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Bushido: The Soul of Japan. A Classic Essay on Samurai Ethics

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  3,170 Ratings  ·  149 Reviews
A century ago, when Japan was transforming itself from an isolated feudal society into a modern nation, a Japanese educator queried about the ethos of his people composed this seminal work, which with his numerous other writings in English made him the best, known Japanese writer in the West during his lifetime.

He found in Bushido, the Way of the Warrior, the sources of th
Hardcover, 160 pages
Published March 1st 2002 by Kodansha International Ltd (first published 1900)
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Mar 26, 2012 Capsguy rated it really liked it
Shelves: japan
What an interesting little book! As many of my Goodreads friends know, I have a keen interest in Japan, although I've never really read into its' history or the philosophical foundations on which it developed, at least to be what it was prior to significant Western influence.

The author makes a great point that now (over 100 years since he wrote this) that Bushido as a way of life passed through generations is long gone, what with Japan as we all see it today being what it is, but the soul of it
May 07, 2016 Vivian rated it liked it
Nitobe specifically wrote this book in 1900 to comparatively explain bushido to an occidental audience. He wrote it in English, later translated into Japanese, and he breaks down the tenets of bushido or the ways of the warrior, bushi (warrior) and do (way) and placed them within the historical context of chivalry and knighthood. Using analogies that western European readers would be familiar with from ancient Greek philosophers to Nietzsche.

Born before the Meiji Restoration (1868), he brings a
Diamond Cowboy
Jan 21, 2016 Diamond Cowboy rated it it was amazing
I recommend this book to all who want to understand the character of the Japanese people. The author was the best known author in the west in his time. He melds the phylosophies of the east with the phylosophies of the west going back to the Romans and the Greeks.
Enjoy and Be Blessed.
Apr 17, 2012 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I wish all philosophy books were more like this! Engaging and beautifully written, BUSHIDO is an insider's look into the foundational beliefs and customs of one of the most mysterious (to Westerners) cultures on the planet. After reading this, you'll definitely have a much better understanding and appreciation of many aspects of Japanese culture that initially come across as being either senseless or totally barbaric. Nitobe does a fantastic job of finding unexpected parallels between both Easte ...more
Ali Reda
Nov 06, 2015 Ali Reda rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: japan
A book written by a Westernized Japanese scholar,to answer Westerners' questions about the Japanese mentality and Bushido. So the book doesn't feel Japanese at all, you will find historical comparisons between the Chivalry of Europe and the Bushido of Japan. You will find many examples from the European and American cultures describing Bushido. Even when we encounter something against values of the western culture, like ritual suicide, we find him citing examples for it from the Western Culture. ...more
Jackson Burnett
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.

If the author of this book on the way of the Samurai had stopped two-thirds of the way through, I would be writing a five star review. The last third dealt with women and the future of the Japanese warrior. The former was painful; the latter verged on cultural chauvinism. Bushido: The Soul of Japan. A Classic Essay on Samurai Ethics merits about a 3.4 star rating.

Author I
Miss Laura
Dec 20, 2007 Miss Laura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People interested in Japanese history and culture
I read this book as i have a general fascination with japan and its sense of morals and values. This book was immeasurably helpful when it comes to giving an insight into where their beliefs came from and the thinking behind it. This book contains many quotes from priests and scrolls which give a better understanding of the many ways in which the samurai code can be interpreted. This was great for understanding, so much so that even though its a small book, it took a long time to read because i ...more
Emi Bevacqua
It's not often I read non-fiction, and this was undeniably dry; but I'm glad I stuck with it. Being half-Japanese and having studied Japanese language and literature, having lived in Japan and with Japanese people, I've accumulated a slew of images and memories of quirks, anomalies, mannerisms and truisms that are all uniquely Japanese. A Japanese movie or TV show generally brings one or two of those to mind, but reading this Bushido book really gets to the heart of the Japanese matter. I'm surp ...more
Augusto Bernardi
May 06, 2016 Augusto Bernardi rated it liked it
This was not necessarily what I expected. Was a short book but not the easiest book to read or understand. Had a very academical approach in the way he described the history and etymology of Bushido. I really did like the strong contrasts between Japanese culture and Western culture and that's precisely were I faced my dilemma with this book because I wanted to read this book to pick up on some ways of wife or ethics of the samurai. But I forget somehow that I grew up IN the west so the contrast ...more
Jul 05, 2015 John rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is a bit dated. For example:

Niggardliness of gold and of life excited as much disapprobation as their lavish use was panegyrized. - pg. 72

