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Hagakure: The Book of the Samuraiby Yamamoto Tsunetomo
Synopses & 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 sayings recorded over a period of seven years, and as such covers a wide variety of subjects, often in no particular sequence.
The work represents an attitude far removed from our modern pragmatism and materialism, and posesses an intuitive rather than rational appeal in its assertion that Bushido is a Way of Dying, and that only a samurai retainer prepared and willing to die at any moment can be totally true to his lord. While Hagakure was for many years a secret text known only to the warrior vassals of the Hizen fief to which the author belonged, it later came to be recognized as a classic exposition of samurai thought and came to influence many subsequent generations, including Yukio Mishima.
This translation offers 300 selections that constitute the core texts of the 1,300 present in the original.
This book describes the short, succinct passages found in 'Hagakure', composed in the spirit of the way of thinking they reflect and outline the qualities that make a samurai: readiness to die, whatever one's cause; uncompromising loyalty; singlemindedness, preparedness, artlessness, celerity, decorum and compassion. It transcends time, space and the encumbrances of societal living by penetrating to the core of existence with the clarity and vividness of its insights.
About the Author
YAMAMOTO TSUNETOMO [1659-1719] was a samurai retainer of the Nabeshima Clan, Lords of Hizen province, who became a Buddhist monk in 1700 after the Shogunate government prohibited the practice of tsuifuku: suicide of a retainer on the death of his lord. The book was dictated to a younger samurai during the author's seclusion over a seven year period.
WILLIAM SCOTT WILSON, the translator, took his B.A. at Dartmouth College, graduated as a Japanese specialist from the Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies, and received his M.A. in Japanese literature from the University of Washington. He became acquainted with Japan at first-hand in 1966 on a coastal expedition-by kayak-from the western Japanese port of Sasebo to Tokyo. He later lived in the potter's village of Bizen, studied as a special student at Aichi Prefectural University, and was a counselor at the Japanese Consulate-General in Seattle. He now lives in his native Florida.
Among his highly regarded translations of original works of literature are The Unfettered Mind, The Roots of Wisdom: Saikontan, and Taiko.
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