Warriors have played a dominant role in the politics and culture of Japan since at least 1185 when Minamoto no Yoritomo founded the Kamakura shogunate.  It is important to keep in mind, however, that efforts to formally codify and articulate bushido as the ethical code guiding the lives of Japanís ruling warrior class were not undertaken until the early Tokugawa period and in some cases even later.

A testament to this fact is the wide range of names which have been used in different periods to refer to values associated with the warrior, values that have included (often to varying degrees) martial spirit, skill with weapons, loyalty to oneís lord, a sense of personal honor, devotion to duty, and a willingness to sacrifice oneís life.  Some of the older names used in reference to such a "code" of values include "mononofu no michi," "masurao no michi," "tsuwamono no michi," "yumiya no michi," "musha no narai," and "yumiya toru mi no narai." Other names such as "samuraidô,"bushi no michi," and "shidô" have also been used.  It appears that the term "bushido" itself only came into common usage during the Tokugawa period and did not become the word for designating "the way of warrior" until the Meiji period.

This variety of names aside, a number of pre-modern and early modern texts expressed concerns about the ideals and ethical standards now associated with bushido.  Here we have provided summaries and discussions of the core texts that are available in English translation.

Medieval Samurai House Codes (kakun)
Miyamoto Musashiís Book of Five Rings
Yamaga Sokôís writings
Daidôji Yûzanís Budôshoshinshû
Yamamoto Tsunetomoís Hagakure