Just the use of the term "niggardliness" (which means quite simply, "greed" without overt albeit underlying racist connotations) shows that this is an old book. For reference, since the Shambhala cover and the relatively unknown nature of the book (but not its concept) could imply otherwise, "Bushido" was published at the turn of the 20th Century, a
Bernie Gourley
Jul 24, 2015 Bernie Gourley rated it really liked it
Shelves: martial-arts
On the whole, people have ambivalent feelings about feudal times. On the one hand, these were horrible times to be alive for 99.5% of the population. Chances are that if you'd lived during that time you'd be toiling ceaselessly on the land with no hope of your lot in life ever improving. To add insult to injury, everything was determined on a hereditary basis, with merit having little to do with anything. Therefore, that person you would have to slather obsequiousness on was as likely to be a pu ...more
Ian Miley
Jun 02, 2013 Ian Miley rated it it was amazing
Nitobe shows his strong respect for the Bushido ethical system. Placing a high value on stoic character, loyalty, and honorable behavior, bushido has no like in modern day society. Since the 18th century, Japan has tried to adopt Shintoism as its national religion, but has not succeeded in finding a replacement for Bushido. Instead, a Westernized utilitarian ethic has emerged, which has no binding principle. He hints that the Christian ideal of love might be the answer to our modern quest for sy ...more
Jul 21, 2016 Brandt rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition

The relationship between ethos and ethics seems evident. When used as a noun, Ethics is the philosophical study of principles relating to the conduct of right or wrong actions. Contrariwise, ethos is the basic values that make up the character of a person, a culture, or in the case of this book, a nation. This distinction may be superfluous, nonetheless, it must be recognized in order to attempt an understanding of what Inazo Nitobe’s intent was in formulating Bushido: The Soul of Japan. A Class

Jul 31, 2016 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-philosophy
Text available free at the Gutenberg Project,, and the Internet Archive. Free unabridged audio recording can be downloaded from Librivox here. The same recording can be listened to on YouTube here. In addition, when I typed “Japan” (no quotes) into the Kindle Store search bar on my ebook reader, a free download of a community-converted version of this book was the second result.

Concerning the Internet Archive, beware: the Javascripted version, viewable in-browser, omits the fina
Richard Knight
Dec 05, 2015 Richard Knight rated it liked it
There are times when Bushido: The Soul of Japan is almost poetic. But I think that's more the subject matter rather than the actual writing, since the actual writing verges on being pedantic at times. Seriously, I had to read certain lines three or four times just to get the gist of what he was saying, which felt totally unnecessary. Mr. Nitobe was a man who must have loved to hear himself talk. But I guess that's just how people wrote back in 1900, which is when the book was published. Predatin ...more
Jun 27, 2012 Samhy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: english, ebook
This book was really interesting, but hard to understand (I read it in English, so that should be why), I'm glad I made to the last page because this book provides the reader with enlightning insights on (current) Japanese culture.
Peter W
Jan 04, 2014 Peter W rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2013
Very informative about the code of the samurai. Great book of ethics and morals. Also helped me to understand some of the underlying principles of Japanese culture
Apr 14, 2016 Rachelle rated it really liked it
This book was not an easy read for me, but was historically fascinating. Nitobe wrote for an English audience, referring constantly to English authors, artists, and thinkers to connect with readers, but now feels very dated. But his explanations of samurai culture, and Japan's intense need to freeze-frame that time in their history, is very interesting and filled with perspective. For the modern martial artist (following after the Japanese arts) this should be on your reading list, and use his e ...more
Mar 12, 2015 Diz rated it did not like it
Shelves: japan
There are several reasons why I didn't really like this book. First, it feels very dated. Nitobe often compares samurai to the knights of chivalry in a favorable light, which may have appealed to westerners when this was published, but really doesn't appeal to the modern reader which has a less romantic understanding of medieval life. When I read these comparisons, it brought up mostly negative images even though it was clear that the author meant it to be a positive image.

Second, Nitobe's sourc
J.D. Combista
Sep 09, 2012 J.D. Combista rated it really liked it
Except for the works of Kung Fu Tzu, Lao Tzu and a few Zen leadership stuff, Eastern Philosophy is something that is taken for granted. So it was there that I decided to look at one country in the far-east, somewhere in the Pacific—Nihon (Japan). And from there, I decided to read Bushido – The Soul of Japan by Nitobe Inazo (surname Nitobe, first name Inazo).

When Nitobe was asked how Japan could have had any sense of morality since religion was not taught in school, he suddenly came up with the a
Jul 29, 2016 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A concise breakdown of the moral code of the Bushi Warriors, who are better known by the name Samurai.

