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205 of 211 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Perspective on Samurai Bravery and Etiquette
This book features sayings and anecdotes from an aging Samurai who died around 1700.
It is a quick and entertaining read, and offers great perspective both on the individual who wrote it, and on the general theory of being a samurai.
There is an obvious sense of loss in many of the passages which comment on how things in contemporary society (of the 1700s)...
Published on August 27, 2000 by ADM

versus
17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Bag
I have to truly say that I have mixed feelings about this one. It provides an eye opening view into the use of Bushido, beyond dry tellings of it's core beliefs. The Hagakure puts fire behind these beliefs and tells anecdotes reflecting this philosophy. The flip side of this is that Tsunetomo could truly be called a psychopath. One anecdote told of his walking down a...
Published on September 16, 2001 by KyohaPooka


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205 of 211 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Perspective on Samurai Bravery and Etiquette, August 27, 2000
By 
ADM (New York City) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai (Paperback)
This book features sayings and anecdotes from an aging Samurai who died around 1700.
It is a quick and entertaining read, and offers great perspective both on the individual who wrote it, and on the general theory of being a samurai.
There is an obvious sense of loss in many of the passages which comment on how things in contemporary society (of the 1700s) are so different from years past. This book, intentionally or not, captures the spirit of those older days, and serves both as a manual for younger samurai, and as a historical document for people who are interested in "The Way of the Samurai" today.
In his excellent introduction, the translator makes the very relevant point that this book is not a rigorous philosophical treatise, at least not in the way that Western scholars would define it. Instead, it is a collection of stories and phrases about a certain way of living. It doesn't hold up to scientific cross-examination (the author contradicts himself frequently), but it shouldn't have to. Yamamoto gives the impression that if faced with a philosophical attack on his "way", he would shrug his shoulders and say, "Yes, but that doesn't change a thing." In other words, his examples and aphorisms speak for themselves, and are not meant to either exclude other points of view or force others into conformity. Yamamoto even states that the Way he advocates is specific to his region of Japan -- samurai of neighboring regions are free to develop their own Ways.
The passages in the book usually focus on one of two topics: bravery, or etiquette. Yamamoto offers a lot of advice on charging into battle, seeking revenge, executing others, etc. The main thrust of most of it is: the Samurai does not spend a lot of time thinking about killing his enemy. He just rushes in and gets it over with. On matters of etiquette, Yamamoto discusses the proper way to hold a Tea Ceremony, how to cover up a yawn, how to pay attention to people you are talking to, and so on. One of the charming aspects of this book is that right after discussing the swiftest way to cut off someone's head, he'll discuss how to make yourself look nice even if you have a hangover. This could be a result of the editing, but it still makes for entertaining reading.
The other theme that permeates almost every paragraph of the book is loyalty to one's master. Yamamoto never tires of discussing the extremes that a samurai should go to so that he may honor his master and show his loyalty. He gives the example of a samurai who was being beaten by his master: during the course of the beating, the master dropped his staff down a hill, so the samurai immediately ran down to retrieve it, and return the staff to his master so he could continue to be beaten. Of course, the ultimate act of loyalty to one's master is to kill oneself after his death. Yamamoto spends a great deal of time discussing various aspects of this tradition, and regrets that his own master forbade him to commit suicide in such a way.
The book reads very quickly (it took me about 4 hours), in part because it is organized into brief paragraphs and anecdotes (much like a book of sayings), and in part because the underlying material is almost inherently fascinating. It gives a very complete picture of the state of mind of an aging samurai, and depicts the world of the samurai as it existed in the 17th century.
The translation flows very well, though I cannot attest to its accuracy, and the translator includes a somewhat useful glossary in the back of the book, as well as the introduction which I mentioned. I should also mention, for the curious, that this is the translation that Jim Jarmusch used as the source of his aphorisms in the recent film "Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai."
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70 of 73 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A historical, anecdotal glimpse into the Bushido mind., February 11, 1997
By A Customer
This review is from: Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai (Paperback)
Whether you find HAGAKURE of interest depends on your approach to the book. Although this is not a book of sword technique, it is much like a traditional sword
master, teaching only what the student is open enough to
know, and teaching on many levels. On one level, it is a book of eyewitness accounts and stories from the decline
of the Samurai era. Tsunetomo has a gift for storytelling,
and for slipping in little details that might be of use to
the aspiring Bushi. For example, do you know the quickest,
easiest way to remove a dead enemies' face from his skull?
He also gossips in an entertaining way about the lives of
various local notables. It is as if you are having dinner with a slighly cynical, retired Samurai, the saki is passed around, and he begins talking freely.

