Bushido, the Soul of Japan
Inazo Nitobé

Part 1 out of 2

Produced by Paul Murray, Andrea Ball, the Online Distributed
Proofreading Team and the Million Book Project/State Central Library,



Author's Edition, Revised and Enlarged



--"That way
Over the mountain, which who stands upon,
Is apt to doubt if it be indeed a road;
While if he views it from the waste itself,
Up goes the line there, plain from base to brow,
Not vague, mistakable! What's a break or two
Seen from the unbroken desert either side?
And then (to bring in fresh philosophy)
What if the breaks themselves should prove at last
The most consummate of contrivances
To train a man's eye, teach him what is faith?"


_Bishop Blougram's Apology_.

"There are, if I may so say, three powerful spirits, which have
from time to time, moved on the face of the waters, and given a
predominant impulse to the moral sentiments and energies of
mankind. These are the spirits of liberty, of religion, and of


_Europe in the Middle Ages_.

"Chivalry is itself the poetry of life."


_Philosophy of History_.


About ten years ago, while spending a few days under the hospitable roof
of the distinguished Belgian jurist, the lamented M. de Laveleye, our
conversation turned, during one of our rambles, to the subject of
religion. "Do you mean to say," asked the venerable professor, "that you
have no religious instruction in your schools?" On my replying in the
negative he suddenly halted in astonishment, and in a voice which I
shall not easily forget, he repeated "No religion! How do you impart
moral education?" The question stunned me at the time. I could give no
ready answer, for the moral precepts I learned in my childhood days,
were not given in schools; and not until I began to analyze the
different elements that formed my notions of right and wrong, did I find
that it was Bushido that breathed them into my nostrils.

The direct inception of this little book is due to the frequent queries
put by my wife as to the reasons why such and such ideas and customs
prevail in Japan.

In my attempts to give satisfactory replies to M. de Laveleye and to my
wife, I found that without understanding Feudalism and Bushido,[1] the
moral ideas of present Japan are a sealed volume.

[Footnote 1: Pronounced _Boó-shee-doh'_. In putting Japanese words and
names into English, Hepburn's rule is followed, that the vowels should
be used as in European languages, and the consonants as in English.]

Taking advantage of enforced idleness on account of long illness, I put
down in the order now presented to the public some of the answers given
in our household conversation. They consist mainly of what I was taught
and told in my youthful days, when Feudalism was still in force.

Between Lafcadio Hearn and Mrs. Hugh Fraser on one side and Sir Ernest
Satow and Professor Chamberlain on the other, it is indeed discouraging
to write anything Japanese in English. The only advantage I have over
them is that I can assume the attitude of a personal defendant, while
these distinguished writers are at best solicitors and attorneys. I
have often thought,--"Had I their gift of language, I would present the
cause of Japan in more eloquent terms!" But one who speaks in a borrowed
tongue should be thankful if he can just make himself intelligible.

All through the discourse I have tried to illustrate whatever points I
have made with parallel examples from European history and literature,
believing that these will aid in bringing the subject nearer to the
comprehension of foreign readers.

Should any of my allusions to religious subjects and to religious
workers be thought slighting, I trust my attitude towards Christianity
itself will not be questioned. It is with ecclesiastical methods and
with the forms which obscure the teachings of Christ, and not with the
teachings themselves, that I have little sympathy. I believe in the
religion taught by Him and handed down to us in the New Testament, as
well as in the law written in the heart. Further, I believe that God
hath made a testament which maybe called "old" with every people and
nation,--Gentile or Jew, Christian or Heathen. As to the rest of my
theology, I need not impose upon the patience of the public.

In concluding this preface, I wish to express my thanks to my friend
Anna C. Hartshorne for many valuable suggestions and for the
characteristically Japanese design made by her for the cover of this


Malvern, Pa., Twelfth Month, 1899.



Since its first publication in Philadelphia, more than six years ago,
this little book has had an unexpected history. The Japanese reprint has
passed through eight editions, the present thus being its tenth
appearance in the English language. Simultaneously with this will be
issued an American and English edition, through the publishing-house of
Messrs. George H. Putnam's Sons, of New York.

In the meantime, _Bushido_ has been translated into Mahratti by Mr. Dev
of Khandesh, into German by Fräulein Kaufmann of Hamburg, into Bohemian
by Mr. Hora of Chicago, into Polish by the Society of Science and Life
in Lemberg,--although this Polish edition has been censured by the
Russian Government. It is now being rendered into Norwegian and into
French. A Chinese translation is under contemplation. A Russian
officer, now a prisoner in Japan, has a manuscript in Russian ready for
the press. A part of the volume has been brought before the Hungarian
public and a detailed review, almost amounting to a commentary, has been
published in Japanese. Full scholarly notes for the help of younger
students have been compiled by my friend Mr. H. Sakurai, to whom I also
owe much for his aid in other ways.

I have been more than gratified to feel that my humble work has found
sympathetic readers in widely separated circles, showing that the
subject matter is of some interest to the world at large. Exceedingly
flattering is the news that has reached me from official sources, that
President Roosevelt has done it undeserved honor by reading it and
distributing several dozens of copies among his friends.

In making emendations and additions for the present edition, I have
largely confined them to concrete examples. I still continue to regret,
as I indeed have never ceased to do, my inability to add a chapter on
Filial Piety, which is considered one of the two wheels of the chariot
of Japanese ethics--Loyalty being the other. My inability is due rather
to my ignorance of the Western sentiment in regard to this particular
virtue, than to ignorance of our own attitude towards it, and I cannot
draw comparisons satisfying to my own mind. I hope one day to enlarge
upon this and other topics at some length. All the subjects that are
touched upon in these pages are capable of further amplification and
discussion; but I do not now see my way clear to make this volume larger
than it is.

This Preface would be incomplete and unjust, if I were to omit the debt
I owe to my wife for her reading of the proof-sheets, for helpful
suggestions, and, above all, for her constant encouragement.


Fifth Month twenty-second, 1905.


Bushido as an Ethical System

Sources of Bushido

Rectitude or Justice

Courage, the Spirit of Daring and Bearing

Benevolence, the Feeling of Distress


Veracity or Truthfulness


The Duty of Loyalty

Education and Training of a Samurai


The Institutions of Suicide and Redress

The Sword, the Soul of the Samurai

The Training and Position of Woman

The Influence of Bushido

Is Bushido Still Alive?

The Future of Bushido


Chivalry is a flower no less indigenous to the soil of Japan than its
emblem, the cherry blossom; nor is it a dried-up specimen of an antique
virtue preserved in the herbarium of our history. It is still a living
object of power and beauty among us; and if it assumes no tangible shape
or form, it not the less scents the moral atmosphere, and makes us aware
that we are still under its potent spell. The conditions of society
which brought it forth and nourished it have long disappeared; but as
those far-off stars which once were and are not, still continue to shed
their rays upon us, so the light of chivalry, which was a child of
feudalism, still illuminates our moral path, surviving its mother
institution. It is a pleasure to me to reflect upon this subject in the
language of Burke, who uttered the well-known touching eulogy over the
neglected bier of its European prototype.

It argues a sad defect of information concerning the Far East, when so
erudite a scholar as Dr. George Miller did not hesitate to affirm that
chivalry, or any other similar institution, has never existed either
among the nations of antiquity or among the modern Orientals.[2] Such
ignorance, however, is amply excusable, as the third edition of the good
Doctor's work appeared the same year that Commodore Perry was knocking
at the portals of our exclusivism. More than a decade later, about the
time that our feudalism was in the last throes of existence, Carl Marx,
writing his "Capital," called the attention of his readers to the
peculiar advantage of studying the social and political institutions of
feudalism, as then to be seen in living form only in Japan. I would
likewise invite the Western historical and ethical student to the study
of chivalry in the Japan of the present.

[Footnote 2: _History Philosophically Illustrated_, (3rd Ed. 1853), Vol.
II, p. 2.]

Enticing as is a historical disquisition on the comparison between
European and Japanese feudalism and chivalry, it is not the purpose of
this paper to enter into it at length. My attempt is rather to relate,
_firstly_, the origin and sources of our chivalry; _secondly_, its
character and teaching; _thirdly_, its influence among the masses; and,
_fourthly_, the continuity and permanence of its influence. Of these
several points, the first will be only brief and cursory, or else I
should have to take my readers into the devious paths of our national
history; the second will be dwelt upon at greater length, as being most
likely to interest students of International Ethics and Comparative
Ethology in our ways of thought and action; and the rest will be dealt
with as corollaries.

The Japanese word which I have roughly rendered Chivalry, is, in the
original, more expressive than Horsemanship. _Bu-shi-do_ means literally
Military-Knight-Ways--the ways which fighting nobles should observe in
their daily life as well as in their vocation; in a word, the "Precepts
of Knighthood," the _noblesse oblige_ of the warrior class. Having thus
given its literal significance, I may be allowed henceforth to use the
word in the original. The use of the original term is also advisable
for this reason, that a teaching so circumscribed and unique,
engendering a cast of mind and character so peculiar, so local, must
wear the badge of its singularity on its face; then, some words have a
national _timbre_ so expressive of race characteristics that the best of
translators can do them but scant justice, not to say positive injustice
and grievance. Who can improve by translation what the German "_Gemüth_"
signifies, or who does not feel the difference between the two words
verbally so closely allied as the English _gentleman_ and the French

Bushido, then, is the code of moral principles which the knights were
required or instructed to observe. It is not a written code; at best it
consists of a few maxims handed down from mouth to mouth or coming from
the pen of some well-known warrior or savant. More frequently it is a
code unuttered and unwritten, possessing all the more the powerful
sanction of veritable deed, and of a law written on the fleshly tablets
of the heart. It was founded not on the creation of one brain, however
able, or on the life of a single personage, however renowned. It was an
organic growth of decades and centuries of military career. It, perhaps,
fills the same position in the history of ethics that the English
Constitution does in political history; yet it has had nothing to
compare with the Magna Charta or the Habeas Corpus Act. True, early in
the seventeenth century Military Statutes (_Buké Hatto_) were
promulgated; but their thirteen short articles were taken up mostly with
marriages, castles, leagues, etc., and didactic regulations were but
meagerly touched upon. We cannot, therefore, point out any definite time
and place and say, "Here is its fountain head." Only as it attains
consciousness in the feudal age, its origin, in respect to time, may be
identified with feudalism. But feudalism itself is woven of many
threads, and Bushido shares its intricate nature. As in England the
political institutions of feudalism may be said to date from the Norman
Conquest, so we may say that in Japan its rise was simultaneous with the
ascendency of Yoritomo, late in the twelfth century. As, however, in
England, we find the social elements of feudalism far back in the period
previous to William the Conqueror, so, too, the germs of feudalism in
Japan had been long existent before the period I have mentioned.

Again, in Japan as in Europe, when feudalism was formally inaugurated,
the professional class of warriors naturally came into prominence. These
were known as _samurai_, meaning literally, like the old English _cniht_
(knecht, knight), guards or attendants--resembling in character the
_soldurii_ whom Caesar mentioned as existing in Aquitania, or the
_comitati_, who, according to Tacitus, followed Germanic chiefs in his
time; or, to take a still later parallel, the _milites medii_ that one
reads about in the history of Mediaeval Europe. A Sinico-Japanese word
_Bu-ké_ or _Bu-shi_ (Fighting Knights) was also adopted in common use.
They were a privileged class, and must originally have been a rough
breed who made fighting their vocation. This class was naturally
recruited, in a long period of constant warfare, from the manliest and
the most adventurous, and all the while the process of elimination went
on, the timid and the feeble being sorted out, and only "a rude race,
all masculine, with brutish strength," to borrow Emerson's phrase,
surviving to form families and the ranks of the _samurai_. Coming to
profess great honor and great privileges, and correspondingly great
responsibilities, they soon felt the need of a common standard of
behavior, especially as they were always on a belligerent footing and
belonged to different clans. Just as physicians limit competition among
themselves by professional courtesy, just as lawyers sit in courts of
honor in cases of violated etiquette, so must also warriors possess some
resort for final judgment on their misdemeanors.

