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Title: Bushido, the Soul of Japan
Author: Nitobe, Inazo, 1862-1933
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Author's Edition, Revised and Enlarged



                               --"That way
    Over the mountain, which who stands upon,
    Is apt to doubt if it be indeed a road;
    While if he views it from the waste itself,
    Up goes the line there, plain from base to brow,
    Not vague, mistakable! What's a break or two
    Seen from the unbroken desert either side?
    And then (to bring in fresh philosophy)
    What if the breaks themselves should prove at last
    The most consummate of contrivances
    To train a man's eye, teach him what is faith?"


    _Bishop Blougram's Apology_.

    "There are, if I may so say, three powerful spirits, which have
    from time to time, moved on the face of the waters, and given a
    predominant impulse to the moral sentiments and energies of
    mankind. These are the spirits of liberty, of religion, and of


    _Europe in the Middle Ages_.

    "Chivalry is itself the poetry of life."


    _Philosophy of History_.


About ten years ago, while spending a few days under the hospitable roof
of the distinguished Belgian jurist, the lamented M. de Laveleye, our
conversation turned, during one of our rambles, to the subject of
religion. "Do you mean to say," asked the venerable professor, "that you
have no religious instruction in your schools?" On my replying in the
negative he suddenly halted in astonishment, and in a voice which I
shall not easily forget, he repeated "No religion! How do you impart
moral education?" The question stunned me at the time. I could give no
ready answer, for the moral precepts I learned in my childhood days,
were not given in schools; and not until I began to analyze the
different elements that formed my notions of right and wrong, did I find
that it was Bushido that breathed them into my nostrils.

The direct inception of this little book is due to the frequent queries
put by my wife as to the reasons why such and such ideas and customs
prevail in Japan.

In my attempts to give satisfactory replies to M. de Laveleye and to my
wife, I found that without understanding Feudalism and Bushido,[1] the
moral ideas of present Japan are a sealed volume.

[Footnote 1: Pronounced _Boó-shee-doh'_. In putting Japanese words and
names into English, Hepburn's rule is followed, that the vowels should
be used as in European languages, and the consonants as in English.]

Taking advantage of enforced idleness on account of long illness, I put
down in the order now presented to the public some of the answers given
in our household conversation. They consist mainly of what I was taught
and told in my youthful days, when Feudalism was still in force.

Between Lafcadio Hearn and Mrs. Hugh Fraser on one side and Sir Ernest
Satow and Professor Chamberlain on the other, it is indeed discouraging
to write anything Japanese in English. The only advantage I have over
them is that I can assume the attitude of a personal defendant, while
these distinguished writers are at best solicitors and attorneys. I
have often thought,--"Had I their gift of language, I would present the
cause of Japan in more eloquent terms!" But one who speaks in a borrowed
tongue should be thankful if he can just make himself intelligible.

All through the discourse I have tried to illustrate whatever points I
have made with parallel examples from European history and literature,
believing that these will aid in bringing the subject nearer to the
comprehension of foreign readers.

Should any of my allusions to religious subjects and to religious
workers be thought slighting, I trust my attitude towards Christianity
itself will not be questioned. It is with ecclesiastical methods and
with the forms which obscure the teachings of Christ, and not with the
teachings themselves, that I have little sympathy. I believe in the
religion taught by Him and handed down to us in the New Testament, as
well as in the law written in the heart. Further, I believe that God
hath made a testament which maybe called "old" with every people and
nation,--Gentile or Jew, Christian or Heathen. As to the rest of my
theology, I need not impose upon the patience of the public.

In concluding this preface, I wish to express my thanks to my friend
Anna C. Hartshorne for many valuable suggestions and for the
characteristically Japanese design made by her for the cover of this


Malvern, Pa., Twelfth Month, 1899.



Since its first publication in Philadelphia, more than six years ago,
this little book has had an unexpected history. The Japanese reprint has
passed through eight editions, the present thus being its tenth
appearance in the English language. Simultaneously with this will be
issued an American and English edition, through the publishing-house of
Messrs. George H. Putnam's Sons, of New York.

In the meantime, _Bushido_ has been translated into Mahratti by Mr. Dev
of Khandesh, into German by Fräulein Kaufmann of Hamburg, into Bohemian
by Mr. Hora of Chicago, into Polish by the Society of Science and Life
in Lemberg,--although this Polish edition has been censured by the
Russian Government. It is now being rendered into Norwegian and into
French. A Chinese translation is under contemplation. A Russian
officer, now a prisoner in Japan, has a manuscript in Russian ready for
the press. A part of the volume has been brought before the Hungarian
public and a detailed review, almost amounting to a commentary, has been
published in Japanese. Full scholarly notes for the help of younger
students have been compiled by my friend Mr. H. Sakurai, to whom I also
owe much for his aid in other ways.

I have been more than gratified to feel that my humble work has found
sympathetic readers in widely separated circles, showing that the
subject matter is of some interest to the world at large. Exceedingly
flattering is the news that has reached me from official sources, that
President Roosevelt has done it undeserved honor by reading it and
distributing several dozens of copies among his friends.

In making emendations and additions for the present edition, I have
largely confined them to concrete examples. I still continue to regret,
as I indeed have never ceased to do, my inability to add a chapter on
Filial Piety, which is considered one of the two wheels of the chariot
of Japanese ethics--Loyalty being the other. My inability is due rather
to my ignorance of the Western sentiment in regard to this particular
virtue, than to ignorance of our own attitude towards it, and I cannot
draw comparisons satisfying to my own mind. I hope one day to enlarge
upon this and other topics at some length. All the subjects that are
touched upon in these pages are capable of further amplification and
discussion; but I do not now see my way clear to make this volume larger
than it is.

This Preface would be incomplete and unjust, if I were to omit the debt
I owe to my wife for her reading of the proof-sheets, for helpful
suggestions, and, above all, for her constant encouragement.


Fifth Month twenty-second, 1905.


Bushido as an Ethical System

Sources of Bushido

Rectitude or Justice

Courage, the Spirit of Daring and Bearing

Benevolence, the Feeling of Distress


Veracity or Truthfulness


The Duty of Loyalty

Education and Training of a Samurai


The Institutions of Suicide and Redress

The Sword, the Soul of the Samurai

The Training and Position of Woman

The Influence of Bushido

Is Bushido Still Alive?

The Future of Bushido


Chivalry is a flower no less indigenous to the soil of Japan than its
emblem, the cherry blossom; nor is it a dried-up specimen of an antique
virtue preserved in the herbarium of our history. It is still a living
object of power and beauty among us; and if it assumes no tangible shape
or form, it not the less scents the moral atmosphere, and makes us aware
that we are still under its potent spell. The conditions of society
which brought it forth and nourished it have long disappeared; but as
those far-off stars which once were and are not, still continue to shed
their rays upon us, so the light of chivalry, which was a child of
feudalism, still illuminates our moral path, surviving its mother
institution. It is a pleasure to me to reflect upon this subject in the
language of Burke, who uttered the well-known touching eulogy over the
neglected bier of its European prototype.

It argues a sad defect of information concerning the Far East, when so
erudite a scholar as Dr. George Miller did not hesitate to affirm that
chivalry, or any other similar institution, has never existed either
among the nations of antiquity or among the modern Orientals.[2] Such
ignorance, however, is amply excusable, as the third edition of the good
Doctor's work appeared the same year that Commodore Perry was knocking
at the portals of our exclusivism. More than a decade later, about the
time that our feudalism was in the last throes of existence, Carl Marx,
writing his "Capital," called the attention of his readers to the
peculiar advantage of studying the social and political institutions of
feudalism, as then to be seen in living form only in Japan. I would
likewise invite the Western historical and ethical student to the study
of chivalry in the Japan of the present.

[Footnote 2: _History Philosophically Illustrated_, (3rd Ed. 1853), Vol.
II, p. 2.]

Enticing as is a historical disquisition on the comparison between
European and Japanese feudalism and chivalry, it is not the purpose of
this paper to enter into it at length. My attempt is rather to relate,
_firstly_, the origin and sources of our chivalry; _secondly_, its
character and teaching; _thirdly_, its influence among the masses; and,
_fourthly_, the continuity and permanence of its influence. Of these
several points, the first will be only brief and cursory, or else I
should have to take my readers into the devious paths of our national
history; the second will be dwelt upon at greater length, as being most
likely to interest students of International Ethics and Comparative
Ethology in our ways of thought and action; and the rest will be dealt
with as corollaries.

