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

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  4,476 ratings  ·  232 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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Cliff "It is commonly suggested that Nitobe Inazo formulated and popularized an idealized version of this martial ethic, which was appropriated and adapted…more"It is commonly suggested that Nitobe Inazo formulated and popularized an idealized version of this martial ethic, which was appropriated and adapted by the Meiji, Taisho (1912-26), and early Showa (1926-89) governments as a ruling ideology that redirected loyalty from feudal lords to the emperor. This simplistic account of the development of bushido is problematic, however, and relies on pre-war theories that conflated diverse historical periods and ideologies to provide legitimacy for the modern imperial state and nation. Oleg Benesch, "Inventing the Way of the Samurai"(less)

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3.94  · 
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Paul E. Morph
Apr 25, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an enjoyable and enlightening read provided you don't go into it expecting it to be a detailed historical study of Bushido as we would expect to see today. Written at the turn of the century, Inazo Nitobe's book is very much a product of its time and tells the modern reader almost as much about the time in which it was written as it does of feudal Japan.

The author writes well but this is more of a misty-eyed, nostalgic pining for 'the good old days' than a scientific analysis. Nitobe ill
Mar 04, 2012 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 05, 2016 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
Steven Walle
Jan 19, 2016 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 16, 2012 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
Apr 27, 2017 rated it liked it
It was a very interesting book, I really enjoyed exploring the samurai ways of living, I highly recommend it .
Ali Reda
Apr 23, 2015 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
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
Miss Laura
Dec 20, 2007 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
Mar 12, 2015 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
May 15, 2014 rated it really liked it
beautiful, excelent review, explanation and relation with modern Japan
John Eliade
Jul 04, 2015 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
Aug 14, 2012 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
Edward Morton
Aug 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I can only admire and be fascinated by how a Japanese author is capable of describing his culture (or better, an element of his culture) by means of the classic European standards.

He translate the ever-lasting Samurai way of living through the point of view of a scholar of the XIX th century: it is amazing to see how Marx, Hegel, Montesquieu or even Bacon ideas pop up and are used to make understandable the perspective of the Bushi, even more, to show that they are not that different to us. But
Augusto Bernardi
May 03, 2016 rated it liked it
Shelves: books, non-fiction
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
Aug 25, 2007 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
Jul 31, 2011 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,
Dec 02, 2016 rated it liked it
In analyzing Bushido as a social tradition of Japanese feudalism, the author frequently refers to Western literature, religions, and philosophical thoughts, of which his commanding is very impressive. He seems equally well leant in classical Chinese philosophy. The writing style of the book is beautiful.

However, there is a strong taste of glorifying Bushido. For example, the chapter about swords is the second shortest among all 16 chapters, which basically only talks about an example of a samur
Ian Miley
Jun 02, 2013 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
Apr 10, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ebook, english
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 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
JD Estrada
Nov 11, 2017 rated it liked it
Although a short text, I took a sweet time in reading this text. It is an interesting though not fascinating look into Bushido and how it's helped form an essential part of Japan. It brings up some really interesting things to consider when comparing Japan to other countries of the world and how age old beliefs have formed deep bonds in the populace. Rather than taking aim at saying it's better or worse than other places or identities, it offers a perception of society through a lens that is oft ...more
Sep 20, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bastante instructiva la lectura, con todas las bases de la instrucción y formación de un samurai, así como los valores que seguían y hasta el papel de la mujer en las familias samurai. Aprendí muchas cosas que no sabía, y reafirmé otras tantas. Fue interesante aprender un poco más del pensamiento de ese periodo en cuanto al honor y la cortesía, porque también explica mucho por qué los japoneses son como son. Es evidente que parte de las enseñanzas del Bushido siguen vivas en la sociedad, aunque ...more
Jul 21, 2016 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

T. K. Elliott (Tiffany)
This book is short, and accessibly written (provided you view ordinary late nineteenth-century writing as accessible).

When reading this book, it is important to remember two things:

1. It was written in 1900. The approach and the ethics therefore reflect the attitudes and society of the nineteenth century, not the twenty-first.
2. It was written by a Japanese man who had seen the fall of the feudal system, to explain Japanese and, particularly, samurai culture to Westerners. In fact, it was origin
J.D. Combista
Sep 07, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Except for the works of Kung Fu Tzu, Lao Tzu, and a few ones pertaining to Zen leadership, Eastern Philosophy is something that is oft taken for granted. So it was there that I decided to look at one country somewhere in the Northeast Pacific—Japan. From there, I decided to read Bushido: The Soul of Japan by Nitobe Inazo.

When Nitobe was asked how Japan could have had any sense of morality since religion did not play any particular role in the upbringing of Japanese youngsters, he suddenly came u
Jul 17, 2016 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
Nov 24, 2015 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
Chant Cowen
Dec 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I never intended to read this book or to finish it in one sitting, but alas it happened.

I should give a little context to this. I am a Canadian living in Japan (2016) and I sometimes go to Bookoff (used book store here in Japan) and I sometimes look at the used English book section. I rarely find any English books of worth to read, let alone buy and read.

However yesterday was different, as I found this book. Not knowing too much about samurai or Bushido, I don't know why I bought it. Actually,
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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
“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, far from being pressed or crowded, has always room for something more.” 14 likes
“Knowledge becomes really such only when it is assimilated in the mind of the learner and shows in his character.” 13 likes
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