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Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai

4.05  ·  Rating details ·  13,232 ratings  ·  624 reviews
Hagakure ("In the Shadow of Leaves") is a manual for the samurai classes consisting of a series of short anecdotes and reflections that give both insight and instruction-in the philosophy and code of behavior that foster the true spirit of Bushido-the Way of the Warrior. It is not a book of philosophy as most would understand the word: it is a collection of thoughts and sa ...more
Hardcover, 179 pages
Published August 30th 2002 by Kodansha (first published 1716)
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Average rating 4.05  · 
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 ·  13,232 ratings  ·  624 reviews


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Abby
Jun 23, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I love the randomness of this book. One paragraph is a about how to wear your awesome samurai hat, and the next is about the proper way to decapitate someone.
Chance
Nov 02, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
It irks me that people don't know the history of this book.

A lot of people seem to read it assuming that it's some sort of rule book that the samurai class carried around in their kimonos so as to follow its writings without err.

This is not the case. The book was written after 100 years of peace in Japan, when the samurai class was transforming into an administrative class.

Yes, that's right -- the author was some pencil-pusher for the state.

This doesn't mean it isn't an interesting book. Thinki
...more
Jen/The Tolkien Gal/ジェニファー
Hagakure (Kyūjitai: 葉隱; Shinjitai: 葉隠; meaning Hidden by the Leaves or hidden leaves),[1] or Hagakure Kikigaki (葉隠聞書) is a practical and spiritual guide for a warrior, drawn from a collection of commentaries by the clerk Yamamoto Tsunetomo, former retainer to Nabeshima Mitsushige, the third ruler of what is now Saga Prefecture in Japan. Tashiro Tsuramoto (ja) compiled these commentaries from his conversations with Tsunetomo from 1709 to 1716; however, it was not published until many years afterw ...more
Jon Nakapalau
Aug 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
The best exposition on bushido I have ever read.
Aaron
The definitive book of my adult life.

This book was popularized in the film Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, showing an assassin for the mob who lives according to the his interpretation of the principles of this book. That is how I first came across the book, and since then the book has been a central part of my life.

The book is some 300 excerpts from a total of about 1,300 dictated to Yamamoto's attendant over the course of 7 years, between 1710 and 1716. Yamamoto was a samurai born some 60
...more
Nate Meadows
Jun 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"After reading a few books such as this one, I feel I am starting to have an understanding of Japanese heritage and history. There is so much wisdom to be learned from them but also many problems with their ancient society that they are still struggling with today. NOTE: Because of the film Ghost Dog I imagined Forest Whitaker's voice reading this to me in my head the entire time." ...more
Barney
Dec 22, 2011 rated it it was ok
So, want to read a book written by a mid-level clerk about samurai that never existed in his own time? A book whose message was corrupted by the militaristic rulers of Japan following the Meiji Resotoration?

If so, you've found the book you are looking for. This is a steamy pile, so bring some fresh gloves. If your black belt instructor is making you read this, hit him (or her) in the knee with it and ask for your money back. This is a prime example of how something awful can be made uniquely te
...more
Ali Reda
Nov 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: japan
The Way of the Samurai is in the death of his ego, so he selflessly lives a life that embraces death with honor. So deals with the transcendental area including both life and death. If man considers himself dead, he will live his life in complete peace.

Accepting Death is the only way to be free

The Way of the Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either/or, there is only the quick choice of death. It is not particularly difficult. Be determined and advance. To say that dying without reachin
...more
Chiara
Apr 30, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Knowing nothing about Samurai's history and/or tradition, I can take only the "philosphy" from this book.
Death is considered the only very important thought, around which everything else must dance in one's life. Death is our ultimate destination, and everything must be done in view of that unavoidable event. I can agree, but I cannot wholly share the attitude of a Samurai about it, since I believe I can leave more seeds and fruits through my life than through my death. I can teach a lot with t
...more
H
Jun 04, 2009 added it
Shelves: martial
"If one dedicates these four vows to the gods and Buddhas every morning, he will have the strength of two men and will never slip backward. One must edge forward like the inchworm, bit by bit. The gods and Buddhas, too, first started with a vow."

A samurai's journal of anecdotes and aphorisms I've been rereading for years. It means something different to me each time, though the lessons are often the same ones I've forgotten. It's amazing how these lessons apply themselves to whatever my life is
...more
Ben Rogers
Jan 28, 2021 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who have already read lots of books on Japanese philosophy
It was good.

A bit long-in-the-tooth though. It took a while to get going.

Really enjoyed the honor and duty aspects of the warriors. Great lessons in the philosophy and code of the Bushido.