The Japanese word which I have roughly rendered Chivalry, is, in the
original, more expressive than Horsemanship. _Bu-shi-do_ means literally
Military-Knight-Ways--the ways which fighting nobles should observe in
their daily life as well as in their vocation; in a word, the "Precepts
of Knighthood," the _noblesse oblige_ of the warrior class. Having thus
given its literal significance, I may be allowed henceforth to use the
word in the original. The use of the original term is also advisable
for this reason, that a teaching so circumscribed and unique,
engendering a cast of mind and character so peculiar, so local, must
wear the badge of its singularity on its face; then, some words have a
national _timbre_ so expressive of race characteristics that the best of
translators can do them but scant justice, not to say positive injustice
and grievance. Who can improve by translation what the German "_Gemüth_"
signifies, or who does not feel the difference between the two words
verbally so closely allied as the English _gentleman_ and the French

Bushido, then, is the code of moral principles which the knights were
required or instructed to observe. It is not a written code; at best it
consists of a few maxims handed down from mouth to mouth or coming from
the pen of some well-known warrior or savant. More frequently it is a
code unuttered and unwritten, possessing all the more the powerful
sanction of veritable deed, and of a law written on the fleshly tablets
of the heart. It was founded not on the creation of one brain, however
able, or on the life of a single personage, however renowned. It was an
organic growth of decades and centuries of military career. It, perhaps,
fills the same position in the history of ethics that the English
Constitution does in political history; yet it has had nothing to
compare with the Magna Charta or the Habeas Corpus Act. True, early in
the seventeenth century Military Statutes (_Buké Hatto_) were
promulgated; but their thirteen short articles were taken up mostly with
marriages, castles, leagues, etc., and didactic regulations were but
meagerly touched upon. We cannot, therefore, point out any definite time
and place and say, "Here is its fountain head." Only as it attains
consciousness in the feudal age, its origin, in respect to time, may be
identified with feudalism. But feudalism itself is woven of many
threads, and Bushido shares its intricate nature. As in England the
political institutions of feudalism may be said to date from the Norman
Conquest, so we may say that in Japan its rise was simultaneous with the
ascendency of Yoritomo, late in the twelfth century. As, however, in
England, we find the social elements of feudalism far back in the period
previous to William the Conqueror, so, too, the germs of feudalism in
Japan had been long existent before the period I have mentioned.

Again, in Japan as in Europe, when feudalism was formally inaugurated,
the professional class of warriors naturally came into prominence. These
were known as _samurai_, meaning literally, like the old English _cniht_
(knecht, knight), guards or attendants--resembling in character the
_soldurii_ whom Caesar mentioned as existing in Aquitania, or the
_comitati_, who, according to Tacitus, followed Germanic chiefs in his
time; or, to take a still later parallel, the _milites medii_ that one
reads about in the history of Mediaeval Europe. A Sinico-Japanese word
_Bu-ké_ or _Bu-shi_ (Fighting Knights) was also adopted in common use.
They were a privileged class, and must originally have been a rough
breed who made fighting their vocation. This class was naturally
recruited, in a long period of constant warfare, from the manliest and
the most adventurous, and all the while the process of elimination went
on, the timid and the feeble being sorted out, and only "a rude race,
all masculine, with brutish strength," to borrow Emerson's phrase,
surviving to form families and the ranks of the _samurai_. Coming to
profess great honor and great privileges, and correspondingly great
responsibilities, they soon felt the need of a common standard of
behavior, especially as they were always on a belligerent footing and
belonged to different clans. Just as physicians limit competition among
themselves by professional courtesy, just as lawyers sit in courts of
honor in cases of violated etiquette, so must also warriors possess some
resort for final judgment on their misdemeanors.

Fair play in fight! What fertile germs of morality lie in this primitive
sense of savagery and childhood. Is it not the root of all military and
civic virtues? We smile (as if we had outgrown it!) at the boyish desire
of the small Britisher, Tom Brown, "to leave behind him the name of a
fellow who never bullied a little boy or turned his back on a big one."
And yet, who does not know that this desire is the corner-stone on which
moral structures of mighty dimensions can be reared? May I not go even
so far as to say that the gentlest and most peace-loving of religions
endorses this aspiration? This desire of Tom's is the basis on which the
greatness of England is largely built, and it will not take us long to
discover that _Bushido_ does not stand on a lesser pedestal. If fighting
in itself, be it offensive or defensive, is, as Quakers rightly testify,
brutal and wrong, we can still say with Lessing, "We know from what
failings our virtue springs."[3] "Sneaks" and "cowards" are epithets of
the worst opprobrium to healthy, simple natures. Childhood begins life
with these notions, and knighthood also; but, as life grows larger and
its relations many-sided, the early faith seeks sanction from higher
authority and more rational sources for its own justification,
satisfaction and development. If military interests had operated alone,
without higher moral support, how far short of chivalry would the ideal
of knighthood have fallen! In Europe, Christianity, interpreted with
concessions convenient to chivalry, infused it nevertheless with
spiritual data. "Religion, war and glory were the three souls of a
perfect Christian knight," says Lamartine. In Japan there were several


of which I may begin with Buddhism. It furnished a sense of calm trust
in Fate, a quiet submission to the inevitable, that stoic composure in
sight of danger or calamity, that disdain of life and friendliness with
death. A foremost teacher of swordsmanship, when he saw his pupil
master the utmost of his art, told him, "Beyond this my instruction must
give way to Zen teaching." "Zen" is the Japanese equivalent for the
Dhyâna, which "represents human effort to reach through meditation zones
of thought beyond the range of verbal expression."[4] Its method is
contemplation, and its purport, as far as I understand it, to be
convinced of a principle that underlies all phenomena, and, if it can,
of the Absolute itself, and thus to put oneself in harmony with this
Absolute. Thus defined, the teaching was more than the dogma of a sect,
and whoever attains to the perception of the Absolute raises himself
above mundane things and awakes, "to a new Heaven and a new Earth."

[Footnote 3: Ruskin was one of the most gentle-hearted and peace loving
men that ever lived. Yet he believed in war with all the fervor of a
worshiper of the strenuous life. "When I tell you," he says in the
_Crown of Wild Olive_, "that war is the foundation of all the arts, I
mean also that it is the foundation of all the high virtues and
faculties of men. It is very strange to me to discover this, and very
dreadful, but I saw it to be quite an undeniable fact. * * * I found in
brief, that all great nations learned their truth of word and strength
of thought in war; that they were nourished in war and wasted by peace,
taught by war and deceived by peace; trained by war and betrayed by
peace; in a word, that they were born in war and expired in peace."]

[Footnote 4: Lafcadio Hearn, _Exotics and Retrospectives_, p. 84.]

What Buddhism failed to give, Shintoism offered in abundance. Such
loyalty to the sovereign, such reverence for ancestral memory, and such
filial piety as are not taught by any other creed, were inculcated by
the Shinto doctrines, imparting passivity to the otherwise arrogant
character of the samurai. Shinto theology has no place for the dogma of
"original sin." On the contrary, it believes in the innate goodness and
God-like purity of the human soul, adoring it as the adytum from which
divine oracles are proclaimed. Everybody has observed that the Shinto
shrines are conspicuously devoid of objects and instruments of worship,
and that a plain mirror hung in the sanctuary forms the essential part
of its furnishing. The presence of this article, is easy to explain: it
typifies the human heart, which, when perfectly placid and clear,
reflects the very image of the Deity. When you stand, therefore, in
front of the shrine to worship, you see your own image reflected on its
shining surface, and the act of worship is tantamount to the old Delphic
injunction, "Know Thyself." But self-knowledge does not imply, either in
the Greek or Japanese teaching, knowledge of the physical part of man,
not his anatomy or his psycho-physics; knowledge was to be of a moral
kind, the introspection of our moral nature. Mommsen, comparing the
Greek and the Roman, says that when the former worshiped he raised his
eyes to heaven, for his prayer was contemplation, while the latter
veiled his head, for his was reflection. Essentially like the Roman
conception of religion, our reflection brought into prominence not so
much the moral as the national consciousness of the individual. Its
nature-worship endeared the country to our inmost souls, while its
ancestor-worship, tracing from lineage to lineage, made the Imperial
family the fountain-head of the whole nation. To us the country is more
than land and soil from which to mine gold or to reap grain--it is the
sacred abode of the gods, the spirits of our forefathers: to us the
Emperor is more than the Arch Constable of a _Rechtsstaat_, or even the
Patron of a _Culturstaat_--he is the bodily representative of Heaven on
earth, blending in his person its power and its mercy. If what M.
Boutmy[5] says is true of English royalty--that it "is not only the
image of authority, but the author and symbol of national unity," as I
believe it to be, doubly and trebly may this be affirmed of royalty in

[Footnote 5: _The English People_, p. 188.]

The tenets of Shintoism cover the two predominating features of the
emotional life of our race--Patriotism and Loyalty. Arthur May Knapp
very truly says: "In Hebrew literature it is often difficult to tell
whether the writer is speaking of God or of the Commonwealth; of heaven
or of Jerusalem; of the Messiah or of the nation itself."[6] A similar
confusion may be noticed in the nomenclature of our national faith.
I said confusion, because it will be so deemed by a logical intellect
on account of its verbal ambiguity; still, being a framework of
national instinct and race feelings, Shintoism never pretends to a
systematic philosophy or a rational theology. This religion--or, is
it not more correct to say, the race emotions which this religion
expressed?--thoroughly imbued Bushido with loyalty to the sovereign and
love of country. These acted more as impulses than as doctrines; for
Shintoism, unlike the Mediaeval Christian Church, prescribed to its
votaries scarcely any _credenda_, furnishing them at the same time with
_agenda_ of a straightforward and simple type.