Fair play in fight! What fertile germs of morality lie in this primitive
sense of savagery and childhood. Is it not the root of all military and
civic virtues? We smile (as if we had outgrown it!) at the boyish desire
of the small Britisher, Tom Brown, "to leave behind him the name of a
fellow who never bullied a little boy or turned his back on a big one."
And yet, who does not know that this desire is the corner-stone on which
moral structures of mighty dimensions can be reared? May I not go even
so far as to say that the gentlest and most peace-loving of religions
endorses this aspiration? This desire of Tom's is the basis on which the
greatness of England is largely built, and it will not take us long to
discover that _Bushido_ does not stand on a lesser pedestal. If fighting
in itself, be it offensive or defensive, is, as Quakers rightly testify,
brutal and wrong, we can still say with Lessing, "We know from what
failings our virtue springs."[3] "Sneaks" and "cowards" are epithets of
the worst opprobrium to healthy, simple natures. Childhood begins life
with these notions, and knighthood also; but, as life grows larger and
its relations many-sided, the early faith seeks sanction from higher
authority and more rational sources for its own justification,
satisfaction and development. If military interests had operated alone,
without higher moral support, how far short of chivalry would the ideal
of knighthood have fallen! In Europe, Christianity, interpreted with
concessions convenient to chivalry, infused it nevertheless with
spiritual data. "Religion, war and glory were the three souls of a
perfect Christian knight," says Lamartine. In Japan there were several


of which I may begin with Buddhism. It furnished a sense of calm trust
in Fate, a quiet submission to the inevitable, that stoic composure in
sight of danger or calamity, that disdain of life and friendliness with
death. A foremost teacher of swordsmanship, when he saw his pupil
master the utmost of his art, told him, "Beyond this my instruction must
give way to Zen teaching." "Zen" is the Japanese equivalent for the
Dhyâna, which "represents human effort to reach through meditation zones
of thought beyond the range of verbal expression."[4] Its method is
contemplation, and its purport, as far as I understand it, to be
convinced of a principle that underlies all phenomena, and, if it can,
of the Absolute itself, and thus to put oneself in harmony with this
Absolute. Thus defined, the teaching was more than the dogma of a sect,
and whoever attains to the perception of the Absolute raises himself
above mundane things and awakes, "to a new Heaven and a new Earth."

[Footnote 3: Ruskin was one of the most gentle-hearted and peace loving
men that ever lived. Yet he believed in war with all the fervor of a
worshiper of the strenuous life. "When I tell you," he says in the
_Crown of Wild Olive_, "that war is the foundation of all the arts, I
mean also that it is the foundation of all the high virtues and
faculties of men. It is very strange to me to discover this, and very
dreadful, but I saw it to be quite an undeniable fact. * * * I found in
brief, that all great nations learned their truth of word and strength
of thought in war; that they were nourished in war and wasted by peace,
taught by war and deceived by peace; trained by war and betrayed by
peace; in a word, that they were born in war and expired in peace."]

[Footnote 4: Lafcadio Hearn, _Exotics and Retrospectives_, p. 84.]

What Buddhism failed to give, Shintoism offered in abundance. Such
loyalty to the sovereign, such reverence for ancestral memory, and such
filial piety as are not taught by any other creed, were inculcated by
the Shinto doctrines, imparting passivity to the otherwise arrogant
character of the samurai. Shinto theology has no place for the dogma of
"original sin." On the contrary, it believes in the innate goodness and
God-like purity of the human soul, adoring it as the adytum from which
divine oracles are proclaimed. Everybody has observed that the Shinto
shrines are conspicuously devoid of objects and instruments of worship,
and that a plain mirror hung in the sanctuary forms the essential part
of its furnishing. The presence of this article, is easy to explain: it
typifies the human heart, which, when perfectly placid and clear,
reflects the very image of the Deity. When you stand, therefore, in
front of the shrine to worship, you see your own image reflected on its
shining surface, and the act of worship is tantamount to the old Delphic
injunction, "Know Thyself." But self-knowledge does not imply, either in
the Greek or Japanese teaching, knowledge of the physical part of man,
not his anatomy or his psycho-physics; knowledge was to be of a moral
kind, the introspection of our moral nature. Mommsen, comparing the
Greek and the Roman, says that when the former worshiped he raised his
eyes to heaven, for his prayer was contemplation, while the latter
veiled his head, for his was reflection. Essentially like the Roman
conception of religion, our reflection brought into prominence not so
much the moral as the national consciousness of the individual. Its
nature-worship endeared the country to our inmost souls, while its
ancestor-worship, tracing from lineage to lineage, made the Imperial
family the fountain-head of the whole nation. To us the country is more
than land and soil from which to mine gold or to reap grain--it is the
sacred abode of the gods, the spirits of our forefathers: to us the
Emperor is more than the Arch Constable of a _Rechtsstaat_, or even the
Patron of a _Culturstaat_--he is the bodily representative of Heaven on
earth, blending in his person its power and its mercy. If what M.
Boutmy[5] says is true of English royalty--that it "is not only the
image of authority, but the author and symbol of national unity," as I
believe it to be, doubly and trebly may this be affirmed of royalty in

[Footnote 5: _The English People_, p. 188.]

The tenets of Shintoism cover the two predominating features of the
emotional life of our race--Patriotism and Loyalty. Arthur May Knapp
very truly says: "In Hebrew literature it is often difficult to tell
whether the writer is speaking of God or of the Commonwealth; of heaven
or of Jerusalem; of the Messiah or of the nation itself."[6] A similar
confusion may be noticed in the nomenclature of our national faith.
I said confusion, because it will be so deemed by a logical intellect
on account of its verbal ambiguity; still, being a framework of
national instinct and race feelings, Shintoism never pretends to a
systematic philosophy or a rational theology. This religion--or, is
it not more correct to say, the race emotions which this religion
expressed?--thoroughly imbued Bushido with loyalty to the sovereign and
love of country. These acted more as impulses than as doctrines; for
Shintoism, unlike the Mediaeval Christian Church, prescribed to its
votaries scarcely any _credenda_, furnishing them at the same time with
_agenda_ of a straightforward and simple type.

[Footnote 6: "_Feudal and Modern Japan_" Vol. I, p. 183.]

As to strictly ethical doctrines, the teachings of Confucius were the
most prolific source of Bushido. His enunciation of the five moral
relations between master and servant (the governing and the governed),
father and son, husband and wife, older and younger brother, and between
friend and friend, was but a confirmation of what the race instinct had
recognized before his writings were introduced from China. The calm,
benignant, and worldly-wise character of his politico-ethical precepts
was particularly well suited to the samurai, who formed the ruling
class. His aristocratic and conservative tone was well adapted to the
requirements of these warrior statesmen. Next to Confucius, Mencius
exercised an immense authority over Bushido. His forcible and often
quite democratic theories were exceedingly taking to sympathetic
natures, and they were even thought dangerous to, and subversive of, the
existing social order, hence his works were for a long time under
censure. Still, the words of this master mind found permanent lodgment
in the heart of the samurai.

The writings of Confucius and Mencius formed the principal text-books
for youths and the highest authority in discussion among the old. A mere
acquaintance with the classics of these two sages was held, however, in
no high esteem. A common proverb ridicules one who has only an
intellectual knowledge of Confucius, as a man ever studious but ignorant
of _Analects_. A typical samurai calls a literary savant a book-smelling
sot. Another compares learning to an ill-smelling vegetable that must be
boiled and boiled before it is fit for use. A man who has read a little
smells a little pedantic, and a man who has read much smells yet more
so; both are alike unpleasant. The writer meant thereby that knowledge
becomes really such only when it is assimilated in the mind of the
learner and shows in his character. An intellectual specialist was
considered a machine. Intellect itself was considered subordinate to
ethical emotion. Man and the universe were conceived to be alike
spiritual and ethical. Bushido could not accept the judgment of Huxley,
that the cosmic process was unmoral.

Bushido made light of knowledge as such. It was not pursued as an end in
itself, but as a means to the attainment of wisdom. Hence, he who
stopped short of this end was regarded no higher than a convenient
machine, which could turn out poems and maxims at bidding. Thus,
knowledge was conceived as identical with its practical application in
life; and this Socratic doctrine found its greatest exponent in the
Chinese philosopher, Wan Yang Ming, who never wearies of repeating, "To
know and to act are one and the same."

I beg leave for a moment's digression while I am on this subject,
inasmuch as some of the noblest types of _bushi_ were strongly
influenced by the teachings of this sage. Western readers will easily
recognize in his writings many parallels to the New Testament. Making
allowance for the terms peculiar to either teaching, the passage, "Seek
ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things
shall be added unto you," conveys a thought that may be found on almost
any page of Wan Yang Ming. A Japanese disciple[7] of his says--"The lord
of heaven and earth, of all living beings, dwelling in the heart of man,
becomes his mind (_Kokoro_); hence a mind is a living thing, and is ever
luminous:" and again, "The spiritual light of our essential being is
pure, and is not affected by the will of man. Spontaneously springing up
in our mind, it shows what is right and wrong: it is then called
conscience; it is even the light that proceedeth from the god of
heaven." How very much do these words sound like some passages from
Isaac Pennington or other philosophic mystics! I am inclined to think
that the Japanese mind, as expressed in the simple tenets of the Shinto
religion, was particularly open to the reception of Yang Ming's
precepts. He carried his doctrine of the infallibility of conscience to
extreme transcendentalism, attributing to it the faculty to perceive,
not only the distinction between right and wrong, but also the nature
of psychical facts and physical phenomena. He went as far as, if not
farther than, Berkeley and Fichte, in Idealism, denying the existence of
things outside of human ken. If his system had all the logical errors
charged to Solipsism, it had all the efficacy of strong conviction and
its moral import in developing individuality of character and equanimity
of temper cannot be gainsaid.

[Footnote 7: Miwa Shissai.]

