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Yojokun: Life Lessons from a Samurai (The Way of the Warrior Series) Hardcover – January 1, 2009

4.7 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

No tale of sword-wielding derring-do, this collection of 17th century observations and advice from the Samurai physician Ekiken (1630-1714) is drastically different from well known Samurai literature, focusing not on achieving honor in battle and death, but on life and its preservation. A well-needed reminder that the culture of the samurai extended beyond battle and war, Ekiken's 414 recommendations, largely restricted to areas of eating, drinking and improving circulation, are also practical and though-provoking (though they do tend to repeat). The workmanlike translation may not coax out any poetry from Ekiken's precise maxims, but it's both impressive and curious how well his observations on alcohol ("You should not drink on an empty stomach, either morning or night.") and tobacco ("If you become used to it, it becomes a habit...The best choice is not to smoke tobacco from the very beginning. ") agree with modern medicine. Though a few archaic head-scratchers are included (like an admonition that women shouldn't wash their hair during their period), Ekiken's advice is still heeded by practitioners of traditional medicine, and should prove inspiring for those looking for time-tested advice on treating their bodies well.
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About the Author


Kaibara Ekiken was a samurai physician and became known for his intellect and wide interests, which encompassed a myriad of subjects, including Confucianism, Buddhism, education, history, herbal remedies, spiritual issues, and philosophy.
William Scott Wilson is the well-known translator of many Japanese and Chinese classics, most recently Kodansha's The 36 Secret Strategies of the Martial Arts. Kodansha's edition of Hagakure, published in 1979, was Wilson's first translation; his other translations include The Book of Five Rings, The Life-Giving Sword and The Demons Sermon on the Martial Arts. He is also the author of The Lone Samurai.
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Product Details

  • Series: The Way of the Warrior Series
  • Hardcover: 255 pages
  • Publisher: Kodansha USA; 1St Edition edition (January 1, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 4770030770
  • ISBN-13: 978-4770030771
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 0.9 x 5.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #393,220 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

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By L. A. Kane VINE VOICE on March 17, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Japanese is an extraordinarily challenging language for foreigners to speak, let alone read, yet William Scott Wilson has demonstrated an amazing gift for translating classical Japanese works into English in a way that holds true to the original work while finding modern relevance and meaning for the readers of today. The acclaimed translator of Hagakure, The Unfettered Mind, The Book of Five Rings, The Demon's Sermon on Martial Arts, Taiko, The Life-Giving Sword, and many other immortal volumes, Wilson has once again lived up to his stellar reputation with this latest book. Written by samurai physician Kaibara Ekiken (1630 - 1714), Yojokun means "Lessons on Nurturing Life." It is a very unique tome in feudal Japanese literature; rather then a martial compendium or Zen treatise, it is a compilation of precepts for living life to its fullest.

Ekiken, a prolific author, lived during the Takugawa Shogunate, an extraordinary era of peace in Japanese history where feudal samurai had to adjust to a world without constant warfare. Best known as a scholar of Confucianism, his diverse interests included agriculture, astrology, astronomy, biology, botany, linguistics, martial arts, mathematics, medicine, military strategy, topology, zoology, and more. He traveled extensively, meeting not only with some of the finest scholars of his day, but also with artisans and farmers in his search for wisdom. Unlike most of his peers, he wrote for the common man as well as for the elite classes, using unpretentious language that nearly anyone could understand. His book on the plants of Japan classified more then 1,500 species, while his book on the topography of Chikuzen Province (now part of Fukuoka Prefecture) is still studied today.
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Format: Hardcover
Yojokun is basically one of the oldest nutritional guides. This book by Kaibara Ekiken, a 17th century samurai, covers the importance of nutrition, exercise, and moderation in your activities. This book is basically a collection of Kaibara Ekiken's personal notes on various topics which concern one's health. The majority of his writings have to do with nutritional foods and tips on eating, drinking, food combination, when to eat, and how to eat.

He also covers topics on sexual activity, filial duty, the elderly, energy (chi), and drinking alcohol. I found it very interesting how many of his admonitions follow today's nutritional findings. Being a naturopath and having a background in natural health, I found this book very interesting. The one drawback about this book is the fact that Kaibara Ekiken repeats himself over and over, so many of his teachings on nutrition and health are repeated numerous times throughout this book. Even so, this is an interesting read for anyone who is interested in the ways of the samurai or in nutritional practices and health.

I found the translation very readable and straightforward, and much of the teachings useful for people today. It is a quick and easy read and one in which you can definitely acquire some gems of wisdom which will apply to both your health and your character. I recommend it to all readers who are interested in the subjects of the samurai, health, or ancient wisdom. There is something in this book to satisfy your search for information in all of these areas.

Bohdi Sanders author of Warrior Wisdom: Ageless Wisdom for the Modern Warrior
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Format: Hardcover
The other reviewers have touched on the content of this book, written by a sage and knowledgeable doctor in an age gone by. Today, medicine is all about technology and about breaking things down into ever-finer pieces so as to understand them better, but the old Japanese view, based on Traditional Chinese Medicine, emphasizes systems thinking instead of deconstruction. In other words, it looks at the whole person rather than a toe, a liver, a pustule, a headache.

This book is, therefore, not a medical text in the modern sense of the word, but a guide to keeping the entire body healthy and fit. It is filled with longevity tips that run the gamut from how much to sleep and when to eat to how to handle life's stressors and how to handle your booze. William Scott Wilson hit a homerun in selecting this text for translation, and does such a brilliant job of it that you can almost hear the old doctor whispering kind advice in your ear. I recommend this and all of Wilson's books most heartily. He is far more than a translator, he's a gifted writer himself who chooses to bring forth gems of the past like this one. The text flows beautifully, the wording is spare and precise, the organization is simple and straightforward, and the footnotes alone are a course in history and wisdom. Bravo.
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