[Footnote 6: "_Feudal and Modern Japan_" Vol. I, p. 183.]

As to strictly ethical doctrines, the teachings of Confucius were the
most prolific source of Bushido. His enunciation of the five moral
relations between master and servant (the governing and the governed),
father and son, husband and wife, older and younger brother, and between
friend and friend, was but a confirmation of what the race instinct had
recognized before his writings were introduced from China. The calm,
benignant, and worldly-wise character of his politico-ethical precepts
was particularly well suited to the samurai, who formed the ruling
class. His aristocratic and conservative tone was well adapted to the
requirements of these warrior statesmen. Next to Confucius, Mencius
exercised an immense authority over Bushido. His forcible and often
quite democratic theories were exceedingly taking to sympathetic
natures, and they were even thought dangerous to, and subversive of, the
existing social order, hence his works were for a long time under
censure. Still, the words of this master mind found permanent lodgment
in the heart of the samurai.

The writings of Confucius and Mencius formed the principal text-books
for youths and the highest authority in discussion among the old. A mere
acquaintance with the classics of these two sages was held, however, in
no high esteem. A common proverb ridicules one who has only an
intellectual knowledge of Confucius, as a man ever studious but ignorant
of _Analects_. A typical samurai calls a literary savant a book-smelling
sot. Another compares learning to an ill-smelling vegetable that must be
boiled and boiled before it is fit for use. A man who has read a little
smells a little pedantic, and a man who has read much smells yet more
so; both are alike unpleasant. The writer meant thereby that knowledge
becomes really such only when it is assimilated in the mind of the
learner and shows in his character. An intellectual specialist was
considered a machine. Intellect itself was considered subordinate to
ethical emotion. Man and the universe were conceived to be alike
spiritual and ethical. Bushido could not accept the judgment of Huxley,
that the cosmic process was unmoral.

Bushido made light of knowledge as such. It was not pursued as an end in
itself, but as a means to the attainment of wisdom. Hence, he who
stopped short of this end was regarded no higher than a convenient
machine, which could turn out poems and maxims at bidding. Thus,
knowledge was conceived as identical with its practical application in
life; and this Socratic doctrine found its greatest exponent in the
Chinese philosopher, Wan Yang Ming, who never wearies of repeating, "To
know and to act are one and the same."

I beg leave for a moment's digression while I am on this subject,
inasmuch as some of the noblest types of _bushi_ were strongly
influenced by the teachings of this sage. Western readers will easily
recognize in his writings many parallels to the New Testament. Making
allowance for the terms peculiar to either teaching, the passage, "Seek
ye first the kingdom of God and his righteousness; and all these things
shall be added unto you," conveys a thought that may be found on almost
any page of Wan Yang Ming. A Japanese disciple[7] of his says--"The lord
of heaven and earth, of all living beings, dwelling in the heart of man,
becomes his mind (_Kokoro_); hence a mind is a living thing, and is ever
luminous:" and again, "The spiritual light of our essential being is
pure, and is not affected by the will of man. Spontaneously springing up
in our mind, it shows what is right and wrong: it is then called
conscience; it is even the light that proceedeth from the god of
heaven." How very much do these words sound like some passages from
Isaac Pennington or other philosophic mystics! I am inclined to think
that the Japanese mind, as expressed in the simple tenets of the Shinto
religion, was particularly open to the reception of Yang Ming's
precepts. He carried his doctrine of the infallibility of conscience to
extreme transcendentalism, attributing to it the faculty to perceive,
not only the distinction between right and wrong, but also the nature
of psychical facts and physical phenomena. He went as far as, if not
farther than, Berkeley and Fichte, in Idealism, denying the existence of
things outside of human ken. If his system had all the logical errors
charged to Solipsism, it had all the efficacy of strong conviction and
its moral import in developing individuality of character and equanimity
of temper cannot be gainsaid.

[Footnote 7: Miwa Shissai.]

Thus, whatever the sources, the essential principles which _Bushido_
imbibed from them and assimilated to itself, were few and simple. Few
and simple as these were, they were sufficient to furnish a safe conduct
of life even through the unsafest days of the most unsettled period of
our nation's history. The wholesome, unsophisticated nature of our
warrior ancestors derived ample food for their spirit from a sheaf of
commonplace and fragmentary teachings, gleaned as it were on the
highways and byways of ancient thought, and, stimulated by the demands
of the age, formed from these gleanings anew and unique type of manhood.
An acute French _savant_, M. de la Mazelière, thus sums up his
impressions of the sixteenth century:--"Toward the middle of the
sixteenth century, all is confusion in Japan, in the government, in
society, in the church. But the civil wars, the manners returning to
barbarism, the necessity for each to execute justice for himself,--these
formed men comparable to those Italians of the sixteenth century, in
whom Taine praises 'the vigorous initiative, the habit of sudden
resolutions and desperate undertakings, the grand capacity to do and to
suffer.' In Japan as in Italy 'the rude manners of the Middle Ages made
of man a superb animal, wholly militant and wholly resistant.' And this
is why the sixteenth century displays in the highest degree the
principal quality of the Japanese race, that great diversity which one
finds there between minds (_esprits_) as well as between temperaments.
While in India and even in China men seem to differ chiefly in degree of
energy or intelligence, in Japan they differ by originality of character
as well. Now, individuality is the sign of superior races and of
civilizations already developed. If we make use of an expression dear to
Nietzsche, we might say that in Asia, to speak of humanity is to speak
of its plains; in Japan as in Europe, one represents it above all by its

To the pervading characteristics of the men of whom M. de la Mazelière
writes, let us now address ourselves. I shall begin with


the most cogent precept in the code of the samurai. Nothing is more
loathsome to him than underhand dealings and crooked undertakings. The
conception of Rectitude may be erroneous--it may be narrow. A well-known
bushi defines it as a power of resolution;--"Rectitude is the power of
deciding upon a certain course of conduct in accordance with reason,
without wavering;--to die when it is right to die, to strike when to
strike is right." Another speaks of it in the following terms:
"Rectitude is the bone that gives firmness and stature. As without
bones the head cannot rest on the top of the spine, nor hands move nor
feet stand, so without rectitude neither talent nor learning can make of
a human frame a samurai. With it the lack of accomplishments is as
nothing." Mencius calls Benevolence man's mind, and Rectitude or
Righteousness his path. "How lamentable," he exclaims, "is it to neglect
the path and not pursue it, to lose the mind and not know to seek it
again! 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." Have we
not here "as in a glass darkly" a parable propounded three hundred years
later in another clime and by a greater Teacher, who called Himself _the
Way_ of Righteousness, through whom the lost could be found? But I stray
from my point. Righteousness, according to Mencius, is a straight and
narrow path which a man ought to take to regain the lost paradise.

Even in the latter days of feudalism, when the long continuance of peace
brought leisure into the life of the warrior class, and with it
dissipations of all kinds and gentle accomplishments, the epithet
_Gishi_ (a man of rectitude) was considered superior to any name that
signified mastery of learning or art. The Forty-seven Faithfuls--of whom
so much is made in our popular education--are known in common parlance
as the Forty-seven _Gishi_.

In times when cunning artifice was liable to pass for military tact and
downright falsehood for _ruse de guerre_, this manly virtue, frank and
honest, was a jewel that shone the brightest and was most highly
praised. Rectitude is a twin brother to Valor, another martial virtue.
But before proceeding to speak of Valor, let me linger a little while on
what I may term a derivation from Rectitude, which, at first deviating
slightly from its original, became more and more removed from it, until
its meaning was perverted in the popular acceptance. I speak of _Gi-ri_,
literally the Right Reason, but which came in time to mean a vague sense
of duty which public opinion expected an incumbent to fulfil. In its
original and unalloyed sense, it meant duty, pure and simple,--hence,
we speak of the _Giri_ we owe to parents, to superiors, to inferiors, to
society at large, and so forth. In these instances _Giri_ is duty; for
what else is duty than what Right Reason demands and commands us to do.
Should not Right Reason be our categorical imperative?