On another level the book adresses the questions of loyalty,
honor, and the meaning of life. It celebrates virtue and
valor, while avoiding the sugarcoating that such subjects
get in the west. Anyone who faces dangers and obstacles in their day to day walk will find this little book strangely
supportive. In this age where loyalty has a price, and
commitment is a meaningless word, the savage beauty and
strange purity of the Bushi mind, as revealed by Tsunetomo, can strengthen the heart, and recharge the mind.

IF YOU LIKE HAGAKURE, you should read:

THE BOOK OF FIVE RINGS, Miamoto Mushashi
THE UNFETTERED MIND, Takuan Soho
ACTS OF WORSHIP, Yukio Mishima
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42 of 42 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reveals the essence of Samurai thought., January 23, 1998
By A Customer
This review is from: Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai (Paperback)
HAGAKURE: The Book of the Samurai is a very interesting book which describes the everyday life and mindset of a samurai. For those that are not interested in the Samurai thought, this book may appear rather dry and in some instances, absurd. However, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book. The book is made up of short entries of various topics. Whether it's describing a wise samurai's actions, or cracking jokes at the noblemen around him, it is obvious that Yamamoto Tsunetomo was truly a samurai in every aspect of his life. During Yamamoto's time, the prestige of the samurai was declining, due to a long period of peace in Japan. The samurai lived to die for his lord in battle, but how can one remain a noble samurai during times of peace? Yamamoto answers this and many other questions in Hagakure. He also points out that when one is focused on dying, he will not be afraid in the presence of death. As Yamamoto liked to say, "The way of the Samurai is found in death."
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46 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good look at ancient warrior philosophy, April 6, 2001
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This review is from: Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai (Paperback)
Hagakure is a guide to the proper roll of a samurai during feudal times. Things such as expected behaviour, dying with honor, obeying one's lord, etc...
For today's reader, this book offers several tips on the proper mindset when in combat from a samurai's point of view. Still, Some of these rules are, to say the least, a little strange.
For a serious martial arts student, this book will probably find a place on your bookshelf (if it hasn't already). However, if you saw the movie "Ghost Dog" and were expecting a book of straight warrior-wisdom, you may wish to consider the fact this book has a lot of Japanese history in it. Some of Hagakure's content is a little dry, and although it offers profound insight in some places, it can be a bit hard to sort out what is useful in today's world.
Hagakure is also not put together in an user-friendly format. You have to search for specific quotes, because there doesn't seem to be much rhyme or reason to it's layout. This can be tough when you want to go back and review how something was phrased to better understand it.
Still, this book is well worth the time and money. I have read it several times, and I'll probably read it several more...
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17 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed Bag, September 16, 2001
By 
KyohaPooka (one with the Dao) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai (Paperback)
I have to truly say that I have mixed feelings about this one. It provides an eye opening view into the use of Bushido, beyond dry tellings of it's core beliefs. The Hagakure puts fire behind these beliefs and tells anecdotes reflecting this philosophy. The flip side of this is that Tsunetomo could truly be called a psychopath. One anecdote told of his walking down a crowded city street one day when his purse was stolen. Not seeing who had stolen it, he whipped out his katana and killed everyone within 10 feet to be sure that he got the cutpurse. I have to say that anyone interested in the study of Bushido, Budo or just Japanese history in general should buy this book. If you are looking for wisdom in these pages, take everything with a grain of salt. A big one. Think the size of your head.
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15 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars meant to be reflected on, August 9, 2004
This review is from: Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai (Paperback)
The hagakure is a short book, but that does not mean that it is a short read. On the contrary, this is longest short read you will ever encounter. This book is dense, it will take you many reads to undestand this book. I have lost count of the amount of times that I have read it.

