one must consider the age of the source text and the fact that it was considered out-dated when first commited to paper.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.
What we have here is a collection of three hundred of the original thirteen hundred aphorisms and short anecdotes related by a retired samurai, Yamamoto Tsunetomo, to a young colleague in the early years of the 18th century. Hagakure (Hidden by the leaves) has no real structure and at times can be difficult to follow, but several recurring themes slowly emerge and by the end we can just about get an idea of the kind of man Yamamoto Tsunetomo was and the kind of code he lived by.
Hagakure is best read as a travelogue of the world, physical and mental, of a very focused and fanatical type of man rather than as an instruction manual for budding samurai. It is basically an explanation of what a samurai is (or was) and how he might become as good a samurai as possible. The first three chapters are by far the longest and it's in them that we find the bulk of the samurai philosophy. The remaining chapters are shorter and consist mainly of anecdotes about the exploits of members of the Nabeshima clan (the clan of Yamamoto's late master) and others.
Death seems to be Yamamoto's abiding obsession. This obsession is not with death generally but rather with dying honourably. To die without honour was, for the samurai, the ultimate horror. Throughout we have repeated mention of 'the way of the samurai' and it's quite difficult to get a clear understanding of what it means. However, Yamamoto is tellingly dismissive of intellectuals and their inevitable egotism ("If discrimination is long it will spoil") and is all for immediate action, so a reasonable familiarity with the fiendishly confusing school of Zen might come in handy ("There is nothing outside the thought of the immediate moment"), if only to better get into the mind-set of our sage.
The appeal of Hagakure will undoubtedly be limited. The book was popularised somewhat by Jim Jarmusch's 1999 film Ghost Dog - the Way of the Samurai, but that film, enjoyable as it is, doesn't really give a true idea of Hagakure and many an aspiring teen samurai who bought the book after watching the film probably gave up after a couple of pages.
Yet it's worth sticking with Hagakure because it's an interesting read for those curious about old Japan and the book does give some interesting insights into the fanatical and fatalistic lifestyle of the samurai and the austere philosophy that guided them. And if one reads between the lines there are also a few interesting ideas that we moderns could use to streamline our own psychological lives, though don't expect a complete and coherent philosophy here.
It is very diffcult to define Hagakure, it's strange and fascinating, yet also rather repugnant in some of its views. Written in the early 18th century, it is a series of anecdotes written by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, a samurai of the Nabeshima clan who became a Buddhist monk followning his master's death. The Tokugawa Shogunate of the time had outlawed the suicide of a reatiner on a Daimyo's death, leaving Yamamoto with no option but live in a hermitage in Kyushu province.
Hagakure has often been seen as a manual for the samurai classes, yet this is slightly misleading. Yamamoto lived during the Edo period, an era of peace and stability that followed the long period of civil wars that had broken Japan in the 16th century. Yamamoto was therefore not a true warrior, as the samurai were now becoming administrators living on fixed stipends.
This book is also only the opinions of one man, and shouldn't been seen as guide to the samurai ethos for the entire Feudal Period. It is also worth noting that even during his own life Yamamoto was seen as a fanatic with extremist opinions, a fact that he himself would not deny.
The book's contents deal with allsorts of topics, but its main emphasis is on the proper conduct of the samurai class. Yamamoto believes that a samurai must always be ready for death, and that when not engaged in fighting, he should meditate on getting torn apart with swords, arrows, pikes and bullets. His obsession with death and discipline seems to permeate throughout the book. He also provides plenty of anecdotes of stories he has heard about samurai who kill anyone on the slightest provocation. Yamamoto believes that this should be the proper conduct of the samurai, as long as it does not contradict the master's wishes. His opinion on these matters seem terribly odd for modern western readers. His xenophobic and misogynistic views, as well as his frequent calls for violence to resolve situations, and his obsession with death and the supression of one's own desires and personality for the master, make this an often uncomfortable read. It is not surprising that Hagakure became popular among fascists in Imperial Japan during the 1930s.
The book also has some sections of wisdom, but these are sometimes countered by Yamamoto's bizarre outlook on life. Here is a selection of some of his sayings, some good, some bad, while others are simply quixotic:
" Covetousness, anger and foolishness are things to sort out well. When bad things happen in the world, if you look at them comparatively, they are not unrelated to these three things. Looking comparatively at the good things, you will see that they are not excluded from wisdom, humanity and bravery."
"The late Jin'emon said that it is better not to bring up daughters. They are a blemish to the family name and a shame to the parents. The eldest daughter is special, but it is better to disregard the others."
"If you cut a face lengthwise, urinate on it, and trample on it with straw sandles, it is said the skin will come off. This was heard by the priest Gyojaku when he was in Kyoto. It is information to be treasured."
"The Master took a book from its box. When he opened it there was a smell of drying clovebuds."
These are are just a few examples from among hundreds. Sometimes Yamamoto contradicts himself. He argues against rashness in one section, while in another he complains that the Forty Seven Ronin did not act quickly enough to avenge their dead master, a rash act that would have seen them fail. That said, it is those very same contradictions that often reminds us that he was only human. This is a fascianting look into the long dead samurai culture, with plenty of anecdotes to make you think. That said, it shouldn't be seen as guide book for life in the 21st century, but rather as an incredible historical document. A must read for anyone with an interest in the samurai or Feudal Japanese Culture.
I read this book, along with Miyamoto's 5 Rings, as a little side to martial art training, and I fully believe Yamamoto's pearls of wisdom have altered my attitude.People have disagreed with me over this,saying that Hagakure is not relevant, but its ideas of focus and absolute resolve have made me think differently. If you're at all able to read with an open mind, BUY THIS.
`Hagakure' aka `The Book of the Samurai' is an old Japanese text with many anecdotes and passages formed into short paragraphs that impart the wisdom of the Samurai's way of life. Whilst this book is very much `of its time' and may seem unusual at times to western readers, it has a lot to offer if you take the time to digest it's wisdom properly and think about the ideas enclosed. Far from being about fighting and killing (although these aspects are touched upon) this is about living with a certain peace and honour. Films, like `Ghost Dog', have made this more popular than it might have been, but there is a lot more to this book that you may originally perceive and you won't regret giving it a read and contemplating the wisdom inside. Worth adding to your martial arts and philosophy bookshelf.
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It would seem that most are negligent in the ways of the Samurai. If someone were to ask a stranger "What is the true meaning of the way of the Samurai?" the person who would be able to answer this is very rare indeed. This book offers you the substance of the Samurai and will make you proud and honoured to read about such a system. They were not marauding warriors as seen in the movies, they were, however, teachers, doctors, healers, spiritualists, monks, scientists and very much more. They did learn the way of the warrior to defend themselves and their families because they were thought radical of their time. You will learn much and understand them with this very well defined read. Enjoy.