_Giri_ primarily meant no more than duty, and I dare say its etymology
was derived from the fact that in our conduct, say to our parents,
though love should be the only motive, lacking that, there must be some
other authority to enforce filial piety; and they formulated this
authority in _Giri_. Very rightly did they formulate this
authority--_Giri_--since if love does not rush to deeds of virtue,
recourse must be had to man's intellect and his reason must be quickened
to convince him of the necessity of acting aright. The same is true of
any other moral obligation. The instant Duty becomes onerous. Right
Reason steps in to prevent our shirking it. _Giri_ thus understood is a
severe taskmaster, with a birch-rod in his hand to make sluggards
perform their part. It is a secondary power in ethics; as a motive it
is infinitely inferior to the Christian doctrine of love, which should
be _the_ law. I deem it a product of the conditions of an artificial
society--of a society in which accident of birth and unmerited favour
instituted class distinctions, in which the family was the social unit,
in which seniority of age was of more account than superiority of
talents, in which natural affections had often to succumb before
arbitrary man-made customs. Because of this very artificiality, _Giri_
in time degenerated into a vague sense of propriety called up to explain
this and sanction that,--as, for example, why a mother must, if need be,
sacrifice all her other children in order to save the first-born; or why
a daughter must sell her chastity to get funds to pay for the father's
dissipation, and the like. Starting as Right Reason, _Giri_ has, in my
opinion, often stooped to casuistry. It has even degenerated into
cowardly fear of censure. I might say of _Giri_ what Scott wrote of
patriotism, that "as it is the fairest, so it is often the most
suspicious, mask of other feelings." Carried beyond or below Right
Reason, _Giri_ became a monstrous misnomer. It harbored under its wings
every sort of sophistry and hypocrisy. It might easily--have been turned
into a nest of cowardice, if Bushido had not a keen and correct sense of


to the consideration of which we shall now return. Courage was scarcely
deemed worthy to be counted among virtues, unless it was exercised in
the cause of Righteousness. In his "Analects" Confucius defines Courage
by explaining, as is often his wont, what its negative is. "Perceiving
what is right," he says, "and doing it not, argues lack of courage." Put
this epigram into a positive statement, and it runs, "Courage is doing
what is right." To run all kinds of hazards, to jeopardize one's self,
to rush into the jaws of death--these are too often identified with
Valor, and in the profession of arms such rashness of conduct--what
Shakespeare calls, "valor misbegot"--is unjustly applauded; but not so
in the Precepts of Knighthood. Death for a cause unworthy of dying for,
was called a "dog's death." "To rush into the thick of battle and to be
slain in it," says a Prince of Mito, "is easy enough, and the merest
churl is equal to the task; but," he continues, "it is true courage to
live when it is right to live, and to die only when it is right to die,"
and yet the Prince had not even heard of the name of Plato, who defines
courage as "the knowledge of things that a man should fear and that he
should not fear." A distinction which is made in the West between moral
and physical courage has long been recognized among us. What samurai
youth has not heard of "Great Valor" and the "Valor of a Villein?"

Valor, Fortitude, Bravery, Fearlessness, Courage, being the qualities of
soul which appeal most easily to juvenile minds, and which can be
trained by exercise and example, were, so to speak, the most popular
virtues, early emulated among the youth. Stories of military exploits
were repeated almost before boys left their mother's breast. Does a
little booby cry for any ache? The mother scolds him in this fashion:
"What a coward to cry for a trifling pain! What will you do when your
arm is cut off in battle? What when you are called upon to commit
_harakiri_?" We all know the pathetic fortitude of a famished little
boy-prince of Sendai, who in the drama is made to say to his little
page, "Seest thou those tiny sparrows in the nest, how their yellow
bills are opened wide, and now see! there comes their mother with worms
to feed them. How eagerly and happily the little ones eat! but for a
samurai, when his stomach is empty, it is a disgrace to feel hunger."
Anecdotes of fortitude and bravery abound in nursery tales, though
stories of this kind are not by any means the only method of early
imbuing the spirit with daring and fearlessness. Parents, with sternness
sometimes verging on cruelty, set their children to tasks that called
forth all the pluck that was in them. "Bears hurl their cubs down the
gorge," they said. Samurai's sons were let down the steep valleys of
hardship, and spurred to Sisyphus-like tasks. Occasional deprivation of
food or exposure to cold, was considered a highly efficacious test for
inuring them to endurance. Children of tender age were sent among utter
strangers with some message to deliver, were made to rise before the
sun, and before breakfast attend to their reading exercises, walking to
their teacher with bare feet in the cold of winter; they
frequently--once or twice a month, as on the festival of a god of
learning,--came together in small groups and passed the night without
sleep, in reading aloud by turns. Pilgrimages to all sorts of uncanny
places--to execution grounds, to graveyards, to houses reputed to be
haunted, were favorite pastimes of the young. In the days when
decapitation was public, not only were small boys sent to witness the
ghastly scene, but they were made to visit alone the place in the
darkness of night and there to leave a mark of their visit on the
trunkless head.

Does this ultra-Spartan system of "drilling the nerves" strike the
modern pedagogist with horror and doubt--doubt whether the tendency
would not be brutalizing, nipping in the bud the tender emotions of the
heart? Let us see what other concepts Bushido had of Valor.

The spiritual aspect of valor is evidenced by composure--calm presence
of mind. Tranquillity is courage in repose. It is a statical
manifestation of valor, as daring deeds are a dynamical. 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, for from being pressed or
crowded, has always room for something more.

It passes current among us as a piece of authentic history, that as Ōta
Dokan, the great builder of the castle of Tokyo, was pierced through
with a spear, his assassin, knowing the poetical predilection of his
victim, accompanied his thrust with this couplet--

    "Ah! how in moments like these
     Our heart doth grudge the light of life;"

whereupon the expiring hero, not one whit daunted by the mortal wound in
his side, added the lines--

    "Had not in hours of peace,
     It learned to lightly look on life."

There is even a sportive element in a courageous nature. Things which
are serious to ordinary people, may be but play to the valiant. Hence in
old warfare it was not at all rare for the parties to a conflict to
exchange repartee or to begin a rhetorical contest. Combat was not
solely a matter of brute force; it was, as, well, an intellectual

Of such character was the battle fought on the bank of the Koromo River,
late in the eleventh century. The eastern army routed, its leader,
Sadato, took to flight. When the pursuing general pressed him hard and
called aloud--"It is a disgrace for a warrior to show his back to the
enemy," Sadato reined his horse; upon this the conquering chief shouted
an impromptu verse--

    "Torn into shreds is the warp of the cloth" (_koromo_).

Scarcely had the words escaped his lips when the defeated warrior,
undismayed, completed the couplet--

    "Since age has worn its threads by use."

Yoshiie, whose bow had all the while been bent, suddenly unstrung it and
turned away, leaving his prospective victim to do as he pleased. When
asked the reason of his strange behavior, he replied that he could not
bear to put to shame one who had kept his presence of mind while hotly
pursued by his enemy.

The sorrow which overtook Antony and Octavius at the death of Brutus,
has been the general experience of brave men. Kenshin, who fought for
fourteen years with Shingen, when he heard of the latter's death, wept
aloud at the loss of "the best of enemies." It was this same Kenshin who
had set a noble example for all time, in his treatment of Shingen,
whose provinces lay in a mountainous region quite away from the sea, and
who had consequently depended upon the Hōjō provinces of the Tokaido for
salt. The Hōjō prince wishing to weaken him, although not openly at war
with him, had cut off from Shingen all traffic in this important
article. Kenshin, hearing of his enemy's dilemma and able to obtain his
salt from the coast of his own dominions, wrote Shingen that in his
opinion the Hōjō lord had committed a very mean act, and that although
he (Kenshin) was at war with him (Shingen) he had ordered his subjects
to furnish him with plenty of salt--adding, "I do not fight with salt,
but with the sword," affording more than a parallel to the words of
Camillus, "We Romans do not fight with gold, but with iron." Nietzsche
spoke for the samurai heart when he wrote, "You are to be proud of your
enemy; then, the success of your enemy is your success also." Indeed
valor and honor alike required that we should own as enemies in war only
such as prove worthy of being friends in peace. When valor attains this
height, it becomes akin to


love, magnanimity, affection for others, sympathy and pity, which were
ever recognized to be supreme virtues, the highest of all the attributes
of the human soul. Benevolence was deemed a princely virtue in a twofold
sense;--princely among the manifold attributes of a noble spirit;
princely as particularly befitting a princely profession. We needed no
Shakespeare to feel--though, perhaps, like the rest of the world, we
needed him to express it--that mercy became a monarch better than his
crown, that it was above his sceptered sway. How often both Confucius
and Mencius repeat the highest requirement of a ruler of men to consist
in benevolence. Confucius would say, "Let but a prince cultivate virtue,
people will flock to him; with people will come to him lands; lands will
bring forth for him wealth; wealth will give him the benefit of right
uses. Virtue is the root, and wealth an outcome." Again, "Never has
there been a case of a sovereign loving benevolence, and the people not
loving righteousness," Mencius follows close at his heels and says,
"Instances are on record where individuals attained to supreme power
in a single state, without benevolence, but never have I heard of a
whole empire falling into the hands of one who lacked this virtue."
Also,--"It is impossible that any one should become ruler of the
people to whom they have not yielded the subjection of their hearts."
Both defined this indispensable requirement in a ruler by saying,
"Benevolence--Benevolence is Man." Under the régime of feudalism, which
could easily be perverted into militarism, it was to Benevolence that we
owed our deliverance from despotism of the worst kind. An utter
surrender of "life and limb" on the part of the governed would have left
nothing for the governing but self-will, and this has for its natural
consequence the growth of that absolutism so often called "oriental
despotism,"--as though there were no despots of occidental history!