Thus, whatever the sources, the essential principles which _Bushido_
imbibed from them and assimilated to itself, were few and simple. Few
and simple as these were, they were sufficient to furnish a safe conduct
of life even through the unsafest days of the most unsettled period of
our nation's history. The wholesome, unsophisticated nature of our
warrior ancestors derived ample food for their spirit from a sheaf of
commonplace and fragmentary teachings, gleaned as it were on the
highways and byways of ancient thought, and, stimulated by the demands
of the age, formed from these gleanings anew and unique type of manhood.
An acute French _savant_, M. de la Mazelière, thus sums up his
impressions of the sixteenth century:--"Toward the middle of the
sixteenth century, all is confusion in Japan, in the government, in
society, in the church. But the civil wars, the manners returning to
barbarism, the necessity for each to execute justice for himself,--these
formed men comparable to those Italians of the sixteenth century, in
whom Taine praises 'the vigorous initiative, the habit of sudden
resolutions and desperate undertakings, the grand capacity to do and to
suffer.' In Japan as in Italy 'the rude manners of the Middle Ages made
of man a superb animal, wholly militant and wholly resistant.' And this
is why the sixteenth century displays in the highest degree the
principal quality of the Japanese race, that great diversity which one
finds there between minds (_esprits_) as well as between temperaments.
While in India and even in China men seem to differ chiefly in degree of
energy or intelligence, in Japan they differ by originality of character
as well. Now, individuality is the sign of superior races and of
civilizations already developed. If we make use of an expression dear to
Nietzsche, we might say that in Asia, to speak of humanity is to speak
of its plains; in Japan as in Europe, one represents it above all by its

To the pervading characteristics of the men of whom M. de la Mazelière
writes, let us now address ourselves. I shall begin with


the most cogent precept in the code of the samurai. Nothing is more
loathsome to him than underhand dealings and crooked undertakings. The
conception of Rectitude may be erroneous--it may be narrow. A well-known
bushi defines it as a power of resolution;--"Rectitude is the power of
deciding upon a certain course of conduct in accordance with reason,
without wavering;--to die when it is right to die, to strike when to
strike is right." Another speaks of it in the following terms:
"Rectitude is the bone that gives firmness and stature. As without
bones the head cannot rest on the top of the spine, nor hands move nor
feet stand, so without rectitude neither talent nor learning can make of
a human frame a samurai. With it the lack of accomplishments is as
nothing." Mencius calls Benevolence man's mind, and Rectitude or
Righteousness his path. "How lamentable," he exclaims, "is it to neglect
the path and not pursue it, to lose the mind and not know to seek it
again! When men's fowls and dogs are lost, they know to seek for them
again, but they lose their mind and do not know to seek for it." Have we
not here "as in a glass darkly" a parable propounded three hundred years
later in another clime and by a greater Teacher, who called Himself _the
Way_ of Righteousness, through whom the lost could be found? But I stray
from my point. Righteousness, according to Mencius, is a straight and
narrow path which a man ought to take to regain the lost paradise.

Even in the latter days of feudalism, when the long continuance of peace
brought leisure into the life of the warrior class, and with it
dissipations of all kinds and gentle accomplishments, the epithet
_Gishi_ (a man of rectitude) was considered superior to any name that
signified mastery of learning or art. The Forty-seven Faithfuls--of whom
so much is made in our popular education--are known in common parlance
as the Forty-seven _Gishi_.

In times when cunning artifice was liable to pass for military tact and
downright falsehood for _ruse de guerre_, this manly virtue, frank and
honest, was a jewel that shone the brightest and was most highly
praised. Rectitude is a twin brother to Valor, another martial virtue.
But before proceeding to speak of Valor, let me linger a little while on
what I may term a derivation from Rectitude, which, at first deviating
slightly from its original, became more and more removed from it, until
its meaning was perverted in the popular acceptance. I speak of _Gi-ri_,
literally the Right Reason, but which came in time to mean a vague sense
of duty which public opinion expected an incumbent to fulfil. In its
original and unalloyed sense, it meant duty, pure and simple,--hence,
we speak of the _Giri_ we owe to parents, to superiors, to inferiors, to
society at large, and so forth. In these instances _Giri_ is duty; for
what else is duty than what Right Reason demands and commands us to do.
Should not Right Reason be our categorical imperative?

_Giri_ primarily meant no more than duty, and I dare say its etymology
was derived from the fact that in our conduct, say to our parents,
though love should be the only motive, lacking that, there must be some
other authority to enforce filial piety; and they formulated this
authority in _Giri_. Very rightly did they formulate this
authority--_Giri_--since if love does not rush to deeds of virtue,
recourse must be had to man's intellect and his reason must be quickened
to convince him of the necessity of acting aright. The same is true of
any other moral obligation. The instant Duty becomes onerous. Right
Reason steps in to prevent our shirking it. _Giri_ thus understood is a
severe taskmaster, with a birch-rod in his hand to make sluggards
perform their part. It is a secondary power in ethics; as a motive it
is infinitely inferior to the Christian doctrine of love, which should
be _the_ law. I deem it a product of the conditions of an artificial
society--of a society in which accident of birth and unmerited favour
instituted class distinctions, in which the family was the social unit,
in which seniority of age was of more account than superiority of
talents, in which natural affections had often to succumb before
arbitrary man-made customs. Because of this very artificiality, _Giri_
in time degenerated into a vague sense of propriety called up to explain
this and sanction that,--as, for example, why a mother must, if need be,
sacrifice all her other children in order to save the first-born; or why
a daughter must sell her chastity to get funds to pay for the father's
dissipation, and the like. Starting as Right Reason, _Giri_ has, in my
opinion, often stooped to casuistry. It has even degenerated into
cowardly fear of censure. I might say of _Giri_ what Scott wrote of
patriotism, that "as it is the fairest, so it is often the most
suspicious, mask of other feelings." Carried beyond or below Right
Reason, _Giri_ became a monstrous misnomer. It harbored under its wings
every sort of sophistry and hypocrisy. It might easily--have been turned
into a nest of cowardice, if Bushido had not a keen and correct sense of


to the consideration of which we shall now return. Courage was scarcely
deemed worthy to be counted among virtues, unless it was exercised in
the cause of Righteousness. In his "Analects" Confucius defines Courage
by explaining, as is often his wont, what its negative is. "Perceiving
what is right," he says, "and doing it not, argues lack of courage." Put
this epigram into a positive statement, and it runs, "Courage is doing
what is right." To run all kinds of hazards, to jeopardize one's self,
to rush into the jaws of death--these are too often identified with
Valor, and in the profession of arms such rashness of conduct--what
Shakespeare calls, "valor misbegot"--is unjustly applauded; but not so
in the Precepts of Knighthood. Death for a cause unworthy of dying for,
was called a "dog's death." "To rush into the thick of battle and to be
slain in it," says a Prince of Mito, "is easy enough, and the merest
churl is equal to the task; but," he continues, "it is true courage to
live when it is right to live, and to die only when it is right to die,"
and yet the Prince had not even heard of the name of Plato, who defines
courage as "the knowledge of things that a man should fear and that he
should not fear." A distinction which is made in the West between moral
and physical courage has long been recognized among us. What samurai
youth has not heard of "Great Valor" and the "Valor of a Villein?"

Valor, Fortitude, Bravery, Fearlessness, Courage, being the qualities of
soul which appeal most easily to juvenile minds, and which can be
trained by exercise and example, were, so to speak, the most popular
virtues, early emulated among the youth. Stories of military exploits
were repeated almost before boys left their mother's breast. Does a
little booby cry for any ache? The mother scolds him in this fashion:
"What a coward to cry for a trifling pain! What will you do when your
arm is cut off in battle? What when you are called upon to commit
_harakiri_?" We all know the pathetic fortitude of a famished little
boy-prince of Sendai, who in the drama is made to say to his little
page, "Seest thou those tiny sparrows in the nest, how their yellow
bills are opened wide, and now see! there comes their mother with worms
to feed them. How eagerly and happily the little ones eat! but for a
samurai, when his stomach is empty, it is a disgrace to feel hunger."
Anecdotes of fortitude and bravery abound in nursery tales, though
stories of this kind are not by any means the only method of early
imbuing the spirit with daring and fearlessness. Parents, with sternness
sometimes verging on cruelty, set their children to tasks that called
forth all the pluck that was in them. "Bears hurl their cubs down the
gorge," they said. Samurai's sons were let down the steep valleys of
hardship, and spurred to Sisyphus-like tasks. Occasional deprivation of
food or exposure to cold, was considered a highly efficacious test for
inuring them to endurance. Children of tender age were sent among utter
strangers with some message to deliver, were made to rise before the
sun, and before breakfast attend to their reading exercises, walking to
their teacher with bare feet in the cold of winter; they
frequently--once or twice a month, as on the festival of a god of
learning,--came together in small groups and passed the night without
sleep, in reading aloud by turns. Pilgrimages to all sorts of uncanny
places--to execution grounds, to graveyards, to houses reputed to be
haunted, were favorite pastimes of the young. In the days when
decapitation was public, not only were small boys sent to witness the
ghastly scene, but they were made to visit alone the place in the
darkness of night and there to leave a mark of their visit on the
trunkless head.

Does this ultra-Spartan system of "drilling the nerves" strike the
modern pedagogist with horror and doubt--doubt whether the tendency
would not be brutalizing, nipping in the bud the tender emotions of the
heart? Let us see what other concepts Bushido had of Valor.

The spiritual aspect of valor is evidenced by composure--calm presence
of mind. Tranquillity is courage in repose. It is a statical
manifestation of valor, as daring deeds are a dynamical. A truly brave
man is ever serene; he is never taken by surprise; nothing ruffles the
equanimity of his spirit. In the heat of battle he remains cool; in the
midst of catastrophes he keeps level his mind. Earthquakes do not shake
him, he laughs at storms. We admire him as truly great, who, in the
menacing presence of danger or death, retains his self-possession; who,
for instance, can compose a poem under impending peril or hum a strain
in the face of death. Such indulgence betraying no tremor in the writing
or in the voice, is taken as an infallible index of a large nature--of
what we call a capacious mind (_yoyū_), which, for from being pressed or
crowded, has always room for something more.

It passes current among us as a piece of authentic history, that as Ōta
Dokan, the great builder of the castle of Tokyo, was pierced through
with a spear, his assassin, knowing the poetical predilection of his
victim, accompanied his thrust with this couplet--

"Ah! how in moments like these
Our heart doth grudge the light of life;"

whereupon the expiring hero, not one whit daunted by the mortal wound in
his side, added the lines--

"Had not in hours of peace,
It learned to lightly look on life."

There is even a sportive element in a courageous nature. Things which
are serious to ordinary people, may be but play to the valiant. Hence in
old warfare it was not at all rare for the parties to a conflict to
exchange repartee or to begin a rhetorical contest. Combat was not
solely a matter of brute force; it was, as, well, an intellectual

Of such character was the battle fought on the bank of the Koromo River,
late in the eleventh century. The eastern army routed, its leader,
Sadato, took to flight. When the pursuing general pressed him hard and
called aloud--"It is a disgrace for a warrior to show his back to the
enemy," Sadato reined his horse; upon this the conquering chief shouted
an impromptu verse--

"Torn into shreds is the warp of the cloth" (_koromo_).

Scarcely had the words escaped his lips when the defeated warrior,
undismayed, completed the couplet--

"Since age has worn its threads by use."

Yoshiie, whose bow had all the while been bent, suddenly unstrung it and
turned away, leaving his prospective victim to do as he pleased. When
asked the reason of his strange behavior, he replied that he could not
bear to put to shame one who had kept his presence of mind while hotly
pursued by his enemy.

The sorrow which overtook Antony and Octavius at the death of Brutus,
has been the general experience of brave men. Kenshin, who fought for
fourteen years with Shingen, when he heard of the latter's death, wept
aloud at the loss of "the best of enemies." It was this same Kenshin who
had set a noble example for all time, in his treatment of Shingen,
whose provinces lay in a mountainous region quite away from the sea, and
who had consequently depended upon the Hōjō provinces of the Tokaido for
salt. The Hōjō prince wishing to weaken him, although not openly at war
with him, had cut off from Shingen all traffic in this important
article. Kenshin, hearing of his enemy's dilemma and able to obtain his
salt from the coast of his own dominions, wrote Shingen that in his
opinion the Hōjō lord had committed a very mean act, and that although
he (Kenshin) was at war with him (Shingen) he had ordered his subjects
to furnish him with plenty of salt--adding, "I do not fight with salt,
but with the sword," affording more than a parallel to the words of
Camillus, "We Romans do not fight with gold, but with iron." Nietzsche
spoke for the samurai heart when he wrote, "You are to be proud of your
enemy; then, the success of your enemy is your success also." Indeed
valor and honor alike required that we should own as enemies in war only
such as prove worthy of being friends in peace. When valor attains this
height, it becomes akin to


love, magnanimity, affection for others, sympathy and pity, which were
ever recognized to be supreme virtues, the highest of all the attributes
of the human soul. Benevolence was deemed a princely virtue in a twofold
sense;--princely among the manifold attributes of a noble spirit;
princely as particularly befitting a princely profession. We needed no
Shakespeare to feel--though, perhaps, like the rest of the world, we
needed him to express it--that mercy became a monarch better than his
crown, that it was above his sceptered sway. How often both Confucius
and Mencius repeat the highest requirement of a ruler of men to consist
in benevolence. Confucius would say, "Let but a prince cultivate virtue,
people will flock to him; with people will come to him lands; lands will
bring forth for him wealth; wealth will give him the benefit of right
uses. Virtue is the root, and wealth an outcome." Again, "Never has
there been a case of a sovereign loving benevolence, and the people not
loving righteousness," Mencius follows close at his heels and says,
"Instances are on record where individuals attained to supreme power
in a single state, without benevolence, but never have I heard of a
whole empire falling into the hands of one who lacked this virtue."
Also,--"It is impossible that any one should become ruler of the
people to whom they have not yielded the subjection of their hearts."
Both defined this indispensable requirement in a ruler by saying,
"Benevolence--Benevolence is Man." Under the régime of feudalism, which
could easily be perverted into militarism, it was to Benevolence that we
owed our deliverance from despotism of the worst kind. An utter
surrender of "life and limb" on the part of the governed would have left
nothing for the governing but self-will, and this has for its natural
consequence the growth of that absolutism so often called "oriental
despotism,"--as though there were no despots of occidental history!

