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Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai Paperback – March 15, 1992
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Top Customer Reviews
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or not, captures the spirit of those older days, and serves both as a manual for younger samurai, and as a historical document for people who are interested in "The Way of the Samurai" today.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.Read more ›
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
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...
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Absolute best translation of this text. All others lack the poetry of Wilson's interpretation.Published 12 days ago by Some Guy
What I should have expected, but still not an elevating experience.Published 26 days ago by James Rykken
At times, I found this a difficult a read, but in all fairness I'm approaching this from a Western point of view. Read morePublished 1 month ago by B. Neuls
Many of us in the west are introduced to Samurai by way of popular culture, with film and video games portraying them as honorable paragons of warrior ethos. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Jake
I haven't actually read this edition of the book. I was just wondering why, rather than use an actual Japanese Mon, they decided to put a "Bio-Hazard" symbol on the front... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Edward Philippi
This is one of the absolute best treatises on Bushido and the Way of the Samurai. For understanding their philosophy one cannot do better than this simple volume. Read morePublished 3 months ago by Amazon Customer