Let it be far from me to uphold despotism of any sort; but it is a
mistake to identify feudalism with it. When Frederick the Great wrote
that "Kings are the first servants of the State," jurists thought
rightly that a new era was reached in the development of freedom.
Strangely coinciding in time, in the backwoods of North-western Japan,
Yozan of Yonézawa made exactly the same declaration, showing that
feudalism was not all tyranny and oppression. A feudal prince, although
unmindful of owing reciprocal obligations to his vassals, felt a higher
sense of responsibility to his ancestors and to Heaven. He was a father
to his subjects, whom Heaven entrusted to his care. In a sense not
usually assigned to the term, Bushido accepted and corroborated paternal
government--paternal also as opposed to the less interested avuncular
government (Uncle Sam's, to wit!). The difference between a despotic and
a paternal government lies in this, that in the one the people obey
reluctantly, while in the other they do so with "that proud submission,
that dignified obedience, that subordination of heart which kept alive,
even in servitude itself, the spirit of exalted freedom."[8] The old
saying is not entirely false which called the king of England the "king
of devils, because of his subjects' often insurrections against, and
depositions of, their princes," and which made the French monarch the
"king of asses, because of their infinite taxes and Impositions," but
which gave the title of "the king of men" to the sovereign of Spain
"because of his subjects' willing obedience." But enough!--

[Footnote 8: Burke, _French Revolution_.]

Virtue and absolute power may strike the Anglo-Saxon mind as terms which
it is impossible to harmonize. Pobyedonostseff has clearly set before us
the contrast in the foundations of English and other European
communities; namely that these were organized on the basis of common
interest, while that was distinguished by a strongly developed
independent personality. What this Russian statesman says of the
personal dependence of individuals on some social alliance and in the
end of ends of the State, among the continental nations of Europe and
particularly among Slavonic peoples, is doubly true of the Japanese.
Hence not only is a free exercise of monarchical power not felt as
heavily by us as in Europe, but it is generally moderated by parental
consideration for the feelings of the people. "Absolutism," says
Bismarck, "primarily demands in the ruler impartiality, honesty,
devotion to duty, energy and inward humility." If I may be allowed to
make one more quotation on this subject, I will cite from the speech of
the German Emperor at Coblenz, in which he spoke of "Kingship, by the
grace of God, with its heavy duties, its tremendous responsibility to
the Creator alone, from which no man, no minister, no parliament, can
release the monarch."

We knew Benevolence was a tender virtue and mother-like. If upright
Rectitude and stern Justice were peculiarly masculine, Mercy had the
gentleness and the persuasiveness of a feminine nature. We were warned
against indulging in indiscriminate charity, without seasoning it with
justice and rectitude. Masamuné expressed it well in his oft-quoted
aphorism--"Rectitude carried to excess hardens into stiffness;
Benevolence indulged beyond measure sinks into weakness."

Fortunately Mercy was not so rare as it was beautiful, for it is
universally true that "The bravest are the tenderest, the loving are the
daring." "_Bushi no nasaké_"--the tenderness of a warrior--had a sound
which appealed at once to whatever was noble in us; not that the mercy
of a samurai was generically different from the mercy of any other
being, but because it implied mercy where mercy was not a blind impulse,
but where it recognized due regard to justice, and where mercy did not
remain merely a certain state of mind, but where it was backed with
power to save or kill. As economists speak of demand as being effectual
or ineffectual, similarly we may call the mercy of bushi effectual,
since it implied the power of acting for the good or detriment of the

Priding themselves as they did in their brute strength and privileges to
turn it into account, the samurai gave full consent to what Mencius
taught concerning the power of Love. "Benevolence," he says, "brings
under its sway whatever hinders its power, just as water subdues fire:
they only doubt the power of water to quench flames who try to
extinguish with a cupful a whole burning wagon-load of fagots." He also
says that "the feeling of distress is the root of benevolence, therefore
a benevolent man is ever mindful of those who are suffering and in
distress." Thus did Mencius long anticipate Adam Smith who founds his
ethical philosophy on Sympathy.

It is indeed striking how closely the code of knightly honor of one
country coincides with that of others; in other words, how the much
abused oriental ideas of morals find their counterparts in the noblest
maxims of European literature. If the well-known lines,

    Hae tibi erunt artes--pacisque imponere morem,
    Parcere subjectis, et debellare superbos,

were shown a Japanese gentleman, he might readily accuse the Mantuan
bard of plagiarizing from the literature of his own country. Benevolence
to the weak, the downtrodden or the vanquished, was ever extolled as
peculiarly becoming to a samurai. Lovers of Japanese art must be
familiar with the representation of a priest riding backwards on a cow.
The rider was once a warrior who in his day made his name a by-word of
terror. In that terrible battle of Sumano-ura, (1184 A.D.), which was
one of the most decisive in our history, he overtook an enemy and in
single combat had him in the clutch of his gigantic arms. Now the
etiquette of war required that on such occasions no blood should be
spilt, unless the weaker party proved to be a man of rank or ability
equal to that of the stronger. The grim combatant would have the name of
the man under him; but he refusing to make it known, his helmet was
ruthlessly torn off, when the sight of a juvenile face, fair and
beardless, made the astonished knight relax his hold. Helping the youth
to his feet, in paternal tones he bade the stripling go: "Off, young
prince, to thy mother's side! The sword of Kumagaye shall never be
tarnished by a drop of thy blood. Haste and flee o'er yon pass before
thy enemies come in sight!" The young warrior refused to go and begged
Kumagaye, for the honor of both, to despatch him on the spot. Above the
hoary head of the veteran gleams the cold blade, which many a time
before has sundered the chords of life, but his stout heart quails;
there flashes athwart his mental eye the vision of his own boy, who this
self-same day marched to the sound of bugle to try his maiden arms; the
strong hand of the warrior quivers; again he begs his victim to flee for
his life. Finding all his entreaties vain and hearing the approaching
steps of his comrades, he exclaims: "If thou art overtaken, thou mayest
fall at a more ignoble hand than mine. O, thou Infinite! receive his
soul!" In an instant the sword flashes in the air, and when it falls it
is red with adolescent blood. When the war is ended, we find our soldier
returning in triumph, but little cares he now for honor or fame; he
renounces his warlike career, shaves his head, dons a priestly garb,
devotes the rest of his days to holy pilgrimage, never turning his back
to the West, where lies the Paradise whence salvation comes and whither
the sun hastes daily for his rest.

Critics may point out flaws in this story, which is casuistically
vulnerable. Let it be: all the same it shows that Tenderness, Pity and
Love, were traits which adorned the most sanguinary exploits of the
samurai. It was an old maxim among them that "It becometh not the fowler
to slay the bird which takes refuge in his bosom." This in a large
measure explains why the Red Cross movement, considered peculiarly
Christian, so readily found a firm footing among us. For decades before
we heard of the Geneva Convention, Bakin, our greatest novelist, had
familiarized us with the medical treatment of a fallen foe. In the
principality of Satsuma, noted for its martial spirit and education, the
custom prevailed for young men to practice music; not the blast of
trumpets or the beat of drums,--"those clamorous harbingers of blood and
death"--stirring us to imitate the actions of a tiger, but sad and
tender melodies on the _biwa_,[9] soothing our fiery spirits, drawing
our thoughts away from scent of blood and scenes of carnage. Polybius
tells us of the Constitution of Arcadia, which required all youths
under thirty to practice music, in order that this gentle art might
alleviate the rigors of that inclement region. It is to its influence
that he attributes the absence of cruelty in that part of the Arcadian

[Footnote 9: A musical instrument, resembling the guitar.]

Nor was Satsuma the only place in Japan where gentleness was inculcated
among the warrior class. A Prince of Shirakawa jots down his random
thoughts, and among them is the following: "Though they come stealing to
your bedside in the silent watches of the night, drive not away, but
rather cherish these--the fragrance of flowers, the sound of distant
bells, the insect humming of a frosty night." And again, "Though they
may wound your feelings, these three you have only to forgive, the
breeze that scatters your flowers, the cloud that hides your moon, and
the man who tries to pick quarrels with you."