Let it be far from me to uphold despotism of any sort; but it is a
mistake to identify feudalism with it. When Frederick the Great wrote
that "Kings are the first servants of the State," jurists thought
rightly that a new era was reached in the development of freedom.
Strangely coinciding in time, in the backwoods of North-western Japan,
Yozan of Yonézawa made exactly the same declaration, showing that
feudalism was not all tyranny and oppression. A feudal prince, although
unmindful of owing reciprocal obligations to his vassals, felt a higher
sense of responsibility to his ancestors and to Heaven. He was a father
to his subjects, whom Heaven entrusted to his care. In a sense not
usually assigned to the term, Bushido accepted and corroborated paternal
government--paternal also as opposed to the less interested avuncular
government (Uncle Sam's, to wit!). The difference between a despotic and
a paternal government lies in this, that in the one the people obey
reluctantly, while in the other they do so with "that proud submission,
that dignified obedience, that subordination of heart which kept alive,
even in servitude itself, the spirit of exalted freedom."[8] The old
saying is not entirely false which called the king of England the "king
of devils, because of his subjects' often insurrections against, and
depositions of, their princes," and which made the French monarch the
"king of asses, because of their infinite taxes and Impositions," but
which gave the title of "the king of men" to the sovereign of Spain
"because of his subjects' willing obedience." But enough!--

[Footnote 8: Burke, _French Revolution_.]

Virtue and absolute power may strike the Anglo-Saxon mind as terms which
it is impossible to harmonize. Pobyedonostseff has clearly set before us
the contrast in the foundations of English and other European
communities; namely that these were organized on the basis of common
interest, while that was distinguished by a strongly developed
independent personality. What this Russian statesman says of the
personal dependence of individuals on some social alliance and in the
end of ends of the State, among the continental nations of Europe and
particularly among Slavonic peoples, is doubly true of the Japanese.
Hence not only is a free exercise of monarchical power not felt as
heavily by us as in Europe, but it is generally moderated by parental
consideration for the feelings of the people. "Absolutism," says
Bismarck, "primarily demands in the ruler impartiality, honesty,
devotion to duty, energy and inward humility." If I may be allowed to
make one more quotation on this subject, I will cite from the speech of
the German Emperor at Coblenz, in which he spoke of "Kingship, by the
grace of God, with its heavy duties, its tremendous responsibility to
the Creator alone, from which no man, no minister, no parliament, can
release the monarch."

We knew Benevolence was a tender virtue and mother-like. If upright
Rectitude and stern Justice were peculiarly masculine, Mercy had the
gentleness and the persuasiveness of a feminine nature. We were warned
against indulging in indiscriminate charity, without seasoning it with
justice and rectitude. Masamuné expressed it well in his oft-quoted
aphorism--"Rectitude carried to excess hardens into stiffness;
Benevolence indulged beyond measure sinks into weakness."

Fortunately Mercy was not so rare as it was beautiful, for it is
universally true that "The bravest are the tenderest, the loving are the
daring." "_Bushi no nasaké_"--the tenderness of a warrior--had a sound
which appealed at once to whatever was noble in us; not that the mercy
of a samurai was generically different from the mercy of any other
being, but because it implied mercy where mercy was not a blind impulse,
but where it recognized due regard to justice, and where mercy did not
remain merely a certain state of mind, but where it was backed with
power to save or kill. As economists speak of demand as being effectual
or ineffectual, similarly we may call the mercy of bushi effectual,
since it implied the power of acting for the good or detriment of the

Priding themselves as they did in their brute strength and privileges to
turn it into account, the samurai gave full consent to what Mencius
taught concerning the power of Love. "Benevolence," he says, "brings
under its sway whatever hinders its power, just as water subdues fire:
they only doubt the power of water to quench flames who try to
extinguish with a cupful a whole burning wagon-load of fagots." He also
says that "the feeling of distress is the root of benevolence, therefore
a benevolent man is ever mindful of those who are suffering and in
distress." Thus did Mencius long anticipate Adam Smith who founds his
ethical philosophy on Sympathy.

It is indeed striking how closely the code of knightly honor of one
country coincides with that of others; in other words, how the much
abused oriental ideas of morals find their counterparts in the noblest
maxims of European literature. If the well-known lines,

Hae tibi erunt artes--pacisque imponere morem,
Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos,

were shown a Japanese gentleman, he might readily accuse the Mantuan
bard of plagiarizing from the literature of his own country. Benevolence
to the weak, the downtrodden or the vanquished, was ever extolled as
peculiarly becoming to a samurai. Lovers of Japanese art must be
familiar with the representation of a priest riding backwards on a cow.
The rider was once a warrior who in his day made his name a by-word of
terror. In that terrible battle of Sumano-ura, (1184 A.D.), which was
one of the most decisive in our history, he overtook an enemy and in
single combat had him in the clutch of his gigantic arms. Now the
etiquette of war required that on such occasions no blood should be
spilt, unless the weaker party proved to be a man of rank or ability
equal to that of the stronger. The grim combatant would have the name of
the man under him; but he refusing to make it known, his helmet was
ruthlessly torn off, when the sight of a juvenile face, fair and
beardless, made the astonished knight relax his hold. Helping the youth
to his feet, in paternal tones he bade the stripling go: "Off, young
prince, to thy mother's side! The sword of Kumagaye shall never be
tarnished by a drop of thy blood. Haste and flee o'er yon pass before
thy enemies come in sight!" The young warrior refused to go and begged
Kumagaye, for the honor of both, to despatch him on the spot. Above the
hoary head of the veteran gleams the cold blade, which many a time
before has sundered the chords of life, but his stout heart quails;
there flashes athwart his mental eye the vision of his own boy, who this
self-same day marched to the sound of bugle to try his maiden arms; the
strong hand of the warrior quivers; again he begs his victim to flee for
his life. Finding all his entreaties vain and hearing the approaching
steps of his comrades, he exclaims: "If thou art overtaken, thou mayest
fall at a more ignoble hand than mine. O, thou Infinite! receive his
soul!" In an instant the sword flashes in the air, and when it falls it
is red with adolescent blood. When the war is ended, we find our soldier
returning in triumph, but little cares he now for honor or fame; he
renounces his warlike career, shaves his head, dons a priestly garb,
devotes the rest of his days to holy pilgrimage, never turning his back
to the West, where lies the Paradise whence salvation comes and whither
the sun hastes daily for his rest.

Critics may point out flaws in this story, which is casuistically
vulnerable. Let it be: all the same it shows that Tenderness, Pity and
Love, were traits which adorned the most sanguinary exploits of the
samurai. It was an old maxim among them that "It becometh not the fowler
to slay the bird which takes refuge in his bosom." This in a large
measure explains why the Red Cross movement, considered peculiarly
Christian, so readily found a firm footing among us. For decades before
we heard of the Geneva Convention, Bakin, our greatest novelist, had
familiarized us with the medical treatment of a fallen foe. In the
principality of Satsuma, noted for its martial spirit and education, the
custom prevailed for young men to practice music; not the blast of
trumpets or the beat of drums,--"those clamorous harbingers of blood and
death"--stirring us to imitate the actions of a tiger, but sad and
tender melodies on the _biwa_,[9] soothing our fiery spirits, drawing
our thoughts away from scent of blood and scenes of carnage. Polybius
tells us of the Constitution of Arcadia, which required all youths
under thirty to practice music, in order that this gentle art might
alleviate the rigors of that inclement region. It is to its influence
that he attributes the absence of cruelty in that part of the Arcadian

[Footnote 9: A musical instrument, resembling the guitar.]

Nor was Satsuma the only place in Japan where gentleness was inculcated
among the warrior class. A Prince of Shirakawa jots down his random
thoughts, and among them is the following: "Though they come stealing to
your bedside in the silent watches of the night, drive not away, but
rather cherish these--the fragrance of flowers, the sound of distant
bells, the insect humming of a frosty night." And again, "Though they
may wound your feelings, these three you have only to forgive, the
breeze that scatters your flowers, the cloud that hides your moon, and
the man who tries to pick quarrels with you."

It was ostensibly to express, but actually to cultivate, these gentler
emotions that the writing of verses was encouraged. Our poetry has
therefore a strong undercurrent of pathos and tenderness. A well-known
anecdote of a rustic samurai illustrates a case in point. When he was
told to learn versification, and "The Warbler's Notes"[10] was given him
for the subject of his first attempt, his fiery spirit rebelled and he
_flung_ at the feet of his master this uncouth production, which ran

[Footnote 10: The uguisu or warbler, sometimes called the nightingale of

"The brave warrior keeps apart
The ear that might listen
To the warbler's song."

His master, undaunted by the crude sentiment, continued to encourage the
youth, until one day the music of his soul was awakened to respond to
the sweet notes of the _uguisu_, and he wrote

"Stands the warrior, mailed and strong,
To hear the uguisu's song,
Warbled sweet the trees among."

We admire and enjoy the heroic incident in Körner's short life, when, as
he lay wounded on the battle-field, he scribbled his famous "Farewell to
Life." Incidents of a similar kind were not at all unusual in our
warfare. Our pithy, epigrammatic poems were particularly well suited to
the improvisation of a single sentiment. Everybody of any education was
either a poet or a poetaster. Not infrequently a marching soldier might
be seen to halt, take his writing utensils from his belt, and compose an
ode,--and such papers were found afterward in the helmets or the
breast-plates, when these were removed from their lifeless wearers.

What Christianity has done in Europe toward rousing compassion in the
midst of belligerent horrors, love of music and letters has done in
Japan. The cultivation of tender feelings breeds considerate regard for
the sufferings of others. Modesty and complaisance, actuated by respect
for others' feelings, are at the root of


that courtesy and urbanity of manners which has been noticed by every
foreign tourist as a marked Japanese trait. Politeness is a poor virtue,
if it is actuated only by a fear of offending good taste, whereas it
should be the outward manifestation of a sympathetic regard for the
feelings of others. It also implies a due regard for the fitness of
things, therefore due respect to social positions; for these latter
express no plutocratic distinctions, but were originally distinctions
for actual merit.

In its highest form, politeness almost approaches love. We may
reverently say, politeness "suffereth long, and is kind; envieth not,
vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; doth not behave itself unseemly,
seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, taketh not account of
evil." Is it any wonder that Professor Dean, in speaking of the six
elements of Humanity, accords to Politeness an exalted position,
inasmuch as it is the ripest fruit of social intercourse?

