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By Jeff Imada

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Sample text

Bushi” is the common Japanese word denoting warriors in academic circles, although “samurai” is probably better known in the West. Nowadays, both terms are used interchangeably; however, the word samurai is used most frequently in this book. 2 Tsunetomo is written with the kanji characters 常朝. When Tsunetomo took the tonsure following the death of his lord in 1700, he began using his Buddhist name, Jōchō, which uses the same kanji characters in their on reading. Discussions of Hagakure are divided as to which reading is used.

It is fair to say that Hagakure is a vastly misunderstood book both inside and outside of Japan. Perhaps this is why Yamamoto Jōchō implored Tashiro Tsuramoto to burn the text upon completion to prevent it from getting into the hands of those who could never appreciate it for the spirit in which it was written. This directive seems almost prophetic in light of the conflicting appraisals it has been subjected to in the modern era. In Japan, a wide range of pundits, ranging from distinguished scholars to jingoistic right-wing ultranationalists, lazily quote from Hagakure to both highlight Japan’s supposed “uniqueness,” as well as attempting to draw a tenuous connection between the noble culture of the samurai and the spirit of modern Japanese people.

Being killed this way brings no shame. ” “In any case, just give yourself over to insanity and sacrifice yourself to the task. That’s all you need to do. ” (1-193) If all these incongruities were not confusing enough, the conflict that arises between “secret love” in loyalty and in the man-love relationships called shudō adds to the complexity of the dynamics of human relations depicted in the book. “The essential point in shudō is preparation to forfeit your life for the sake of your lover. Otherwise you risk humiliation.

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