Many deride this book as being written by an armchair samurai, noting the fact that yamamoto tsunetomo never actually fought in any battles. But this is the wrong way to look at the book. The Hagakure was written by a peace time samurai for peace time samurai, and is thus valuable for american practioners of the way. An invaluable book, recommended to all.
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16 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting, March 15, 2001
By 
Emil (San Francisco, CA USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai (Paperback)
I bought this book after seeing the movie "Ghost Dog - Way of the Samurai". I didn't really know what to expect, but the book has some very interesting aspects on life and ways to live, that still work extremely well in todays society. I have at many times found myself in situations described in the book and even though some answers might be a bit hard to understand, the book has given me answers, or perhaps ways to answer/respond, in different situations. It's not really a book you read from cover to cover, but pick up and read a couple of "rules" every now and then, which after a while are in the back of your head, ready for use.
I highly reccommend this book to pretty much every one.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An accessable understanding of the Bushido, December 28, 2002
By 
doc peterson (Portland, Oregon USA) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
The Hagakure explains the Japanese warrior code (Bushido) simply and elegantly, and in a much more accessable manner than "The Book of the 5 Rings," considered THE authority on the subject. The observations, thoughts and reflections of the author reflect the Zen aspect of the samurai code ("a samurai should reflect daily and in the most graphic manner his demise"), as well as the strong Confucian influence on Japanese culture (the tale of his Master, Nabeshima Mitsushige, covering his face with his sleeve in order not to see his men flustered when a wounded boar lunged at a hunting party) in addition to the crisis of peace the samurai faced under the Tokugawa Shogunate (providing advice on how to practice severing heads on the condemned.)
All in all it was fascinating, and a marvelous "picture in time." I recommend this before reading Sun Tsu ("The Art of War") or Mushashi ("A Book of Five Rings.")
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mishima and Hagakure, December 17, 2003
This review is from: Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai (Paperback)
The bulk of the reviews prior to my own do a great job of covering the books aspects. However, I wanted to make one point in regards to those who, after reading the book, were really impressed by it. If you enjoyed reading the book, also try and find a copy of "The Way of the Samurai Yukio Mishima on Hagakure in Modern Life" from a library or used book store. It is out of print for the time being, but if you can get ahold of a copy you will get even more out of Hagakure after reading this book. I was fortunate enough to obtain both books around the same time and this really fostered my interest in bushido and the samurai culture in a very profound way as well as lead me to discover Mishima's works and life in regards to the samurai ideals.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Unique Historical Insight, October 10, 2005
This review is from: Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai (Paperback)
An interesting historical treatise, well translated and engaging. It is filled with the musings of Yamamoto Tsunetomo (1659 - 1719), a samurai retainer of the Nabeshima Clan who later became a Buddhist monk. Translated as "In the Shadow of Leaves" the various anecdotes cover everything from dying properly to how to avoid yawning in public. The Hagakure was once a secret text known only to the samurai vassals of the Hizen fief. Consequently this is translation offers unique insight into feudal Japan. It's not the easiest reading style-wise, but I suspect that is a result of the translation process. Overall it is very interesting and engaging.

Lawrence Kane
Author of Surviving Armed Assaults, The Way of Kata, and Martial Arts Instruction
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Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai
Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai by Tsunetomo Yamamoto (Paperback - March 15, 1992)
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