While thus extolling Politeness, far be it from me to put it in the
front rank of virtues. If we analyze it, we shall find it correlated
with other virtues of a higher order; for what virtue stands alone?
While--or rather because--it was exalted as peculiar to the profession
of arms, and as such esteemed in a degree higher than its deserts, there
came into existence its counterfeits. Confucius himself has repeatedly
taught that external appurtenances are as little a part of propriety as
sounds are of music.

When propriety was elevated to the _sine qua non_ of social intercourse,
it was only to be expected that an elaborate system of etiquette should
come into vogue to train youth in correct social behavior. How one must
bow in accosting others, how he must walk and sit, were taught and
learned with utmost care. Table manners grew to be a science. Tea
serving and drinking were raised to a ceremony. A man of education is,
of course, expected to be master of all these. Very fitly does Mr.
Veblen, in his interesting book,[11] call decorum "a product and an
exponent of the leisure-class life."

[Footnote 11: _Theory of the Leisure Class_, N.Y. 1899, p. 46.]

I have heard slighting remarks made by Europeans upon our elaborate
discipline of politeness. It has been criticized as absorbing too much
of our thought and in so far a folly to observe strict obedience to it.
I admit that there may be unnecessary niceties in ceremonious etiquette,
but whether it partakes as much of folly as the adherence to
ever-changing fashions of the West, is a question not very clear to my
mind. Even fashions I do not consider solely as freaks of vanity; on the
contrary, I look upon these as a ceaseless search of the human mind for
the beautiful. Much less do I consider elaborate ceremony as altogether
trivial; for it denotes the result of long observation as to the most
appropriate method of achieving a certain result. If there is anything
to do, there is certainly a best way to do it, and the best way is both
the most economical and the most graceful. Mr. Spencer defines grace as
the most economical manner of motion. The tea ceremony presents certain
definite ways of manipulating a bowl, a spoon, a napkin, etc. To a
novice it looks tedious. But one soon discovers that the way prescribed
is, after all, the most saving of time and labor; in other words, the
most economical use of force,--hence, according to Spencer's dictum, the
most graceful.

The spiritual significance of social decorum,--or, I might say, to
borrow from the vocabulary of the "Philosophy of Clothes," the
spiritual discipline of which etiquette and ceremony are mere outward
garments,--is out of all proportion to what their appearance warrants us
in believing. I might follow the example of Mr. Spencer and trace in our
ceremonial institutions their origins and the moral motives that gave
rise to them; but that is not what I shall endeavor to do in this book.
It is the moral training involved in strict observance of propriety,
that I wish to emphasize.

I have said that etiquette was elaborated into the finest niceties, so
much so that different schools advocating different systems, came into
existence. But they all united in the ultimate essential, and this was
put by a great exponent of the best known school of etiquette, the
Ogasawara, in the following terms: "The end of all etiquette is to so
cultivate your mind that even when you are quietly seated, not the
roughest ruffian can dare make onset on your person." It means, in other
words, that by constant exercise in correct manners, one brings all the
parts and faculties of his body into perfect order and into such
harmony with itself and its environment as to express the mastery of
spirit over the flesh. What a new and deep significance the French word
_biensèance_[12] comes thus to contain!

[Footnote 12: Etymologically _well-seatedness_.]

If the premise is true that gracefulness means economy of force, then it
follows as a logical sequence that a constant practice of graceful
deportment must bring with it a reserve and storage of force. Fine
manners, therefore, mean power in repose. When the barbarian Gauls,
during the sack of Rome, burst into the assembled Senate and dared pull
the beards of the venerable Fathers, we think the old gentlemen were to
blame, inasmuch as they lacked dignity and strength of manners. Is lofty
spiritual attainment really possible through etiquette? Why not?--All
roads lead to Rome!

As an example of how the simplest thing can be made into an art and then
become spiritual culture, I may take _Cha-no-yu_, the tea ceremony.
Tea-sipping as a fine art! Why should it not be? In the children drawing
pictures on the sand, or in the savage carving on a rock, was the
promise of a Raphael or a Michael Angelo. How much more is the drinking
of a beverage, which began with the transcendental contemplation of a
Hindoo anchorite, entitled to develop into a handmaid of Religion and
Morality? That calmness of mind, that serenity of temper, that composure
and quietness of demeanor, which are the first essentials of _Cha-no-yu_
are without doubt the first conditions of right thinking and right
feeling. The scrupulous cleanliness of the little room, shut off from
sight and sound of the madding crowd, is in itself conducive to direct
one's thoughts from the world. The bare interior does not engross one's
attention like the innumerable pictures and bric-a-brac of a Western
parlor; the presence of _kakemono_[13] calls our attention more to grace
of design than to beauty of color. The utmost refinement of taste is the
object aimed at; whereas anything like display is banished with
religious horror. The very fact that it was invented by a contemplative
recluse, in a time when wars and the rumors of wars were incessant, is
well calculated to show that this institution was more than a pastime.
Before entering the quiet precincts of the tea-room, the company
assembling to partake of the ceremony laid aside, together with their
swords, the ferocity of the battle-field or the cares of government,
there to find peace and friendship.

[Footnote 13: Hanging scrolls, which may be either paintings or
ideograms, used for decorative purposes.]

_Cha-no-yu_ is more than a ceremony--it is a fine art; it is poetry,
with articulate gestures for rhythm: it is a _modus operandi_ of soul
discipline. Its greatest value lies in this last phase. Not infrequently
the other phases preponderated in the mind of its votaries, but that
does not prove that its essence was not of a spiritual nature.

Politeness will be a great acquisition, if it does no more than impart
grace to manners; but its function does not stop here. For propriety,
springing as it does from motives of benevolence and modesty, and
actuated by tender feelings toward the sensibilities of others, is ever
a graceful expression of sympathy. Its requirement is that we should
weep with those that weep and rejoice with those that rejoice. Such
didactic requirement, when reduced into small every-day details of life,
expresses itself in little acts scarcely noticeable, or, if noticed, is,
as one missionary lady of twenty years' residence once said to me,
"awfully funny." You are out in the hot glaring sun with no shade over
you; a Japanese acquaintance passes by; you accost him, and instantly
his hat is off--well, that is perfectly natural, but the "awfully funny"
performance is, that all the while he talks with you his parasol is down
and he stands in the glaring sun also. How foolish!--Yes, exactly so,
provided the motive were less than this: "You are in the sun; I
sympathize with you; I would willingly take you under my parasol if it
were large enough, or if we were familiarly acquainted; as I cannot
shade you, I will share your discomforts." Little acts of this kind,
equally or more amusing, are not mere gestures or conventionalities.
They are the "bodying forth" of thoughtful feelings for the comfort of

Another "awfully funny" custom is dictated by our canons of Politeness;
but many superficial writers on Japan, have dismissed it by simply
attributing it to the general topsy-turvyness of the nation. Every
foreigner who has observed it will confess the awkwardness he felt in
making proper reply upon the occasion. In America, when you make a gift,
you sing its praises to the recipient; in Japan we depreciate or slander
it. The underlying idea with you is, "This is a nice gift: if it were
not nice I would not dare give it to you; for it will be an insult to
give you anything but what is nice." In contrast to this, our logic
runs: "You are a nice person, and no gift is nice enough for you. You
will not accept anything I can lay at your feet except as a token of my
good will; so accept this, not for its intrinsic value, but as a token.
It will be an insult to your worth to call the best gift good enough for
you." Place the two ideas side by side; and we see that the ultimate
idea is one and the same. Neither is "awfully funny." The American
speaks of the material which makes the gift; the Japanese speaks of the
spirit which prompts the gift.

It is perverse reasoning to conclude, because our sense of propriety
shows itself in all the smallest ramifications of our deportment, to
take the least important of them and uphold it as the type, and pass
judgment upon the principle itself. Which is more important, to eat or
to observe rules of propriety about eating? A Chinese sage answers, "If
you take a case where the eating is all-important, and the observing the
rules of propriety is of little importance, and compare them together,
why merely say that the eating is of the more importance?" "Metal is
heavier than feathers," but does that saying have reference to a single
clasp of metal and a wagon-load of feathers? Take a piece of wood a foot
thick and raise it above the pinnacle of a temple, none would call it
taller than the temple. To the question, "Which is the more important,
to tell the truth or to be polite?" the Japanese are said to give an
answer diametrically opposite to what the American will say,--but I
forbear any comment until I come to speak of


without which Politeness is a farce and a show. "Propriety carried
beyond right bounds," says Masamuné, "becomes a lie." An ancient poet
has outdone Polonius in the advice he gives: "To thyself be faithful: if
in thy heart thou strayest not from truth, without prayer of thine the
Gods will keep thee whole." The apotheosis of Sincerity to which Tsu-tsu
gives expression in the _Doctrine of the Mean_, attributes to it
transcendental powers, almost identifying them with the Divine.
"Sincerity is the end and the beginning of all things; without Sincerity
there would be nothing." He then dwells with eloquence on its
far-reaching and long enduring nature, its power to produce changes
without movement and by its mere presence to accomplish its purpose
without effort. From the Chinese ideogram for Sincerity, which is a
combination of "Word" and "Perfect," one is tempted to draw a parallel
between it and the Neo-Platonic doctrine of _Logos_--to such height
does the sage soar in his unwonted mystic flight.

Lying or equivocation were deemed equally cowardly. The bushi held that
his high social position demanded a loftier standard of veracity than
that of the tradesman and peasant. _Bushi no ichi-gon_--the word of a
samurai or in exact German equivalent _ein Ritterwort_--was sufficient
guaranty of the truthfulness of an assertion. His word carried such
weight with it that promises were generally made and fulfilled without a
written pledge, which would have been deemed quite beneath his dignity.
Many thrilling anecdotes were told of those who atoned by death for
_ni-gon_, a double tongue.

The regard for veracity was so high that, unlike the generality of
Christians who persistently violate the plain commands of the Teacher
not to swear, the best of samurai looked upon an oath as derogatory to
their honor. I am well aware that they did swear by different deities or
upon their swords; but never has swearing degenerated into wanton form
and irreverent interjection. To emphasize our words a practice of
literally sealing with blood was sometimes resorted to. For the
explanation of such a practice, I need only refer my readers to Goethe's

A recent American writer is responsible for this statement, that if you
ask an ordinary Japanese which is better, to tell a falsehood or be
impolite, he will not hesitate to answer "to tell a falsehood!" Dr.
Peery[14] is partly right and partly wrong; right in that an ordinary
Japanese, even a samurai, may answer in the way ascribed to him, but
wrong in attributing too much weight to the term he translates
"falsehood." This word (in Japanese _uso_) is employed to denote
anything which is not a truth (_makoto_) or fact (_honto_). Lowell tells
us that Wordsworth could not distinguish between truth and fact, and an
ordinary Japanese is in this respect as good as Wordsworth. Ask a
Japanese, or even an American of any refinement, to tell you whether he
dislikes you or whether he is sick at his stomach, and he will not
hesitate long to tell falsehoods and answer, "I like you much," or, "I
am quite well, thank you." To sacrifice truth merely for the sake of
politeness was regarded as an "empty form" (_kyo-rei_) and "deception by
sweet words," and was never justified.

[Footnote 14: Peery, _The Gist of Japan_, p. 86.]

I own I am speaking now of the Bushido idea of veracity; but it may not
be amiss to devote a few words to our commercial integrity, of which I
have heard much complaint in foreign books and journals. A loose
business morality has indeed been the worst blot on our national
reputation; but before abusing it or hastily condemning the whole race
for it, let us calmly study it and we shall be rewarded with consolation
for the future.

