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Cover of The Book of the Samurai

Hagakure (Kyūjitai: 葉隱; Shinjitai: 葉隠; meaning In the shadow the Leaves or hidden leaves.[1]), or Hagakure Kikigaki (葉隠聞書 ?) is a practical and spiritual guide for a warrior, drawn from a collection of commentaries by the samurai, Yamamoto Tsunetomo, former retainer to Nabeshima Mitsushige, the third ruler of what is now the Saga prefecture in Japan. Tsuramoto Tashiro compiled these commentaries from his conversations with Tsunetomo from 1709 to 1716; however, it was not published until many years afterwards. Hagakure is also known as the The Book of the Samurai, Analects of Nabeshima or the Hagakure Analects.


[edit] Content

The book records Tsunetomo's views on bushido, the warrior code of the samurai. Hagakure is sometimes said to assert that bushido is really the "Way of Dying" or living as though one was already dead, and that a samurai retainer must be willing to die at any moment in order to be true to his lord.

[edit] Historical context

After his master died, Tsunetomo himself was forbidden to perform seppuku, a retainer's ritual suicide, by an edict of the Tokugawa Shogunate. Hagakure may have been written partially in an effort to outline the role of the samurai in a more peaceful society. Several sections refer to the "old days", and imply a dangerous weakening of the samurai class since that time.

The Hagakure was written approximately one hundred years after the start of the Tokugawa era, a time of relative peace. With no major campaigns to fight the samurai were transforming from a warrior to an administrative class. His work represents one approach to the problem of maintaining military preparedness and a proper military mindset in a time when neither has much practical application.

[edit] Influence

Hagakure was not widely known during the decades following Tsunetomo's death. However, it received wider circulation at the start of the 20th century, and by the 1930s had become one of the most famous representations of bushido thought in Japan. Hagakure remains popular among many non-Japanese who are interested in samurai culture. It is also frequently referred to as The Book of the Samurai.

[edit] Commentary

While Hagakure is perhaps the best known commentary on bushido, there are those who regard Tsunetomo as somewhat of a fanatic, a label he himself would neither deny nor resent. For example, his criticism of the Forty-seven Ronin is based on his opinion that they should not have waited a year to avenge their lord, but should have attempted revenge immediately, even though an immediate attempt almost certainly would have failed. While most see the success of the forty-seven and praise their patience, Tsunetomo believes that acting immediately is ultimately more important than whether or not one succeeds in achieving the goal. 

[edit] See also

[edit] Editions

  • The Art of the Samurai: Yamamoto Tsunetomo's Hagakure, Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Translated by Barry D. Steben, Duncan Baird, September 2008, ISBN 1-84483-720-3
  • Hagakure, The Way of the Samurai, Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Translated by Takao Mukoh, Angkor Verlag, 2000 (Reprint) ISBN 3-8311-1530-3
  • Hagakure, The Book of the Samurai, Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Translated by William Scott Wilson, Kondansha International Ltd., 1979, ISBN 4-7700-1106-7 (Partial translation)
  • Bushido, The Way of the Samurai, Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Translated by Justin F. Stone and Minoru Tanaka, Square One Publishers, 2003, ISBN 0-7570-0026-6

[edit] Contemporary references

The Jim Jarmusch movie Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai features the Hagakure as a central theme, and includes the book as final reference. The movie uses a William Scott Wilson partial translation as the basis for the main character's guide through life and highlights passages from the novel. These passages are open to interpretation as they are edited translations.

The Stranglers song "Ice" deals with the subject matter.

The 1989 Robert Crais novel Stalking the Angel features a plot involving the theft of a rare manuscript edition of the Hagakure.

[edit] Further reading

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Wilson, p. 15

[edit] References

  • Tsunetomo, Yamamoto; Wilson, William Scott (translator) (2002). Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai. Stackpole Books. ISBN 4-77002-916-0. 

[edit] External links

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