This breakdown of the Do: "Way of Life" has been written with the western audience in mind, and will be interesting to read for anyone who has been piqued by Japanese culture. It is also great bolster/companion reading for anyone studying the Martial Arts, History, or Philosophy.
Tim Gannon
May 23, 2012 Tim Gannon rated it liked it
Shelves: eastern-thought
Since it was free on my Kindle, that alone should make it a 4 but I decided to base my decision on its readability and content - Bushido is the code of moral virtues that were followed by the samurai - I thought the analysis of these virtues was superficial - However, the text's real strength was in the author's efforts in describing the personality of the Japanese, and often, how it is tied to Bushido. Also, the author compared and contrasted Samurai and Bushido to European Knights, and to the ...more
Aug 25, 2007 Nash rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Japanese history & culture enthusiasts.
Shelves: already-read
Well, may be I'll be the only one in the world that ranks this book "negative"! See, this is the peril of someone who is doing Ph.D. on Bushido! Well, not that I don't like this book because it gives me the sufferings relating to my dissertation! ha ha ha And actually, the level of English used by the author is one of the best in the world! I mean, he was the Japanese super scholar that could write the kind of Victorian English that most western scholars have to respect until this very day! He w ...more
Jun 05, 2013 Greg rated it really liked it
Short, sweet, enlightening. Inazo Nitobe does a great job of making parallels between the Oriental and Occidental traditions that enlighten our understanding of Bushido and the Japanese people. I think this is a must read, really, because it provides such a profound insight into a culture that values all of the same things we do, but structured their cultural as a different solution to the same problems. Nitobe shines when he shows how apparent differences, like how Japanese insult their family ...more
Jun 12, 2016 Judith rated it liked it
Shelves: japan
I've read a German version, published by Nikol Verlag and translated by Dr. Hannelore Eisenhofer.

While it was a nice read, it doesn't really tell you anything about Bushido as such. The writer has a spiritual idea about Japan, about Bushido and that is what he speaks about. He uses examples from literature and history (Chinese and Western) to explain to his readers about Japanese culture. It's clear to see he's widely travelled and very well read, but the case is never truly convincing.

I feel,
Jan 03, 2009 Aaron rated it liked it
Shelves: martial-arts, history
The now classic book written to expose Westerners to samurai culture, and by extension Japanese culture as a whole, when Japan began to modernize at the end of 19th century. This book is now in it's 11th printing, and won much attention and applause when first printed (including the attention of President Theodore Roosevelt), so it's a notable book for that alone.

However, I would just recommend you keep an open mind while reading this and remember that Nitobe's purpose was to introduce Japan to
Dec 06, 2012 Cristian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: philosophy
For any non-japanese wanting to learn about Bushido, this is definitely a must. Written in English, by Inazo Nitobe, a japanese who lived during and after Japan's feudal era, the insight and comparisons he offers between Bushido and other western "Knighthood precepts" or ethical systems is invaluable. Even when English was not his native tounge, his writing is way better than what many other native speakers would dream to offer. I highly recommend this book.

I do not, though, recommend this editi
Peggy Oates
Nov 12, 2007 Peggy Oates rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: all
Bushido is a hard tradition to understand. Those who do often are totally removed from western culture and thus they cannot place the tradition in the context of western thought or ethics in a way a western reader can understand. Nitobe makes Bushido understandable by comparing it to Christian ethics, Shakespearian action and literature from a western tradition.

The one criticism is it only speaks of Bushido only at its best. But then we have all read hundreds of books about Christian ethics whic
Not sure if I am pleased or displeased by mixing this story with tropes from European culture, but still I learned a lot and liked the writing. Therefore, three stars. Could have been better.
Apr 22, 2015 Tatsuru rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I sometimes wonder what inspired a post world war Japanese ambassador to the US to write this book about representing the spirit of the Japanese people. There is an incredible amount of patience, ambivalence, and honesty in this small country, but I can understand why people still tries to convey this spirit in Japan. Sadly, I believe capitalism has eaten away much of these spirit and only the remains of those foolish enough to live that away are left. However, there is still much we can learn f ...more
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Inazo Nitobe (1862-1933): agriculturalist, scholar, Quaker, philosopher, statesman, educator.

Inazo Nitobe was educated at Sapporo Agricultural College, University of Tokyo, Johns Hopkins, and University of Halle (Germany). Early in his life he expressed the desire to be a “bridge over the Pacific” and he devoted much of his life to promoting trust and understanding between the United States and J
More about Inazo Nitobe...

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“the feeling of distress is the root of benevolence, therefore a benevolent man is ever mindful of those who are suffering and in distress.” 5 likes
“Knowledge becomes really such only when it is assimilated in the mind of the learner and shows in his character.” 4 likes
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