Of all the great occupations of life, none was farther removed from the
profession of arms than commerce. The merchant was placed lowest in the
category of vocations,--the knight, the tiller of the soil, the
mechanic, the merchant. The samurai derived his income from land and
could even indulge, if he had a mind to, in amateur farming; but the
counter and abacus were abhorred. We knew the wisdom of this social
arrangement. Montesquieu has made it clear that the debarring of the
nobility from mercantile pursuits was an admirable social policy, in
that it prevented wealth from accumulating in the hands of the powerful.
The separation of power and riches kept the distribution of the latter
more nearly equable. Professor Dill, the author of "Roman Society in the
Last Century of the Western Empire," has brought afresh to our mind that
one cause of the decadence of the Roman Empire, was the permission given
to the nobility to engage in trade, and the consequent monopoly of
wealth and power by a minority of the senatorial families.

Commerce, therefore, in feudal Japan did not reach that degree of
development which it would have attained under freer conditions. The
obloquy attached to the calling naturally brought within its pale such
as cared little for social repute. "Call one a thief and he will steal:"
put a stigma on a calling and its followers adjust their morals to it,
for it is natural that "the normal conscience," as Hugh Black says,
"rises to the demands made on it, and easily falls to the limit of the
standard expected from it." It is unnecessary to add that no business,
commercial or otherwise, can be transacted without a code of morals. Our
merchants of the feudal period had one among themselves, without which
they could never have developed, as they did, such fundamental
mercantile institutions as the guild, the bank, the bourse, insurance,
checks, bills of exchange, etc.; but in their relations with people
outside their vocation, the tradesmen lived too true to the reputation
of their order.

This being the case, when the country was opened to foreign trade, only
the most adventurous and unscrupulous rushed to the ports, while the
respectable business houses declined for some time the repeated requests
of the authorities to establish branch houses. Was Bushido powerless to
stay the current of commercial dishonor? Let us see.

Those who are well acquainted with our history will remember that only a
few years after our treaty ports were opened to foreign trade,
feudalism was abolished, and when with it the samurai's fiefs were taken
and bonds issued to them in compensation, they were given liberty to
invest them in mercantile transactions. Now you may ask, "Why could they
not bring their much boasted veracity into their new business relations
and so reform the old abuses?" Those who had eyes to see could not weep
enough, those who had hearts to feel could not sympathize enough, with
the fate of many a noble and honest samurai who signally and irrevocably
failed in his new and unfamiliar field of trade and industry, through
sheer lack of shrewdness in coping with his artful plebeian rival. When
we know that eighty per cent. of the business houses fail in so
industrial a country as America, is it any wonder that scarcely one
among a hundred samurai who went into trade could succeed in his new
vocation? It will be long before it will be recognized how many fortunes
were wrecked in the attempt to apply Bushido ethics to business methods;
but it was soon patent to every observing mind that the ways of wealth
were not the ways of honor. In what respects, then, were they different?

Of the three incentives to Veracity that Lecky enumerates, viz: the
industrial, the political, and the philosophical, the first was
altogether lacking in Bushido. As to the second, it could develop little
in a political community under a feudal system. It is in its
philosophical, and as Lecky says, in its highest aspect, that Honesty
attained elevated rank in our catalogue of virtues. With all my sincere
regard for the high commercial integrity of the Anglo-Saxon race, when I
ask for the ultimate ground, I am told that "Honesty is the best
policy," that it _pays_ to be honest. Is not this virtue, then, its own
reward? If it is followed because it brings in more cash than falsehood,
I am afraid Bushido would rather indulge in lies!

If Bushido rejects a doctrine of _quid pro quo_ rewards, the shrewder
tradesman will readily accept it. Lecky has very truly remarked that
Veracity owes its growth largely to commerce and manufacture; as
Nietzsche puts it, "Honesty is the youngest of virtues"--in other
words, it is the foster-child of industry, of modern industry. Without
this mother, Veracity was like a blue-blood orphan whom only the most
cultivated mind could adopt and nourish. Such minds were general among
the samurai, but, for want of a more democratic and utilitarian
foster-mother, the tender child failed to thrive. Industries advancing,
Veracity will prove an easy, nay, a profitable, virtue to practice. Just
think, as late as November 1880, Bismarck sent a circular to the
professional consuls of the German Empire, warning them of "a lamentable
lack of reliability with regard to German shipments _inter alia_,
apparent both as to quality and quantity;" now-a-days we hear
comparatively little of German carelessness and dishonesty in trade. In
twenty years her merchants learned that in the end honesty pays. Already
our merchants are finding that out. For the rest I recommend the reader
to two recent writers for well-weighed judgment on this point.[15] It is
interesting to remark in this connection that integrity and honor were
the surest guaranties which even a merchant debtor could present in the
form of promissory notes. It was quite a usual thing to insert such
clauses as these: "In default of the repayment of the sum lent to me, I
shall say nothing against being ridiculed in public;" or, "In case I
fail to pay you back, you may call me a fool," and the like.

[Footnote 15: Knapp, _Feudal and Modern Japan_, Vol. I, Ch. IV. Ransome,
_Japan in Transition_, Ch. VIII.]

Often have I wondered whether the Veracity of Bushido had any motive
higher than courage. In the absence of any positive commandment against
bearing false witness, lying was not condemned as sin, but simply
denounced as weakness, and, as such, highly dishonorable. As a matter of
fact, the idea of honesty is so intimately blended, and its Latin and
its German etymology so identified with


that it is high time I should pause a few moments for the consideration
of this feature of the Precepts of Knighthood.

The sense of honor, implying a vivid consciousness of personal dignity
and worth, could not fail to characterize the samurai, born and bred to
value the duties and privileges of their profession. Though the word
ordinarily given now-a-days as the translation of Honor was not used
freely, yet the idea was conveyed by such terms as _na_ (name)
_men-moku_ (countenance), _guai-bun_ (outside hearing), reminding us
respectively of the biblical use of "name," of the evolution of the term
"personality" from the Greek mask, and of "fame." A good name--one's
reputation, the immortal part of one's self, what remains being
bestial--assumed as a matter of course, any infringement upon its
integrity was felt as shame, and the sense of shame (_Ren-chi-shin_) was
one of the earliest to be cherished in juvenile education. "You will be
laughed at," "It will disgrace you," "Are you not ashamed?" were the
last appeal to correct behavior on the part of a youthful delinquent.
Such a recourse to his honor touched the most sensitive spot in the
child's heart, as though it had been nursed on honor while it was in its
mother's womb; for most truly is honor a prenatal influence, being
closely bound up with strong family consciousness. "In losing the
solidarity of families," says Balzac, "society has lost the fundamental
force which Montesquieu named Honor." Indeed, the sense of shame seems
to me to be the earliest indication of the moral consciousness of our
race. The first and worst punishment which befell humanity in
consequence of tasting "the fruit of that forbidden tree" was, to my
mind, not the sorrow of childbirth, nor the thorns and thistles, but the
awakening of the sense of shame. Few incidents in history excel in
pathos the scene of the first mother plying with heaving breast and
tremulous fingers, her crude needle on the few fig leaves which her
dejected husband plucked for her. This first fruit of disobedience
clings to us with a tenacity that nothing else does. All the sartorial
ingenuity of mankind has not yet succeeded in sewing an apron that will
efficaciously hide our sense of shame. That samurai was right who
refused to compromise his character by a slight humiliation in his
youth; "because," he said, "dishonor is like a scar on a tree, which
time, instead of effacing, only helps to enlarge."

Mencius had taught centuries before, in almost the identical phrase,
what Carlyle has latterly expressed,--namely, that "Shame is the soil of
all Virtue, of good manners and good morals."

The fear of disgrace was so great that if our literature lacks such
eloquence as Shakespeare puts into the mouth of Norfolk, it nevertheless
hung like Damocles' sword over the head of every samurai and often
assumed a morbid character. In the name of Honor, deeds were perpetrated
which can find no justification in the code of Bushido. At the
slightest, nay, imaginary insult, the quick-tempered braggart took
offense, resorted to the use of the sword, and many an unnecessary
strife was raised and many an innocent life lost. The story of a
well-meaning citizen who called the attention of a bushi to a flea
jumping on his back, and who was forthwith cut in two, for the simple
and questionable reason that inasmuch as fleas are parasites which feed
on animals, it was an unpardonable insult to identify a noble warrior
with a beast--I say, stories like these are too frivolous to believe.
Yet, the circulation of such stories implies three things; (1) that they
were invented to overawe common people; (2) that abuses were really made
of the samurai's profession of honor; and (3) that a very strong sense
of shame was developed among them. It is plainly unfair to take an
abnormal case to cast blame upon the Precepts, any more than to judge of
the true teaching of Christ from the fruits of religious fanaticism and
extravagance--inquisitions and hypocrisy. But, as in religious monomania
there is something touchingly noble, as compared with the delirium
tremens of a drunkard, so in that extreme sensitiveness of the samurai
about their honor do we not recognize the substratum of a genuine

The morbid excess into which the delicate code of honor was inclined to
run was strongly counterbalanced by preaching magnanimity and patience.
To take offense at slight provocation was ridiculed as "short-tempered."
The popular adage said: "To bear what you think you cannot bear is
really to bear." The great Iyéyasu left to posterity a few maxims,
among which are the following:--"The life of man is like going a long
distance with a heavy load upon the shoulders. Haste not. * * * *
Reproach none, but be forever watchful of thine own short-comings. * * *
Forbearance is the basis of length of days." He proved in his life what
he preached. A literary wit put a characteristic epigram into the mouths
of three well-known personages in our history: to Nobunaga he
attributed, "I will kill her, if the nightingale sings not in time;" to
Hidéyoshi, "I will force her to sing for me;" and to Iyéyasu, "I will
wait till she opens her lips."

Patience and long suffering were also highly commended by Mencius. In
one place he writes to this effect: "Though you denude yourself and
insult me, what is that to me? You cannot defile my soul by your
outrage." Elsewhere he teaches that anger at a petty offense is unworthy
a superior man, but indignation for a great cause is righteous wrath.

To what height of unmartial and unresisting meekness Bushido could
reach in some of its votaries, may be seen in their utterances. Take,
for instance, this saying of Ogawa: "When others speak all manner of
evil things against thee, return not evil for evil, but rather reflect
that thou wast not more faithful in the discharge of thy duties." Take
another of Kumazawa:--"When others blame thee, blame them not; when
others are angry at thee, return not anger. Joy cometh only as Passion
and Desire part." Still another instance I may cite from Saigo, upon
whose overhanging brows "shame is ashamed to sit;"--"The Way is the way
of Heaven and Earth: Man's place is to follow it: therefore make it the
object of thy life to reverence Heaven. Heaven loves me and others with
equal love; therefore with the love wherewith thou lovest thyself, love
others. Make not Man thy partner but Heaven, and making Heaven thy
partner do thy best. Never condemn others; but see to it that thou
comest not short of thine own mark." Some of those sayings remind us of
Christian expostulations and show us how far in practical morality
natural religion can approach the revealed. Not only did these sayings
remain as utterances, but they were really embodied in acts.

It must be admitted that very few attained this sublime height of
magnanimity, patience and forgiveness. It was a great pity that nothing
clear and general was expressed as to what constitutes Honor, only a few
enlightened minds being aware that it "from no condition rises," but
that it lies in each acting well his part: for nothing was easier than
for youths to forget in the heat of action what they had learned in
Mencius in their calmer moments. Said this sage, "'Tis in every man's
mind to love honor: but little doth he dream that what is truly
honorable lies within himself and not anywhere else. The honor which men
confer is not good honor. Those whom Châo the Great ennobles, he can
make mean again."