It was ostensibly to express, but actually to cultivate, these gentler
emotions that the writing of verses was encouraged. Our poetry has
therefore a strong undercurrent of pathos and tenderness. A well-known
anecdote of a rustic samurai illustrates a case in point. When he was
told to learn versification, and "The Warbler's Notes"[10] was given him
for the subject of his first attempt, his fiery spirit rebelled and he
_flung_ at the feet of his master this uncouth production, which ran

[Footnote 10: The uguisu or warbler, sometimes called the nightingale of

    "The brave warrior keeps apart
     The ear that might listen
     To the warbler's song."

His master, undaunted by the crude sentiment, continued to encourage the
youth, until one day the music of his soul was awakened to respond to
the sweet notes of the _uguisu_, and he wrote

    "Stands the warrior, mailed and strong,
     To hear the uguisu's song,
     Warbled sweet the trees among."

We admire and enjoy the heroic incident in Körner's short life, when, as
he lay wounded on the battle-field, he scribbled his famous "Farewell to
Life." Incidents of a similar kind were not at all unusual in our
warfare. Our pithy, epigrammatic poems were particularly well suited to
the improvisation of a single sentiment. Everybody of any education was
either a poet or a poetaster. Not infrequently a marching soldier might
be seen to halt, take his writing utensils from his belt, and compose an
ode,--and such papers were found afterward in the helmets or the
breast-plates, when these were removed from their lifeless wearers.

What Christianity has done in Europe toward rousing compassion in the
midst of belligerent horrors, love of music and letters has done in
Japan. The cultivation of tender feelings breeds considerate regard for
the sufferings of others. Modesty and complaisance, actuated by respect
for others' feelings, are at the root of


that courtesy and urbanity of manners which has been noticed by every
foreign tourist as a marked Japanese trait. Politeness is a poor virtue,
if it is actuated only by a fear of offending good taste, whereas it
should be the outward manifestation of a sympathetic regard for the
feelings of others. It also implies a due regard for the fitness of
things, therefore due respect to social positions; for these latter
express no plutocratic distinctions, but were originally distinctions
for actual merit.

In its highest form, politeness almost approaches love. We may
reverently say, politeness "suffereth long, and is kind; envieth not,
vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up; doth not behave itself unseemly,
seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, taketh not account of
evil." Is it any wonder that Professor Dean, in speaking of the six
elements of Humanity, accords to Politeness an exalted position,
inasmuch as it is the ripest fruit of social intercourse?

While thus extolling Politeness, far be it from me to put it in the
front rank of virtues. If we analyze it, we shall find it correlated
with other virtues of a higher order; for what virtue stands alone?
While--or rather because--it was exalted as peculiar to the profession
of arms, and as such esteemed in a degree higher than its deserts, there
came into existence its counterfeits. Confucius himself has repeatedly
taught that external appurtenances are as little a part of propriety as
sounds are of music.

When propriety was elevated to the _sine qua non_ of social intercourse,
it was only to be expected that an elaborate system of etiquette should
come into vogue to train youth in correct social behavior. How one must
bow in accosting others, how he must walk and sit, were taught and
learned with utmost care. Table manners grew to be a science. Tea
serving and drinking were raised to a ceremony. A man of education is,
of course, expected to be master of all these. Very fitly does Mr.
Veblen, in his interesting book,[11] call decorum "a product and an
exponent of the leisure-class life."

[Footnote 11: _Theory of the Leisure Class_, N.Y. 1899, p. 46.]

I have heard slighting remarks made by Europeans upon our elaborate
discipline of politeness. It has been criticized as absorbing too much
of our thought and in so far a folly to observe strict obedience to it.
I admit that there may be unnecessary niceties in ceremonious etiquette,
but whether it partakes as much of folly as the adherence to
ever-changing fashions of the West, is a question not very clear to my
mind. Even fashions I do not consider solely as freaks of vanity; on the
contrary, I look upon these as a ceaseless search of the human mind for
the beautiful. Much less do I consider elaborate ceremony as altogether
trivial; for it denotes the result of long observation as to the most
appropriate method of achieving a certain result. If there is anything
to do, there is certainly a best way to do it, and the best way is both
the most economical and the most graceful. Mr. Spencer defines grace as
the most economical manner of motion. The tea ceremony presents certain
definite ways of manipulating a bowl, a spoon, a napkin, etc. To a
novice it looks tedious. But one soon discovers that the way prescribed
is, after all, the most saving of time and labor; in other words, the
most economical use of force,--hence, according to Spencer's dictum, the
most graceful.

The spiritual significance of social decorum,--or, I might say, to
borrow from the vocabulary of the "Philosophy of Clothes," the
spiritual discipline of which etiquette and ceremony are mere outward
garments,--is out of all proportion to what their appearance warrants us
in believing. I might follow the example of Mr. Spencer and trace in our
ceremonial institutions their origins and the moral motives that gave
rise to them; but that is not what I shall endeavor to do in this book.
It is the moral training involved in strict observance of propriety,
that I wish to emphasize.

I have said that etiquette was elaborated into the finest niceties, so
much so that different schools advocating different systems, came into
existence. But they all united in the ultimate essential, and this was
put by a great exponent of the best known school of etiquette, the
Ogasawara, in the following terms: "The end of all etiquette is to so
cultivate your mind that even when you are quietly seated, not the
roughest ruffian can dare make onset on your person." It means, in other
words, that by constant exercise in correct manners, one brings all the
parts and faculties of his body into perfect order and into such
harmony with itself and its environment as to express the mastery of
spirit over the flesh. What a new and deep significance the French word
_biensèance_[12] comes thus to contain!

[Footnote 12: Etymologically _well-seatedness_.]

If the premise is true that gracefulness means economy of force, then it
follows as a logical sequence that a constant practice of graceful
deportment must bring with it a reserve and storage of force. Fine
manners, therefore, mean power in repose. When the barbarian Gauls,
during the sack of Rome, burst into the assembled Senate and dared pull
the beards of the venerable Fathers, we think the old gentlemen were to
blame, inasmuch as they lacked dignity and strength of manners. Is lofty
spiritual attainment really possible through etiquette? Why not?--All
roads lead to Rome!

As an example of how the simplest thing can be made into an art and then
become spiritual culture, I may take _Cha-no-yu_, the tea ceremony.
Tea-sipping as a fine art! Why should it not be? In the children drawing
pictures on the sand, or in the savage carving on a rock, was the
promise of a Raphael or a Michael Angelo. How much more is the drinking
of a beverage, which began with the transcendental contemplation of a
Hindoo anchorite, entitled to develop into a handmaid of Religion and
Morality? That calmness of mind, that serenity of temper, that composure
and quietness of demeanor, which are the first essentials of _Cha-no-yu_
are without doubt the first conditions of right thinking and right
feeling. The scrupulous cleanliness of the little room, shut off from
sight and sound of the madding crowd, is in itself conducive to direct
one's thoughts from the world. The bare interior does not engross one's
attention like the innumerable pictures and bric-a-brac of a Western
parlor; the presence of _kakemono_[13] calls our attention more to grace
of design than to beauty of color. The utmost refinement of taste is the
object aimed at; whereas anything like display is banished with
religious horror. The very fact that it was invented by a contemplative
recluse, in a time when wars and the rumors of wars were incessant, is
well calculated to show that this institution was more than a pastime.
Before entering the quiet precincts of the tea-room, the company
assembling to partake of the ceremony laid aside, together with their
swords, the ferocity of the battle-field or the cares of government,
there to find peace and friendship.

[Footnote 13: Hanging scrolls, which may be either paintings or
ideograms, used for decorative purposes.]

_Cha-no-yu_ is more than a ceremony--it is a fine art; it is poetry,
with articulate gestures for rhythm: it is a _modus operandi_ of soul
discipline. Its greatest value lies in this last phase. Not infrequently
the other phases preponderated in the mind of its votaries, but that
does not prove that its essence was not of a spiritual nature.

Politeness will be a great acquisition, if it does no more than impart
grace to manners; but its function does not stop here. For propriety,
springing as it does from motives of benevolence and modesty, and
actuated by tender feelings toward the sensibilities of others, is ever
a graceful expression of sympathy. Its requirement is that we should
weep with those that weep and rejoice with those that rejoice. Such
didactic requirement, when reduced into small every-day details of life,
expresses itself in little acts scarcely noticeable, or, if noticed, is,
as one missionary lady of twenty years' residence once said to me,
"awfully funny." You are out in the hot glaring sun with no shade over
you; a Japanese acquaintance passes by; you accost him, and instantly
his hat is off--well, that is perfectly natural, but the "awfully funny"
performance is, that all the while he talks with you his parasol is down
and he stands in the glaring sun also. How foolish!--Yes, exactly so,
provided the motive were less than this: "You are in the sun; I
sympathize with you; I would willingly take you under my parasol if it
were large enough, or if we were familiarly acquainted; as I cannot
shade you, I will share your discomforts." Little acts of this kind,
equally or more amusing, are not mere gestures or conventionalities.
They are the "bodying forth" of thoughtful feelings for the comfort of

Another "awfully funny" custom is dictated by our canons of Politeness;
but many superficial writers on Japan, have dismissed it by simply
attributing it to the general topsy-turvyness of the nation. Every
foreigner who has observed it will confess the awkwardness he felt in
making proper reply upon the occasion. In America, when you make a gift,
you sing its praises to the recipient; in Japan we depreciate or slander
it. The underlying idea with you is, "This is a nice gift: if it were
not nice I would not dare give it to you; for it will be an insult to
give you anything but what is nice." In contrast to this, our logic
runs: "You are a nice person, and no gift is nice enough for you. You
will not accept anything I can lay at your feet except as a token of my
good will; so accept this, not for its intrinsic value, but as a token.
It will be an insult to your worth to call the best gift good enough for
you." Place the two ideas side by side; and we see that the ultimate
idea is one and the same. Neither is "awfully funny." The American
speaks of the material which makes the gift; the Japanese speaks of the
spirit which prompts the gift.

