View Full Version : no other choice?

Trevor Stephens
9th April 2004, 04:18
I have always been confused about certain things having to do with samurai. The thing that has confused me the most is this: in a bunch of cases, I have come across many people saying that you should never have to fight, or draw your sword unless there is nothing else you can do. While this makes sense to me, you often hear stories about samurai drawing their sword and killing another person for an insult to their lord, or something along those lines. While it could be that they feel as though there is nothing else that they could do but strike that other man down, it seems to me that there are other options. Anyone have anything to add?

sorry if i put this in the wrong section.


9th April 2004, 15:50
As far as I can tell (from my own limited knowledge), there are instances of both. Hagakure has plenty of examples of "good samurai" killing others simply for relieving themselves in public, etc. Likewise, there are other samurai, such as Musashi, who were never known to have killed other than in combat. Based on this, I wouldn't suppose that a generalization would be accurate to describe a whole class of people.

Jeff Hamacher
9th April 2004, 22:22

i highly recommend a thread search using the member names "W. Bodiford" or "Karl Friday". both of these gentlemen have posted authoritative comments about samurai behaviour that should be required reading for anyone interested in the subject. you'll also find lots of good info at the Koryu.com website operated by Diane and Meik Skoss. check it out.

Michael Wert
10th April 2004, 00:51
I think the key is that these are stories , which have a motive and an audience in mind when written. They do not reflect reality. For a good anecdote about a low ranking samurai who gets into trouble by cutting a commoner see Luke Robert's essay in Anne Walthall's The Human Tradition in Modern Japan

Joseph Svinth
10th April 2004, 02:55
Lots of folks used the names interchangeably in Tokugawa times, but in the Meiji era, the Michi was first spotted by Japanese Christians. Thus, according to Prof. Bodiford's essay in "Martial Arts of the World: An Encyclopedia," the first use of Bushido in a title of a book was "Christianity and Bushido," 1894, by Uemura Maashisa. Uemura's thesis was that Japanese should rely on Christianity just as Bushi of earlier times had relied on Confucianism. This thesis was of course more famously echoed in Nitobe's "Bushido," 1900. (Nitobe was a Quaker.) This latter book was written in English, and not translated into Japanese until 1909.

In 1906, the Butokukai (est. 1895; its legendary history is so much horse-pucky) defined Bushido as the Japanese spirit (yamato damashii), and defined it as service to the emperor, strict obedience to authority, and a willingness to sacrifice one's own life. Before that? None of the above.

Prof. Bodiford continues: "The suffix do of 'bushido' soon acquired specific connotations of duty to the emperor (i.e., imperial way, kodo), an ideal that grew stronger as Japanese society became ever more militaristic. Because martial arts constituted the prime method for instilling this ideology, they too became ever more frequently called 'something-do.' In 1914 the superintendent general of police, Nishikubo Hiromichi, published a series of articles in which he argued that Japanese martial arts must be called budo (martial ways) instead of the more common term bujutsu (martial techniques) to clearly show that they teach service to the emperor, not technical skills. In 1919 Nishikubo became head of the martial art academy (senmon gakko) affiliated with the Dainippon Butokukai and changed its name from "Bujutsu Academy" to "Budo Academy." Thereafter, Butokukai publications replaced the terms bujutsu (martial arts), gekken or kenjutsu (swordsmanship), jujutsu (unarmed combat), and kyujutsu (archery) with budo, kendo, judo, and kyudo respectively. This deliberate change in names signaled that ideological indoctrination had become the central focus of those classes. Similar 'do' nomenclature eventually was applied to all athletic activities regardless of national origin, so that Western-style horsemanship became kido or bado, bayonet techniques became jukendo, and gunnery became shagekido. By the late 1930s, recreational sports had become supootsu-do, the highest expression of which was one's ability to sacrifice oneself (sutemi) and 'die crazy" (shikyo) for the emperor."

Volume 2, pp. 480-481.