For the most part, an insult was quickly resented and repaid by death,
as we shall see later, while Honor--too often nothing higher than vain
glory or worldly approbation--was prized as the _summum bonum_ of
earthly existence. Fame, and not wealth or knowledge, was the goal
toward which youths had to strive. Many a lad swore within himself as he
crossed the threshold of his paternal home, that he would not recross it
until he had made a name in the world: and many an ambitious mother
refused to see her sons again unless they could "return home," as the
expression is, "caparisoned in brocade." To shun shame or win a name,
samurai boys would submit to any privations and undergo severest ordeals
of bodily or mental suffering. They knew that honor won in youth grows
with age. In the memorable siege of Osaka, a young son of Iyéyasu, in
spite of his earnest entreaties to be put in the vanguard, was placed at
the rear of the army. When the castle fell, he was so chagrined and wept
so bitterly that an old councillor tried to console him with all the
resources at his command. "Take comfort, Sire," said he, "at thought of
the long future before you. In the many years that you may live, there
will come divers occasions to distinguish yourself." The boy fixed his
indignant gaze upon the man and said--"How foolishly you talk! Can ever
my fourteenth year come round again?"

Life itself was thought cheap if honor and fame could be attained
therewith: hence, whenever a cause presented itself which was considered
dearer than life, with utmost serenity and celerity was life laid down.

Of the causes in comparison with which no life was too dear to
sacrifice, was


which was the key-stone making feudal virtues a symmetrical arch. Other
virtues feudal morality shares in common with other systems of ethics,
with other classes of people, but this virtue--homage and fealty to a
superior--is its distinctive feature. I am aware that personal fidelity
is a moral adhesion existing among all sorts and conditions of men,--a
gang of pickpockets owe allegiance to a Fagin; but it is only in the
code of chivalrous honor that Loyalty assumes paramount importance.

In spite of Hegel's criticism that the fidelity of feudal vassals,
being an obligation to an individual and not to a Commonwealth, is a
bond established on totally unjust principles,[16] a great compatriot of
his made it his boast that personal loyalty was a German virtue.
Bismarck had good reason to do so, not because the _Treue_ he boasts of
was the monopoly of his Fatherland or of any single nation or race, but
because this favored fruit of chivalry lingers latest among the people
where feudalism has lasted longest. In America where "everybody is as
good as anybody else," and, as the Irishman added, "better too," such
exalted ideas of loyalty as we feel for our sovereign may be deemed
"excellent within certain bounds," but preposterous as encouraged among
us. Montesquieu complained long ago that right on one side of the
Pyrenees was wrong on the other, and the recent Dreyfus trial proved the
truth of his remark, save that the Pyrenees were not the sole boundary
beyond which French justice finds no accord. Similarly, Loyalty as we
conceive it may find few admirers elsewhere, not because our conception
is wrong, but because it is, I am afraid, forgotten, and also because we
carry it to a degree not reached in any other country. Griffis[17] was
quite right in stating that whereas in China Confucian ethics made
obedience to parents the primary human duty, in Japan precedence was
given to Loyalty. At the risk of shocking some of my good readers, I
will relate of one "who could endure to follow a fall'n lord" and who
thus, as Shakespeare assures, "earned a place i' the story."

[Footnote 16: _Philosophy of History_ (Eng. trans. by Sibree), Pt. IV,
Sec. II, Ch. I.]

[Footnote 17: _Religions of Japan_.]

The story is of one of the purest characters in our history, Michizané,
who, falling a victim to jealousy and calumny, is exiled from the
capital. Not content with this, his unrelenting enemies are now bent
upon the extinction of his family. Strict search for his son--not yet
grown--reveals the fact of his being secreted in a village school kept
by one Genzo, a former vassal of Michizané. When orders are dispatched
to the schoolmaster to deliver the head of the juvenile offender on a
certain day, his first idea is to find a suitable substitute for it. He
ponders over his school-list, scrutinizes with careful eyes all the
boys, as they stroll into the class-room, but none among the children
born of the soil bears the least resemblance to his protégé. His
despair, however, is but for a moment; for, behold, a new scholar is
announced--a comely boy of the same age as his master's son, escorted by
a mother of noble mien. No less conscious of the resemblance between
infant lord and infant retainer, were the mother and the boy himself. In
the privacy of home both had laid themselves upon the altar; the one his
life,--the other her heart, yet without sign to the outer world.
Unwitting of what had passed between them, it is the teacher from whom
comes the suggestion.

Here, then, is the scape-goat!--The rest of the narrative may be briefly
told.--On the day appointed, arrives the officer commissioned to
identify and receive the head of the youth. Will he be deceived by the
false head? The poor Genzo's hand is on the hilt of the sword, ready to
strike a blow either at the man or at himself, should the examination
defeat his scheme. The officer takes up the gruesome object before him,
goes calmly over each feature, and in a deliberate, business-like tone,
pronounces it genuine.--That evening in a lonely home awaits the mother
we saw in the school. Does she know the fate of her child? It is not for
his return that she watches with eagerness for the opening of the
wicket. Her father-in-law has been for a long time a recipient of
Michizané's bounties, but since his banishment circumstances have forced
her husband to follow the service of the enemy of his family's
benefactor. He himself could not be untrue to his own cruel master; but
his son could serve the cause of the grandsire's lord. As one acquainted
with the exile's family, it was he who had been entrusted with the task
of identifying the boy's head. Now the day's--yea, the life's--hard work
is done, he returns home and as he crosses its threshold, he accosts his
wife, saying: "Rejoice, my wife, our darling son has proved of service
to his lord!"

"What an atrocious story!" I hear my readers exclaim,--"Parents
deliberately sacrificing their own innocent child to save the life of
another man's." But this child was a conscious and willing victim: it is
a story of vicarious death--as significant as, and not more revolting
than, the story of Abraham's intended sacrifice of Isaac. In both cases
it was obedience to the call of duty, utter submission to the command of
a higher voice, whether given by a visible or an invisible angel, or
heard by an outward or an inward ear;--but I abstain from preaching.

The individualism of the West, which recognizes separate interests for
father and son, husband and wife, necessarily brings into strong relief
the duties owed by one to the other; but Bushido held that the interest
of the family and of the members thereof is intact,--one and
inseparable. This interest it bound up with affection--natural,
instinctive, irresistible; hence, if we die for one we love with natural
love (which animals themselves possess), what is that? "For if ye love
them that love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the

In his great history, Sanyo relates in touching language the heart
struggle of Shigemori concerning his father's rebellious conduct. "If I
be loyal, my father must be undone; if I obey my father, my duty to my
sovereign must go amiss." Poor Shigemori! We see him afterward praying
with all his soul that kind Heaven may visit him with death, that he may
be released from this world where it is hard for purity and
righteousness to dwell.

Many a Shigemori has his heart torn by the conflict between duty and
affection. Indeed neither Shakespeare nor the Old Testament itself
contains an adequate rendering of _ko_, our conception of filial piety,
and yet in such conflicts Bushido never wavered in its choice of
Loyalty. Women, too, encouraged their offspring to sacrifice all for the
king. Ever as resolute as Widow Windham and her illustrious consort, the
samurai matron stood ready to give up her boys for the cause of Loyalty.

Since Bushido, like Aristotle and some modern sociologists, conceived
the state as antedating the individual--the latter being born into the
former as part and parcel thereof--he must live and die for it or for
the incumbent of its legitimate authority. Readers of Crito will
remember the argument with which Socrates represents the laws of the
city as pleading with him on the subject of his escape. Among others he
makes them (the laws, or the state) say:--"Since you were begotten and
nurtured and educated under us, dare you once to say you are not our
offspring and servant, you and your fathers before you!" These are words
which do not impress us as any thing extraordinary; for the same thing
has long been on the lips of Bushido, with this modification, that the
laws and the state were represented with us by a personal being. Loyalty
is an ethical outcome of this political theory.

I am not entirely ignorant of Mr. Spencer's view according to which
political obedience--Loyalty--is accredited with only a transitional
function.[18] It may be so. Sufficient unto the day is the virtue
thereof. We may complacently repeat it, especially as we believe _that_
day to be a long space of time, during which, so our national anthem
says, "tiny pebbles grow into mighty rocks draped with moss." We may
remember at this juncture that even among so democratic a people as the
English, "the sentiment of personal fidelity to a man and his posterity
which their Germanic ancestors felt for their chiefs, has," as Monsieur
Boutmy recently said, "only passed more or less into their profound
loyalty to the race and blood of their princes, as evidenced in their
extraordinary attachment to the dynasty."

[Footnote 18: _Principles of Ethics_, Vol. I, Pt. II, Ch. X.]

Political subordination, Mr. Spencer predicts, will give place to
loyalty to the dictates of conscience. Suppose his induction is
realized--will loyalty and its concomitant instinct of reverence
disappear forever? We transfer our allegiance from one master to
another, without being unfaithful to either; from being subjects of a
ruler that wields the temporal sceptre we become servants of the monarch
who sits enthroned in the penetralia of our heart. A few years ago a
very stupid controversy, started by the misguided disciples of Spencer,
made havoc among the reading class of Japan. In their zeal to uphold the
claim of the throne to undivided loyalty, they charged Christians with
treasonable propensities in that they avow fidelity to their Lord and
Master. They arrayed forth sophistical arguments without the wit of
Sophists, and scholastic tortuosities minus the niceties of the
Schoolmen. Little did they know that we can, in a sense, "serve two
masters without holding to the one or despising the other," "rendering
unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that
are God's." Did not Socrates, all the while he unflinchingly refused to
concede one iota of loyalty to his _daemon_, obey with equal fidelity
and equanimity the command of his earthly master, the State? His
conscience he followed, alive; his country he served, dying. Alack the
day when a state grows so powerful as to demand of its citizens the
dictates of their conscience!

Bushido did not require us to make our conscience the slave of any lord
or king. Thomas Mowbray was a veritable spokesman for us when he said:

"Myself I throw, dread sovereign, at thy foot.
My life thou shalt command, but not my shame.
The one my duty owes; but my fair name,
Despite of death, that lives upon my grave,
To dark dishonor's use, thou shalt not have."

A man who sacrificed his own conscience to the capricious will or freak
or fancy of a sovereign was accorded a low place in the estimate of the
Precepts. Such an one was despised as _nei-shin_, a cringeling, who
makes court by unscrupulous fawning or as _chô-shin_, a favorite who
steals his master's affections by means of servile compliance; these two
species of subjects corresponding exactly to those which Iago
describes,--the one, a duteous and knee-crooking knave, doting on his
own obsequious bondage, wearing out his time much like his master's ass;
the other trimm'd in forms and visages of duty, keeping yet his heart
attending on himself. When a subject differed from his master, the loyal
path for him to pursue was to use every available means to persuade him
of his error, as Kent did to King Lear. Failing in this, let the master
deal with him as he wills. In cases of this kind, it was quite a usual
course for the samurai to make the last appeal to the intelligence and
conscience of his lord by demonstrating the sincerity of his words with
the shedding of his own blood.

Life being regarded as the means whereby to serve his master, and its
ideal being set upon honor, the whole


were conducted accordingly.

The first point to observe in knightly pedagogics was to build up
character, leaving in the shade the subtler faculties of prudence,
intelligence and dialectics. We have seen the important part aesthetic
accomplishments played in his education. Indispensable as they were to a
man of culture, they were accessories rather than essentials of samurai
training. Intellectual superiority was, of course, esteemed; but the
word _Chi_, which was employed to denote intellectuality, meant wisdom
in the first instance and placed knowledge only in a very subordinate
place. The tripod that supported the framework of Bushido was said to be
_Chi_, _Jin_, _Yu_, respectively Wisdom, Benevolence, and Courage. A
samurai was essentially a man of action. Science was without the pale of
his activity. He took advantage of it in so far as it concerned his
profession of arms. Religion and theology were relegated to the priests;
he concerned himself with them in so far as they helped to nourish
courage. Like an English poet the samurai believed "'tis not the creed
that saves the man; but it is the man that justifies the creed."
Philosophy and literature formed the chief part of his intellectual
training; but even in the pursuit of these, it was not objective truth
that he strove after,--literature was pursued mainly as a pastime, and
philosophy as a practical aid in the formation of character, if not for
the exposition of some military or political problem.