I would instead recommend you first read A Book of Five Rings: The Classic Guide to Strategy or Bushido: The Soul of Japan. A Classic Essay on Samurai Ethics if interested in Japanese philosophy.

3.5/5
...more
Lostaccount
Nov 08, 2016 rated it liked it
“It is said that even after one’s head has been cut off, he can still perform some function.”

The Hagakure, The book of the samurai, which is a kind of guidebook for Samurai, should be titled the book of the fanatic, exhorting as it does the “retainer” (a kind of Samurai personal servant) to behead as many men as possible, and to live as if one has already died.

The book is full of contradictions and non sequiturs that make it seem a bit ludicrous at times, but there’s also a fair bit of old scho
...more
P.H. Wilson
Mar 04, 2015 rated it it was ok
Real rating: 5/10
The Prince or either Art of War, the Hagakure is not. There is no brilliant strategist lying behind these words, this is of the author's own admission. All he has is fealty and he goes out of his way to prove that is all that matters. He bemoans skills and wit, cleverness and intelligence, art and cunning. He condemns any notion of thought or planning as is shown when he derides the still celebrated 47 ronin, for not attempting their attack sooner. As Yamamoto is the type of ind
...more
Odile
I read a selection of parts from Hagakure in the final year of high school for my end paper. Now, I picked up this illustrated hardcover copy in Dutch, which will make for a nice reference. It turns out its nearly 300 pages contain only a modest selection of the original work, so I wonder how many Hagakures are actually completely unabridged.

The book is deservedly a classic of Japanese philosophy, and it gives a valuable contrast to works like Musashi's Book of Five Rings, who emphasises other p
...more
Realini
May 21, 2021 rated it liked it
Shelves: spiritual
The Rice Harvest and Hagakure – The Secret Wisdom of the Samurai by Yamatomo Tsunemoto, translated by Alexander Bennett
8 out of 10 as personal experience, but probably 10 out of 10 for the multitudes that extract the essence from it


In his classic, outstanding Outliers, one of the most influential - perhaps second in recognition only to Nobel Prize Winner Daniel Kahneman – psychologists in the world, Malcolm Gladwell http://realini.blogspot.com/2013/05/o... talks about his famous formula – 10,000
...more
Joshua
Mar 24, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-ish, ideas
To begin with it is not for everyone. It is disjointed and quite unreadable to a person who is unfamiliar with Japanese history and culture. With this understood, however, it is an excellent read. The Hagakure, or Book of the Samurai, lets the reader into the world of 17th and 18th century Japan. Written by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, well written is actually inacurate. It was passed on to a visitor of Yamamoto's, who then transcribed it. Unfortunately it comes to us incomplete. This no doubt has aided ...more
Lucas Paige
Apr 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I've grown to like this book so much that I have my copy in my backpack at all times on campus. Any free time between classes and I'll re-read a little story Tsunetomo put in to teach a certain value.
The ersatz way of the samurai can still touch you, with stories that make you laugh and impress you. Random pieces of philosophy also roam the pages, serving as a reminder that a time in which honor was something you had the right to protect is long gone. While not everyone may agree that the Hagaku
...more
Sami
Jan 17, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Bushido: The way of the Samurai" by Yamamoto Tsunetomo is the words of a power samurai (Yamamoto Tsunetomo) in his final days. Most of the book entails battle tactics and stories of battles, but through this stories a message about how to live your life better is portrayed. Like most wise samurai, Yamamoto belived that aspects that are learned in the battle field are ones that can be used to everyday life. I found this book very interesting because i am very into the whole "war verus life" phil ...more
Filip
Jul 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
How did the samurai live? What was the ultimate purpose of their life?

This book answers to all of these questions and more.

I managed to extract tons of great quotes out of this one, most of which have retained their relevance throughout all of these years. However, it IS impossible to keep up with the names (even in the same story), especially in the later, anecdote filled chapters derived from the writer's memory and circulating rumors and stories.