It is perverse reasoning to conclude, because our sense of propriety
shows itself in all the smallest ramifications of our deportment, to
take the least important of them and uphold it as the type, and pass
judgment upon the principle itself. Which is more important, to eat or
to observe rules of propriety about eating? A Chinese sage answers, "If
you take a case where the eating is all-important, and the observing the
rules of propriety is of little importance, and compare them together,
why merely say that the eating is of the more importance?" "Metal is
heavier than feathers," but does that saying have reference to a single
clasp of metal and a wagon-load of feathers? Take a piece of wood a foot
thick and raise it above the pinnacle of a temple, none would call it
taller than the temple. To the question, "Which is the more important,
to tell the truth or to be polite?" the Japanese are said to give an
answer diametrically opposite to what the American will say,--but I
forbear any comment until I come to speak of


without which Politeness is a farce and a show. "Propriety carried
beyond right bounds," says Masamuné, "becomes a lie." An ancient poet
has outdone Polonius in the advice he gives: "To thyself be faithful: if
in thy heart thou strayest not from truth, without prayer of thine the
Gods will keep thee whole." The apotheosis of Sincerity to which Tsu-tsu
gives expression in the _Doctrine of the Mean_, attributes to it
transcendental powers, almost identifying them with the Divine.
"Sincerity is the end and the beginning of all things; without Sincerity
there would be nothing." He then dwells with eloquence on its
far-reaching and long enduring nature, its power to produce changes
without movement and by its mere presence to accomplish its purpose
without effort. From the Chinese ideogram for Sincerity, which is a
combination of "Word" and "Perfect," one is tempted to draw a parallel
between it and the Neo-Platonic doctrine of _Logos_--to such height
does the sage soar in his unwonted mystic flight.

Lying or equivocation were deemed equally cowardly. The bushi held that
his high social position demanded a loftier standard of veracity than
that of the tradesman and peasant. _Bushi no ichi-gon_--the word of a
samurai or in exact German equivalent _ein Ritterwort_--was sufficient
guaranty of the truthfulness of an assertion. His word carried such
weight with it that promises were generally made and fulfilled without a
written pledge, which would have been deemed quite beneath his dignity.
Many thrilling anecdotes were told of those who atoned by death for
_ni-gon_, a double tongue.

The regard for veracity was so high that, unlike the generality of
Christians who persistently violate the plain commands of the Teacher
not to swear, the best of samurai looked upon an oath as derogatory to
their honor. I am well aware that they did swear by different deities or
upon their swords; but never has swearing degenerated into wanton form
and irreverent interjection. To emphasize our words a practice of
literally sealing with blood was sometimes resorted to. For the
explanation of such a practice, I need only refer my readers to Goethe's

A recent American writer is responsible for this statement, that if you
ask an ordinary Japanese which is better, to tell a falsehood or be
impolite, he will not hesitate to answer "to tell a falsehood!" Dr.
Peery[14] is partly right and partly wrong; right in that an ordinary
Japanese, even a samurai, may answer in the way ascribed to him, but
wrong in attributing too much weight to the term he translates
"falsehood." This word (in Japanese _uso_) is employed to denote
anything which is not a truth (_makoto_) or fact (_honto_). Lowell tells
us that Wordsworth could not distinguish between truth and fact, and an
ordinary Japanese is in this respect as good as Wordsworth. Ask a
Japanese, or even an American of any refinement, to tell you whether he
dislikes you or whether he is sick at his stomach, and he will not
hesitate long to tell falsehoods and answer, "I like you much," or, "I
am quite well, thank you." To sacrifice truth merely for the sake of
politeness was regarded as an "empty form" (_kyo-rei_) and "deception by
sweet words," and was never justified.

[Footnote 14: Peery, _The Gist of Japan_, p. 86.]

I own I am speaking now of the Bushido idea of veracity; but it may not
be amiss to devote a few words to our commercial integrity, of which I
have heard much complaint in foreign books and journals. A loose
business morality has indeed been the worst blot on our national
reputation; but before abusing it or hastily condemning the whole race
for it, let us calmly study it and we shall be rewarded with consolation
for the future.

Of all the great occupations of life, none was farther removed from the
profession of arms than commerce. The merchant was placed lowest in the
category of vocations,--the knight, the tiller of the soil, the
mechanic, the merchant. The samurai derived his income from land and
could even indulge, if he had a mind to, in amateur farming; but the
counter and abacus were abhorred. We knew the wisdom of this social
arrangement. Montesquieu has made it clear that the debarring of the
nobility from mercantile pursuits was an admirable social policy, in
that it prevented wealth from accumulating in the hands of the powerful.
The separation of power and riches kept the distribution of the latter
more nearly equable. Professor Dill, the author of "Roman Society in the
Last Century of the Western Empire," has brought afresh to our mind that
one cause of the decadence of the Roman Empire, was the permission given
to the nobility to engage in trade, and the consequent monopoly of
wealth and power by a minority of the senatorial families.

Commerce, therefore, in feudal Japan did not reach that degree of
development which it would have attained under freer conditions. The
obloquy attached to the calling naturally brought within its pale such
as cared little for social repute. "Call one a thief and he will steal:"
put a stigma on a calling and its followers adjust their morals to it,
for it is natural that "the normal conscience," as Hugh Black says,
"rises to the demands made on it, and easily falls to the limit of the
standard expected from it." It is unnecessary to add that no business,
commercial or otherwise, can be transacted without a code of morals. Our
merchants of the feudal period had one among themselves, without which
they could never have developed, as they did, such fundamental
mercantile institutions as the guild, the bank, the bourse, insurance,
checks, bills of exchange, etc.; but in their relations with people
outside their vocation, the tradesmen lived too true to the reputation
of their order.

This being the case, when the country was opened to foreign trade, only
the most adventurous and unscrupulous rushed to the ports, while the
respectable business houses declined for some time the repeated requests
of the authorities to establish branch houses. Was Bushido powerless to
stay the current of commercial dishonor? Let us see.

Those who are well acquainted with our history will remember that only a
few years after our treaty ports were opened to foreign trade,
feudalism was abolished, and when with it the samurai's fiefs were taken
and bonds issued to them in compensation, they were given liberty to
invest them in mercantile transactions. Now you may ask, "Why could they
not bring their much boasted veracity into their new business relations
and so reform the old abuses?" Those who had eyes to see could not weep
enough, those who had hearts to feel could not sympathize enough, with
the fate of many a noble and honest samurai who signally and irrevocably
failed in his new and unfamiliar field of trade and industry, through
sheer lack of shrewdness in coping with his artful plebeian rival. When
we know that eighty per cent. of the business houses fail in so
industrial a country as America, is it any wonder that scarcely one
among a hundred samurai who went into trade could succeed in his new
vocation? It will be long before it will be recognized how many fortunes
were wrecked in the attempt to apply Bushido ethics to business methods;
but it was soon patent to every observing mind that the ways of wealth
were not the ways of honor. In what respects, then, were they different?

Of the three incentives to Veracity that Lecky enumerates, viz: the
industrial, the political, and the philosophical, the first was
altogether lacking in Bushido. As to the second, it could develop little
in a political community under a feudal system. It is in its
philosophical, and as Lecky says, in its highest aspect, that Honesty
attained elevated rank in our catalogue of virtues. With all my sincere
regard for the high commercial integrity of the Anglo-Saxon race, when I
ask for the ultimate ground, I am told that "Honesty is the best
policy," that it _pays_ to be honest. Is not this virtue, then, its own
reward? If it is followed because it brings in more cash than falsehood,
I am afraid Bushido would rather indulge in lies!