From what has been said, it will not be surprising to note that the
curriculum of studies, according to the pedagogics of Bushido, consisted
mainly of the following,--fencing, archery, _jiujutsu_ or _yawara_,
horsemanship, the use of the spear, tactics, caligraphy, ethics,
literature and history. Of these, _jiujutsu_ and caligraphy may require
a few words of explanation. Great stress was laid on good writing,
probably because our logograms, partaking as they do of the nature of
pictures, possess artistic value, and also because chirography was
accepted as indicative of one's personal character. _Jiujutsu_ may be
briefly defined as an application of anatomical knowledge to the purpose
of offense or defense. It differs from wrestling, in that it does not
depend upon muscular strength. It differs from other forms of attack in
that it uses no weapon. Its feat consists in clutching or striking such
part of the enemy's body as will make him numb and incapable of
resistance. Its object is not to kill, but to incapacitate one for
action for the time being.

A subject of study which one would expect to find in military education
and which is rather conspicuous by its absence in the Bushido course of
instruction, is mathematics. This, however, can be readily explained in
part by the fact that feudal warfare was not carried on with scientific
precision. Not only that, but the whole training of the samurai was
unfavorable to fostering numerical notions.

Chivalry is uneconomical; it boasts of penury. It says with Ventidius
that "ambition, the soldier's virtue, rather makes choice of loss, than
gain which darkens him." Don Quixote takes more pride in his rusty spear
and skin-and-bone horse than in gold and lands, and a samurai is in
hearty sympathy with his exaggerated confrère of La Mancha. He disdains
money itself,--the art of making or hoarding it. It is to him veritably
filthy lucre. The hackneyed expression to describe the decadence of an
age is "that the civilians loved money and the soldiers feared death."
Niggardliness of gold and of life excites as much disapprobation as
their lavish use is panegyrized. "Less than all things," says a current
precept, "men must grudge money: it is by riches that wisdom is
hindered." Hence children were brought up with utter disregard of
economy. It was considered bad taste to speak of it, and ignorance of
the value of different coins was a token of good breeding. Knowledge of
numbers was indispensable in the mustering of forces as well, as in the
distribution of benefices and fiefs; but the counting of money was left
to meaner hands. In many feudatories, public finance was administered by
a lower kind of samurai or by priests. Every thinking bushi knew well
enough that money formed the sinews of war; but he did not think of
raising the appreciation of money to a virtue. It is true that thrift
was enjoined by Bushido, but not for economical reasons so much as for
the exercise of abstinence. Luxury was thought the greatest menace to
manhood, and severest simplicity was required of the warrior class,
sumptuary laws being enforced in many of the clans.

We read that in ancient Rome the farmers of revenue and other financial
agents were gradually raised to the rank of knights, the State thereby
showing its appreciation of their service and of the importance of money
itself. How closely this was connected with the luxury and avarice of
the Romans may be imagined. Not so with the Precepts of Knighthood.
These persisted in systematically regarding finance as something
low--low as compared with moral and intellectual vocations.

Money and the love of it being thus diligently ignored, Bushido itself
could long remain free from a thousand and one evils of which money is
the root. This is sufficient reason for the fact that our public men
have long been free from corruption; but, alas, how fast plutocracy is
making its way in our time and generation!

The mental discipline which would now-a-days be chiefly aided by the
study of mathematics, was supplied by literary exegesis and
deontological discussions. Very few abstract subjects troubled the mind
of the young, the chief aim of their education being, as I have said,
decision of character. People whose minds were simply stored with
information found no great admirers. Of the three services of studies
that Bacon gives,--for delight, ornament, and ability,--Bushido had
decided preference for the last, where their use was "in judgment and
the disposition of business." Whether it was for the disposition of
public business or for the exercise of self-control, it was with a
practical end in view that education was conducted. "Learning without
thought," said Confucius, "is labor lost: thought without learning is

When character and not intelligence, when the soul and not the head, is
chosen by a teacher for the material to work upon and to develop, his
vocation partakes of a sacred character. "It is the parent who has borne
me: it is the teacher who makes me man." With this idea, therefore, the
esteem in which one's preceptor was held was very high. A man to evoke
such confidence and respect from the young, must necessarily be endowed
with superior personality without lacking erudition. He was a father to
the fatherless, and an adviser to the erring. "Thy father and thy
mother"--so runs our maxim--"are like heaven and earth; thy teacher and
thy lord are like the sun and moon."

The present system of paying for every sort of service was not in vogue
among the adherents of Bushido. It believed in a service which can be
rendered only without money and without price. Spiritual service, be it
of priest or teacher, was not to be repaid in gold or silver, not
because it was valueless but because it was invaluable. Here the
non-arithmetical honor-instinct of Bushido taught a truer lesson than
modern Political Economy; for wages and salaries can be paid only for
services whose results are definite, tangible, and measurable, whereas
the best service done in education,--namely, in soul development (and
this includes the services of a pastor), is not definite, tangible or
measurable. Being immeasurable, money, the ostensible measure of value,
is of inadequate use. Usage sanctioned that pupils brought to their
teachers money or goods at different seasons of the year; but these were
not payments but offerings, which indeed were welcome to the recipients
as they were usually men of stern calibre, boasting of honorable penury,
too dignified to work with their hands and too proud to beg. They were
grave personifications of high spirits undaunted by adversity. They were
an embodiment of what was considered as an end of all learning, and were
thus a living example of that discipline of disciplines,


which was universally required of samurai.

The discipline of fortitude on the one hand, inculcating endurance
without a groan, and the teaching of politeness on the other, requiring
us not to mar the pleasure or serenity of another by manifestations of
our own sorrow or pain, combined to engender a stoical turn of mind, and
eventually to confirm it into a national trait of apparent stoicism. I
say apparent stoicism, because I do not believe that true stoicism can
ever become the characteristic of a whole nation, and also because some
of our national manners and customs may seem to a foreign observer
hard-hearted. Yet we are really as susceptible to tender emotion as any
race under the sky.

I am inclined to think that in one sense we have to feel more than
others--yes, doubly more--since the very attempt to, restrain natural
promptings entails suffering. Imagine boys--and girls too--brought up
not to resort to the shedding of a tear or the uttering of a groan for
the relief of their feelings,--and there is a physiological problem
whether such effort steels their nerves or makes them more sensitive.

It was considered unmanly for a samurai to betray his emotions on his
face. "He shows no sign of joy or anger," was a phrase used in
describing a strong character. The most natural affections were kept
under control. A father could embrace his son only at the expense of his
dignity; a husband would not kiss his wife,--no, not in the presence of
other people, whatever he might do in private! There may be some truth
in the remark of a witty youth when he said, "American husbands kiss
their wives in public and beat them in private; Japanese husbands beat
theirs in public and kiss them in private."

Calmness of behavior, composure of mind, should not be disturbed by
passion of any kind. I remember when, during the late war with China, a
regiment left a certain town, a large concourse of people flocked to the
station to bid farewell to the general and his army. On this occasion
an American resident resorted to the place, expecting to witness loud
demonstrations, as the nation itself was highly excited and there were
fathers, mothers, and sweethearts of the soldiers in the crowd. The
American was strangely disappointed; for as the whistle blew and the
train began to move, the hats of thousands of people were silently taken
off and their heads bowed in reverential farewell; no waving of
handkerchiefs, no word uttered, but deep silence in which only an
attentive ear could catch a few broken sobs. In domestic life, too, I
know of a father who spent whole nights listening to the breathing of a
sick child, standing behind the door that he might not be caught in such
an act of parental weakness! I know of a mother who, in her last
moments, refrained from sending for her son, that he might not be
disturbed in his studies. Our history and everyday life are replete with
examples of heroic matrons who can well bear comparison with some of the
most touching pages of Plutarch. Among our peasantry an Ian Maclaren
would be sure to find many a Marget Howe.

It is the same discipline of self-restraint which is accountable for the
absence of more frequent revivals in the Christian churches of Japan.
When a man or woman feels his or her soul stirred, the first instinct is
to quietly suppress any indication of it. In rare instances is the
tongue set free by an irresistible spirit, when we have eloquence of
sincerity and fervor. It is putting a premium upon a breach of the third
commandment to encourage speaking lightly of spiritual experience. It is
truly jarring to Japanese ears to hear the most sacred words, the most
secret heart experiences, thrown out in promiscuous audiences. "Dost
thou feel the soil of thy soul stirred with tender thoughts? It is time
for seeds to sprout. Disturb it not with speech; but let it work alone
in quietness and secrecy,"--writes a young samurai in his diary.

To give in so many articulate words one's inmost thoughts and
feelings--notably the religious--is taken among us as an unmistakable
sign that they are neither very profound nor very sincere. "Only a
pomegranate is he"--so runs a popular saying--"who, when he gapes his
mouth, displays the contents of his heart."

It is not altogether perverseness of oriental minds that the instant our
emotions are moved we try to guard our lips in order to hide them.
Speech is very often with us, as the Frenchman defined it, "the art of
concealing thought."

Call upon a Japanese friend in time of deepest affliction and he will
invariably receive you laughing, with red eyes or moist cheeks. At first
you may think him hysterical. Press him for explanation and you will get
a few broken commonplaces--"Human life has sorrow;" "They who meet must
part;" "He that is born must die;" "It is foolish to count the years of
a child that is gone, but a woman's heart will indulge in follies;" and
the like. So the noble words of a noble Hohenzollern--"Lerne zu leiden
ohne Klagen"--had found many responsive minds among us, long before they
were uttered.

Indeed, the Japanese have recourse to risibility whenever the frailties
of human nature are put to severest test. I think we possess a better
reason than Democritus himself for our Abderian tendency; for laughter
with us oftenest veils an effort to regain balance of temper, when
disturbed by any untoward circumstance. It is a counterpoise of sorrow
or rage.

The suppression of feelings being thus steadily insisted upon, they find
their safety-valve in poetical aphorism. A poet of the tenth century
writes, "In Japan and China as well, humanity, when moved by sorrow,
tells its bitter grief in verse." A mother who tries to console her
broken heart by fancying her departed child absent on his wonted chase
after the dragon-fly, hums,

"How far to-day in chase, I wonder,
Has gone my hunter of the dragon-fly!"

I refrain from quoting other examples, for I know I could do only scant
justice to the pearly gems of our literature, were I to render into a
foreign tongue the thoughts which were wrung drop by drop from bleeding
hearts and threaded into beads of rarest value. I hope I have in a
measure shown that inner working of our minds which often presents an
appearance of callousness or of an hysterical mixture of laughter and
dejection, and whose sanity is sometimes called in question.

It has also been suggested that our endurance of pain and indifference
to death are due to less sensitive nerves. This is plausible as far as
it goes. The next question is,--Why are our nerves less tightly strung?
It may be our climate is not so stimulating as the American. It may be
our monarchical form of government does not excite us as much as the
Republic does the Frenchman. It may be that we do not read _Sartor
Resartus_ as zealously as the Englishman. Personally, I believe it was
our very excitability and sensitiveness which made it a necessity to
recognize and enforce constant self-repression; but whatever may be the
explanation, without taking into account long years of discipline in


Back to Full Books