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The Code of the Samurai: A Modern Translation of the Bushido Shoshinshu of Taira Shigesuke Hardcover – September 15, 1999


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The Code of the Samurai: A Modern Translation of the Bushido Shoshinshu of Taira Shigesuke + Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai + The Book of Five Rings
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 128 pages
  • Publisher: Tuttle Publishing; Hardcover with Jacket edition (September 15, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0804831904
  • ISBN-13: 978-0804831901
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (55 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,645 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"…useful for students of the modern and classical martial arts and well worth buying."—Meik Skoss, Koryu.com

"This is a compelling, well written translation."—Lawrence Kane, author of The Little Black Book of Violence and The Way of Kata

"…a wonderful book for anyone who wants to understand the ideals behind the true warrior."—Bohdi Sanders, author of Warrior Wisdom: Ageless Wisdom for the Modern Warrior

About the Author

Thomas Cleary is one of the best known and most accomplished translators of the wisdom of Asia. He holds a doctorate in East Asian Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University. Cleary has translated Soul of the Samurai, Samurai Wisdom, The Art of War and Secrets of the Japanese Art of Warfare, as well as over 70 other titles on martial arts philosophy, Buddhism, Taoism and religion.

Oscar Ratti co-authored Aikido and the Dynamic Sphere and Secrets of the Samurai: The Martial Arts of Feudal Japan, and was a frequent contributor of artwork and essays to major publications.

More About the Author


Thomas Cleary is the preeminent translator of classic Eastern texts, including The Essential Tao, The Essential Confucius, The Secret of the Golden Flower, and the bestselling The Art of War.

Customer Reviews

I am somewhat at a loss as to why this book, Code of the Samurai, fascinates me.
Gaylin Walli
While this book is a short one, I would recommend that the reader not read this book all at once, but rather savor the passages in small bites.
Patrick Beaudry
I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in learning more about the Samurai and their culture.
Paula Crundwell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

146 of 152 people found the following review helpful By Plotinus on May 19, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The first time I read a book about samurai philosophy and customs, it was the Hagakure. After reading it, I felt sick and even embarassed that I was so heavily into martial arts having origins in such a death-focussed, suicidal, slavish mentality. After reading it, I lost most of my interest in the origins of the Japanese martial arts, and Japanese culture. How mistaken I was... Two years ago, I bought the "Code of the Samurai", and my interest immediately returned. This book was written one hundred years earlier than the Hagakure and thus it was written closer to the time when the Samurai were in fact warriors and not so only in theory (as they were at the time of the publication of the Hagakure). Both books have in intention the reformation of the Samurai class to what the authors consider to be proper moral standards. But after reading both, it seems evident that the Hagakure is a forlorn attempt to recreate some kind of "glorious" suicidal mindset that never existed much in reality. The "Code of the Samurai" gives suggestions for every facet of behaviour... Everything about this book is remarkably humane, and very well thought out. It promotes responisibility to all one's aquaintances, colleagues, and leaders. This book could be retitled as "How to be a Responsible Citizen". It is about how to live well, not about how to die.Read more ›
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43 of 43 people found the following review helpful By C. Middleton on October 19, 2003
Format: Hardcover
In a time of peace, at the end of the Tokugawa regime, (1603-1867), the Samurai extended their duties into the administrative class, developing from mere 'attendants' to philosophers, scholars, physicians, and teachers, creating concise systems of mental and moral training. This class influenced the country's culture in profound ways, which continues to be felt and seen in modern day Japan. Fearing that the Samurai would lose their basic purpose and essential character, author Taira Shigesuke, (1639-1730) a Confucian scholar, wrote this handbook for the novice knight. For the beginning knight, this book would have been indispensable, in terms of conducting oneself in the true spirit of the Samurai.
The book is structured in three parts, including subjects ranging from education, familial duty, frugality, courtesy and respect, laziness, discretion to military service, vassalage and loyalty to dealing with one's superiors. What is so valuable about this book for the modern western reader is that it provides age-old ethical guidelines that are exceedingly practical and relevant to the present day.
Central to the Samurai philosophy is the notion of concerning oneself daily with death. Shigesuke emphasises from the outset, that, "As long as you keep death in mind at all times, you will also fulfil the ways of loyalty and familial duty." In other words, everything else follows from this basic attitude - a long life, and a character that will improve and virtue that will grow. This makes sense, of course, because as the author points out, when you think your time here will last, you're inclined to take it for granted, thereby saying things you shouldn't say and letting important matters slide because "...it can always be done tomorrow.
Read more ›
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88 of 97 people found the following review helpful By Gaylin Walli on June 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I am somewhat at a loss as to why this book, Code of the Samurai, fascinates me. I liked it enough that I bought a copy for my husband and would consider giving it as a gift to several friends who have interests in "courtly behavior," "chivalry," and "medieval" Japanese history in general (all are members of the Society for Creative Anachronism, like I am).
I have never made it through an entire reading of The Art of War and quite frankly The Book of Five Rings was no better as a shortened form thereof. Code of the Samurai is really neither of these books and shares little more than a common Asian ancestry. Instead, it reads rather like one of the pre-1600s Western culture books of proper behavior (for members of recreation organizations, think books like The Babees Book and the Book of Courtesey). Instead of Western Europe, however, this one is set in Tokugawa-era Japan (if I am remembering my history correctly).
The book very clearly addresses the actual life of a samurai. Thankfully, the book does not heavily focus on the martial aspects of the samurai's life (though these are touched upon) nor the esoteric, philosophical ideals that might be expected of a book on "Bushido." Instead, the examples of this book simply show you the proper and improper behavior of samurai in a variety of situations as they were viewed in classical Japan.
Unfortunately, I cannot speak for the accuracy of the translation because this book includes only the modern English (and I don't read classical or modern Japanese). The text as a whole, despite the lack of original manuscript versions, is rendered in an easy-to-follow style that you can read straight through or only a chapter at a time, at your leisure.
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