has been translated as ďThe Code of The Samurai," it might be more literally
translated as ďCollection For Beginners in The Way of The Warrior." Written
by Daidôji Yûzan (1639-1730) at the age of ninety-two, this book
is a critique and guide that corresponds to the social changes which redefined
the warrior class during the Tokugawa era. The book contains a collection
of essays and was widely read by samurai of the Tokugawa era. The purpose
of this text was to resolve the ambiguities that existed in the Tokugawa warriorís
mind regarding his social role in a period of unprecedented peace.
The strong Confucian influences present
in Yûzanís writings may be contributed to the Tokugawa eraís resurgence
of Confucian rhetoric, which was expounded by the shogunate and other contemporary
philosophers. Yûzan deals with such topics as the role of death
for the warrior, proper moral etiquette, and the importance of balancing military
(bu) and literary (bun) skills. Yûzanís focus on
the need for warriors to be ever prepared for death is often contrasted to
the writings of his contemporary Yamamoto Tsunetomo, the author of Hagakure,
who also discussed this topic in great detail.
Daidôji Yûzan was a descendant
of the famed Taira clan and is sometimes referred to as Taira Shigesuke.
Yûzan was an expert on military strategy and a respected author who
lived through the reigns of six shogun. Yûzan was a student of
the famous bushido scholar Yamaga Sokô and a contemporary of the Akô
rônin. After completing his schooling Yûzan lived
as a traveling teacher, spending time with various clans including the Asano
clan of Akô. During his time as a traveling teacher Yuzan witnessed
firsthand the confusion of the younger samurai who, while limited to their
stipends, watched the wealth and luxury of the merchants grow. Undoubtedly,
it was the confusion of these younger samurai that inspired Yûzan to
follow in Yamaga Sokôís footsteps by questioning the paradoxical nature
of the warriorís role during a time of peace.
There are three English translations of
Daidôji Yûzanís Budôshoshinshûavailable.
Each is listed below with some brief comments on the comparative strengths
and weaknesses of the translations.
The Code of The Samurai: Budo Shoshinshu
translated by A.L. Sadler (Tokyo: Tuttle Publishing, 1941; 1987)
This translation of the Budôshoshinshûwas
first published in 1941. A.L. Sadler was a Professor of Oriental Studies
at the University of Sidney from 1922-1948, and has published several books
on Japanese history. The book is separated into three chapters and a
total of forty-three sections. This scholarly translation reads smoothly
and seems quite faithful to the original. A short, yet concise, history
of Daidôji Yûzanís origins and legacy precedes the translation.
However, this introduction falls short in that it fails to discuss the intended
purpose of the text and the social conditions which prompted its creation.
The analysis of the text is also insufficient.
As is the case with much of the recently
published samurai literature, the packaging of this book can be deceiving.
The top of the cover reads: ďThe Spirit that Drives Japan" and the back similarly
reads: ďWE CAN UNDERSTAND WHAT DRIVES THE JAPANESE." It is highly likely
that these catch phrases were additions introduced in the 1987 republicationóa
time when most of the world was seeking to understand the seemingly mysterious
force behind Japanís economic growth. Although the packaging of this
book capitalizes on the curiosity about Japanís economy, the text offers few
if any clues at all regarding the cultural and sociological traits of 20th
century Japan. The title of the book is also deceiving, suggesting that
this book represents the code of the samuraióthat it is somehow an
all-inclusive, authoritative guide to the lifestyles and ideologies of samurai
throughout time. This is far from the truth.
Code of The Samurai: A Modern Translation
ofBudo Shoshinshu translated by Thomas L. Cleary (Boston: Tuttle Publishing,
In addition to BudôshoshinshûThomas
Cleary has translated Miyamoto Musashiís Book of Five Rings.
Cleary has also translated several Chinese classics, such as Sun Tzuís The
Art of War, and released various publications on martial philosophy, Buddhism,
Taoism, religion, philosophy, and motivation. This book is divided into
three chapters containing forty-four sections. Clearyís writing style
is fluid, and the layout and design of this book are of high quality.
Despite its visual appeal, the packaging leaflet is slightly misleading, as
is the title, suggesting that the text is exclusively authoritative on the
culture of Japan in general and that of the warrior specifically.
Clearyís introduction begins with a discussion
of Japanese culture and branches out into a historical review of Japanís warriors,
paying close attention to the evolution of the shogunís government and the
Tokugawa regime. Even though this introduction may be compelling to
a reader unfamiliar with Japanese history, it lacks detail regarding the text
itself. Cleary gives little explanation regarding the historical context
and significance of the text and almost no details about the author.
This publication is geared towards individuals who are interested in eastern
Budoshoshinshu: The Warriorís Primer
of Daidoji Yuzan translated by William S. Wilson (Santa Clarita: Ohara
William Scott Wilson, a translator of medieval
Chinese and Japanese texts, has also published a translation of Yamamoto Tsunetomoís
Hagakure and a collection of warrior house codes (kakun), titled
Ideals of the Samurai. Wilsonís introduction contains three sections.
The first, titled ďThe Setting,ĀE deals with the social conditions and historical
factors that gave birth to the problems Yûzan addressed in the text.
The second section concerns the author. The final section discusses
the text itself. Overall, the introduction is informative, compelling
and far superior to those in the other translations.
The book is separated into fifty-six sections,
and although the text is complete, the sequence of the chapters is out of
order. Wilsonís writing is clear, but his paragraphs are often lengthy.
The design and layout of the eighth edition leaves much to be desired.
Yet unlike other translations, Wilson has been more faithful to the textís
original title and does not suggest that this text will assist its readers
in understanding the modern Japanese nation and its culture.