cover image Bushido: The Samurai Code of Japan

Bushido: The Samurai Code of Japan

Inazo Nitobe. Tuttle, $14.99 (192p) ISBN 978-4-8053-1489-0

In this generously annotated edition, Nitobe’s classic 1900 study of Bushido, the Japanese “Way of the Warrior,” is refreshed for contemporary readers. As historian Alexander Bennett notes in his introduction, Nitobe, a scholar who was descended from samurai and who had studied in the U.S. and Germany, was intrigued to compare Eastern and Western cultures. The publication of Nitobe’s treatise (first written in English, not Japanese) on Bushido as an expression of the Japanese spirit—emphasizing justice, courage, benevolence, politeness, sincerity, honor, and loyalty—made him famous in the West. By carefully including cross-cultural references—such as citations of biblical references to anatomy in a discussion of seppuku (ritual suicide by disembowelment)—Nitobe ensured himself a wide audience, and the book was translated into dozens of languages (into Japanese in 1908). Bennett enhances Nitobe’s text with a thoughtful and thorough overview of its historical context, noting the author’s education abroad as reflecting the contemporary Japanese credo of wakon-yosai (Japanese spirit, Western knowledge), and his focus on an ethos associated with Japan’s warrior class as reflecting the country’s rising power and imperial ambitions in the early 20th century. Bennett’s careful research ensures modern readers can fully appreciate a still-fascinating text on the values of the samurai, and consider how they might still apply to the present day. (Mar.)