Budôshoshinshû by Daidôji Yûzan

Although Budôshoshinshû 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.

Budôshoshinshû and Confucianism
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
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.

English Translations
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, 1999)
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 philosophy.

Budoshoshinshu: The Warriorís Primer of Daidoji Yuzan translated by William S. Wilson (Santa Clarita: Ohara Publications, 1984)
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.