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Bushido: The Soul of Japan Paperback – April 19, 2009

3.7 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"A 'must' for an understanding of the soul of Japan." —Focus on Asian Studies --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

Educator, cultural interpreter, and civil servant, Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933) was one of the earliest and most famous of the Japanese Quakers. Hoping to serve as a "bridge" between Japan and the West, he studied in the US and in Germany. Nitobe's numerous writings in English made him the best known Japanese writer in the West during his lifetime. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Merchant Books; 13 Enl Rev edition (April 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 160386198X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1603861984
  • Product Dimensions: 7.5 x 0.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #854,243 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael Holmes on February 7, 2001
Format: Paperback
Nitobe Sensei did an incredible job of putting into words concepts that are very difficult for all to understand, not only foreigners (non-Japanese.) He also did it as a Christian scholar in a non-Christian land during times of great change in Japanese society. It is a wonderful cross-cultural and cross-theological comparison between Christian and non-Christian belief systems. There's a saying about being able to explain things that are Zen. "If you can explain it, it isn't Zen," if I may paraphrase. Zen and Bushido are inextricably linked and Mr. Nitobe managed to put it into some sort of framework that we could easily understand. Not all things will make sense to the first time reader. When you read it again and again, the things that are true for you, you will clearly understand. As with many discussions of Zen and/or Bushido, it has to become a part of you to be understandable. This doesn't mean you have to pick up a sword or take up calligraphy, it means that you have to see the truth of it in yourself, no matter what you do or where you are. There are universal truths here. Even when you understand, you may not be able to put into words your understanding. That is the time when this book will become most indispensible.
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Format: Paperback
I picked up a copy of this book a few months ago in part because I had just been employed by a Japanese company and I felt it was in my best interest to deepen my understanding of Bushido as it is still an important part of Japanese culture and more specifically corporate culture. Inazo Nitobe's treatment of Bushido is unfortunately shallow. He innumerates a number of "virtues" that are important in Bushido but does not dig very deeply into them. After reading about half of the book I feel that I do not have a deeper understanding of some of the peculiar quirks of Japanese culture.

If one is looking to deepen their understanding of Bushido I would suggest Sir George Sansom's three volume set "A History of Japan", as it is yet the standard in Japanese historical studies. Also, "Training the Samurai Mind" is a wonderful collection of translated primary documents written by samurai who lived primarily during the Edo period. Also, Miyamoto Musashi's "Book of Five Rings" is another useful book for those interested in samurai and Bushido.

If one is simply interested in depending their understanding of Japanese culture I suggest undertaking a study of Confucianism, Buddhism, Shinto, and of course Sansom's books. Nitobe's book is unfortunately a giant waste of time.
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Format: Paperback
Nitobe's book is an excellent read for anyone who wants a comprehensive look at the pulse of what drives the Japanese to produce and achieve in war and economics. His writing style is clean and practical rather than sophisticated or complicated. He emphasizes the virtues and concepts that make up the Bushido ethnic.
This book is a superb companion piece to Ruth Benedict's sociological analysis on Japanese culture (The Chrysanthemum and the Sword, printed near or after the Second World War). I strongly encourage anyone interested in the formative aspects of Japanese thought to read this book.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was a laborious read. It was a century ago and the writing style is archaic and the formal logic in the arguments is flawed. I found it difficult and tedious and would not recommend it unless it is required reading for a class, as this was.
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Reading this book I really felt like I wasn't reading a real insight to Bushido. I didn't feel as though this book was Eastern at all I felt like I was reading a poor concept of a Western Christians view on Japanese tradition. I felt like all I was reading was a comparison of everything from Europe in the 1600s if I cared about Chivalry I would have bought a book on Great Britain Knights of England. Even though the authors name is Inazo Notobe he didn't write the book in a sense that I thought he was Japanese at all. Perhaps I'm judging harshly on the matter but I don't want a Western insight to a Far East subject.
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Format: Paperback
This book is great for those who are unfamiliar, with the way of life of the samurai, and the population as a whole in fuedal Japan. Siting similarities with other cultures great histories, it provides a contrast which brings better understanding to the subject. I would also suggest Zen and Japanese Culture by Daisetz T.Suzuki, for an even deeper look into the culture of Japan and its roots.
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Format: Paperback
Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933) was a Japanese author with a unique perspective; he was an educator and a Quaker. When queried about the basis of morality in Japan, he thought long and hard on the subject. His answer was that Bushido was the Soul of Japan, and from that idea flowed this book.

In this wonderful book, Mr. Nitobe explains Bushido to the Western observer. Using the Bible and other Western literature as examples of common points of reference, he explains 1) the origins and sources of Bushido, 2) its character and teachings, 3) its influence, and 4) its continuity and permanence.

So, if you are interested in Bushido in particular, or Japan in general, then I strongly recommend this book. Even though it was first published in 1905, it makes a wonderful introduction to the Western reader. I highly recommend this book!
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