Also, this book might not appeal to the faint-
...more
Jody Mena
Aug 02, 2011 added it
Shelves: nonfiction
This is a really powerful book, which I think people could take lessons from even still today. It's possible that someone would have to know something about Japanese history and culture to begin to appreciate this writing, even as it teaches more deeply about the Japanese way of thinking, but I still think everyone should read this and try to wrap their heads around it. I don't pretend to have understood the significance of everything I read in it, and there are other concepts that in literal te ...more
Nathalie Andrews
Nov 04, 2013 rated it really liked it
It would be wrong to assume that this is a book of rules and etiquette for the samurai classes. It reads more like a collection of short stories or morality tales, interspersed at times with axioms. Many of the anecdotes offer lessons in virtue that might be universally applied. The meaning of others is less transparent. It would be very possible to dip in and out of this book and take a great deal of pleasure in reading it as something of a curiosity, offering a glimpse into another culture. A ...more
Aman Mittal
Aug 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Hagaukure or 'In the Shadows of Leaves' is a powerful book with powerful words arranged in a manner of short anecdotes collected over a period of years covering a wide variety of subjects mostly providing an insight on the behaviour of a samurai (warrior). Though it is not considered as a philosophical book, as the main anecdotes are more in the form of teachings for a warrior, these basic teachings are still applicable today in different modes of life and to learn and apply these basic teaching ...more
R. Jones
Dec 03, 2014 rated it did not like it
After reading Hakagure, I immediately donned my fedora and stormed up the basement steps. "Mommy-chan!" I panted, my trenchcoat blowing in the wind, "I am a kendoka samurai now. I wish to use my allowance to purchase a katana instead of pizza rolls." She wrinkled her nose and told me that my sister had been making complaints about my hygiene, so I told her that the teachings of Yamamoto say "it is better to not bring up daughters, for they are a blemish to the family name" (page 84). I also lect ...more
Adam
May 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
There is much knowledge to be found here that is still applicable today in many different arenas, from how to conduct yourself while in public view, to perspective on self-discipline. While it is essentially a handbook for the code of the samurai, which would make it seem at first like a dated subject that would only interest historians and those interested in martial arts, it is similar to Miyamoto Musashi's "Book of Five Rings" in that a good amount of the views still hold true in the modern w ...more
Elagabalus
Nov 27, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2015
Sexist and obsessed with suicide-as-respect. The hypocrisy of having a life vow of 'compassion' while supporting domestic violence.

There were a few good passages, which I wrote down, but even most of those are just quotes from other people. The guy is a hack, taking credit for samurai culture and history without really knowing much about it, and thus teaching me very little.

I also just have a significant problem with total devotion to a single person in a hierarchal position. Woops.

But the begin
...more
Milan
I thought Bushido: The Way of the Samurai would be an easy book to read. I was wrong. It took time to adjust to the writing. I had to keep rereading some passages. But once I understood the 'tone' of the book, it became easier what it was trying to say. It is also important to understand that Bushido has undergone many changes throughout Japanese history, and the various samurai clans interpreted it in their own way and sometimes to suit their own needs. The word samurai originally meant “one wh ...more
Felonious
Jun 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historic
Hagakure: Book of the Samurai was written by Yamamoto Tsunetomo, a samurai who lived from 1659-1719. The version that I read was translated by William Scott Wilson.

The book was written in short thoughts and anecdotes, this combination gives the reader a look into not only the mind of the samurai but it also helps the reader understand the times and the culture of the samurai.

As one would expect there are many thoughts and stories about what death and honor meant to the samurai. But it also c
...more
Allen
Jul 01, 2012 added it
The ability to discern the true meaning of a worthy commitment can be a difficult journey for the True Warrior. His life is surrounded by violence and although having the sharpest reflexes mentally, he can lack clarity. Master Samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo gives depth and understanding to the poignant life of a Samurai who's only real commitment in life is to die honorably. "This is not a phrase that the weak mind can comprehend..." I see expressions of films & web series being thrown around by tod ...more
Victor Finn
Nov 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Definitely a treasure of a book. It's a collection of Thumos-stirring aphorisms and anecdotes of Samurai's and their masters. It feels like the Samurai version of Nietzsche's Beyond Good and Evil at times. In fact, I think Nietzsche would give the Samurai code and worldview an A+ seeing as how it fits rather perfectly with his notions of Noble Morality.

This book is highly recommendable on two fronts: As an illuminating collection of insights for which to guide your life, and as a peek into the
...more
Edward
Sep 13, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This famous compilation on Bushido was a favorite of the author Mishima Yukio, who infamously killed himself in the samurai fashion of seppuku in 1970.

Reading about Yamamoto, it becomes clear why Mishima liked him and the "Hagakure" so much. Like Yamamoto, Mishima was sickly as a child and highly gifted in literary arts. He did not have a good relationship with his father, who did everything in his power to crush his son's literary aspirations. They were both men born too late, in a way, during
...more
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Martial Arts: Does the Hagakure still hold merit in this day and age? 2 28 May 20, 2018 06:51PM  

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Yamamoto Tsunetomo (山本 常朝), also read Yamamoto Jōchō (June 11, 1659 – November 30, 1719), was a samurai of the Saga Domain in Hizen Province under his lord Nabeshima Mitsushige.

For thirty years Yamamoto devoted his life to the service of his lord and clan. When Nabeshima died in 1700, Yamamoto did not choose to follow his master in death in junshi because the master had expressed a dislike of the
...more

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