If Bushido rejects a doctrine of _quid pro quo_ rewards, the shrewder
tradesman will readily accept it. Lecky has very truly remarked that
Veracity owes its growth largely to commerce and manufacture; as
Nietzsche puts it, "Honesty is the youngest of virtues"--in other
words, it is the foster-child of industry, of modern industry. Without
this mother, Veracity was like a blue-blood orphan whom only the most
cultivated mind could adopt and nourish. Such minds were general among
the samurai, but, for want of a more democratic and utilitarian
foster-mother, the tender child failed to thrive. Industries advancing,
Veracity will prove an easy, nay, a profitable, virtue to practice. Just
think, as late as November 1880, Bismarck sent a circular to the
professional consuls of the German Empire, warning them of "a lamentable
lack of reliability with regard to German shipments _inter alia_,
apparent both as to quality and quantity;" now-a-days we hear
comparatively little of German carelessness and dishonesty in trade. In
twenty years her merchants learned that in the end honesty pays. Already
our merchants are finding that out. For the rest I recommend the reader
to two recent writers for well-weighed judgment on this point.[15] It is
interesting to remark in this connection that integrity and honor were
the surest guaranties which even a merchant debtor could present in the
form of promissory notes. It was quite a usual thing to insert such
clauses as these: "In default of the repayment of the sum lent to me, I
shall say nothing against being ridiculed in public;" or, "In case I
fail to pay you back, you may call me a fool," and the like.

[Footnote 15: Knapp, _Feudal and Modern Japan_, Vol. I, Ch. IV. Ransome,
_Japan in Transition_, Ch. VIII.]

Often have I wondered whether the Veracity of Bushido had any motive
higher than courage. In the absence of any positive commandment against
bearing false witness, lying was not condemned as sin, but simply
denounced as weakness, and, as such, highly dishonorable. As a matter of
fact, the idea of honesty is so intimately blended, and its Latin and
its German etymology so identified with


that it is high time I should pause a few moments for the consideration
of this feature of the Precepts of Knighthood.

The sense of honor, implying a vivid consciousness of personal dignity
and worth, could not fail to characterize the samurai, born and bred to
value the duties and privileges of their profession. Though the word
ordinarily given now-a-days as the translation of Honor was not used
freely, yet the idea was conveyed by such terms as _na_ (name)
_men-moku_ (countenance), _guai-bun_ (outside hearing), reminding us
respectively of the biblical use of "name," of the evolution of the term
"personality" from the Greek mask, and of "fame." A good name--one's
reputation, the immortal part of one's self, what remains being
bestial--assumed as a matter of course, any infringement upon its
integrity was felt as shame, and the sense of shame (_Ren-chi-shin_) was
one of the earliest to be cherished in juvenile education. "You will be
laughed at," "It will disgrace you," "Are you not ashamed?" were the
last appeal to correct behavior on the part of a youthful delinquent.
Such a recourse to his honor touched the most sensitive spot in the
child's heart, as though it had been nursed on honor while it was in its
mother's womb; for most truly is honor a prenatal influence, being
closely bound up with strong family consciousness. "In losing the
solidarity of families," says Balzac, "society has lost the fundamental
force which Montesquieu named Honor." Indeed, the sense of shame seems
to me to be the earliest indication of the moral consciousness of our
race. The first and worst punishment which befell humanity in
consequence of tasting "the fruit of that forbidden tree" was, to my
mind, not the sorrow of childbirth, nor the thorns and thistles, but the
awakening of the sense of shame. Few incidents in history excel in
pathos the scene of the first mother plying with heaving breast and
tremulous fingers, her crude needle on the few fig leaves which her
dejected husband plucked for her. This first fruit of disobedience
clings to us with a tenacity that nothing else does. All the sartorial
ingenuity of mankind has not yet succeeded in sewing an apron that will
efficaciously hide our sense of shame. That samurai was right who
refused to compromise his character by a slight humiliation in his
youth; "because," he said, "dishonor is like a scar on a tree, which
time, instead of effacing, only helps to enlarge."

Mencius had taught centuries before, in almost the identical phrase,
what Carlyle has latterly expressed,--namely, that "Shame is the soil of
all Virtue, of good manners and good morals."

The fear of disgrace was so great that if our literature lacks such
eloquence as Shakespeare puts into the mouth of Norfolk, it nevertheless
hung like Damocles' sword over the head of every samurai and often
assumed a morbid character. In the name of Honor, deeds were perpetrated
which can find no justification in the code of Bushido. At the
slightest, nay, imaginary insult, the quick-tempered braggart took
offense, resorted to the use of the sword, and many an unnecessary
strife was raised and many an innocent life lost. The story of a
well-meaning citizen who called the attention of a bushi to a flea
jumping on his back, and who was forthwith cut in two, for the simple
and questionable reason that inasmuch as fleas are parasites which feed
on animals, it was an unpardonable insult to identify a noble warrior
with a beast--I say, stories like these are too frivolous to believe.
Yet, the circulation of such stories implies three things; (1) that they
were invented to overawe common people; (2) that abuses were really made
of the samurai's profession of honor; and (3) that a very strong sense
of shame was developed among them. It is plainly unfair to take an
abnormal case to cast blame upon the Precepts, any more than to judge of
the true teaching of Christ from the fruits of religious fanaticism and
extravagance--inquisitions and hypocrisy. But, as in religious monomania
there is something touchingly noble, as compared with the delirium
tremens of a drunkard, so in that extreme sensitiveness of the samurai
about their honor do we not recognize the substratum of a genuine

The morbid excess into which the delicate code of honor was inclined to
run was strongly counterbalanced by preaching magnanimity and patience.
To take offense at slight provocation was ridiculed as "short-tempered."
The popular adage said: "To bear what you think you cannot bear is
really to bear." The great Iyéyasu left to posterity a few maxims,
among which are the following:--"The life of man is like going a long
distance with a heavy load upon the shoulders. Haste not. * * * *
Reproach none, but be forever watchful of thine own short-comings. * * *
Forbearance is the basis of length of days." He proved in his life what
he preached. A literary wit put a characteristic epigram into the mouths
of three well-known personages in our history: to Nobunaga he
attributed, "I will kill her, if the nightingale sings not in time;" to
Hidéyoshi, "I will force her to sing for me;" and to Iyéyasu, "I will
wait till she opens her lips."

Patience and long suffering were also highly commended by Mencius. In
one place he writes to this effect: "Though you denude yourself and
insult me, what is that to me? You cannot defile my soul by your
outrage." Elsewhere he teaches that anger at a petty offense is unworthy
a superior man, but indignation for a great cause is righteous wrath.

To what height of unmartial and unresisting meekness Bushido could
reach in some of its votaries, may be seen in their utterances. Take,
for instance, this saying of Ogawa: "When others speak all manner of
evil things against thee, return not evil for evil, but rather reflect
that thou wast not more faithful in the discharge of thy duties." Take
another of Kumazawa:--"When others blame thee, blame them not; when
others are angry at thee, return not anger. Joy cometh only as Passion
and Desire part." Still another instance I may cite from Saigo, upon
whose overhanging brows "shame is ashamed to sit;"--"The Way is the way
of Heaven and Earth: Man's place is to follow it: therefore make it the
object of thy life to reverence Heaven. Heaven loves me and others with
equal love; therefore with the love wherewith thou lovest thyself, love
others. Make not Man thy partner but Heaven, and making Heaven thy
partner do thy best. Never condemn others; but see to it that thou
comest not short of thine own mark." Some of those sayings remind us of
Christian expostulations and show us how far in practical morality
natural religion can approach the revealed. Not only did these sayings
remain as utterances, but they were really embodied in acts.

It must be admitted that very few attained this sublime height of
magnanimity, patience and forgiveness. It was a great pity that nothing
clear and general was expressed as to what constitutes Honor, only a few
enlightened minds being aware that it "from no condition rises," but
that it lies in each acting well his part: for nothing was easier than
for youths to forget in the heat of action what they had learned in
Mencius in their calmer moments. Said this sage, "'Tis in every man's
mind to love honor: but little doth he dream that what is truly
honorable lies within himself and not anywhere else. The honor which men
confer is not good honor. Those whom Châo the Great ennobles, he can
make mean again."

For the most part, an insult was quickly resented and repaid by death,
as we shall see later, while Honor--too often nothing higher than vain
glory or worldly approbation--was prized as the _summum bonum_ of
earthly existence. Fame, and not wealth or knowledge, was the goal
toward which youths had to strive. Many a lad swore within himself as he
crossed the threshold of his paternal home, that he would not recross it
until he had made a name in the world: and many an ambitious mother
refused to see her sons again unless they could "return home," as the
expression is, "caparisoned in brocade." To shun shame or win a name,
samurai boys would submit to any privations and undergo severest ordeals
of bodily or mental suffering. They knew that honor won in youth grows
with age. In the memorable siege of Osaka, a young son of Iyéyasu, in
spite of his earnest entreaties to be put in the vanguard, was placed at
the rear of the army. When the castle fell, he was so chagrined and wept
so bitterly that an old councillor tried to console him with all the
resources at his command. "Take comfort, Sire," said he, "at thought of
the long future before you. In the many years that you may live, there
will come divers occasions to distinguish yourself." The boy fixed his
indignant gaze upon the man and said--"How foolishly you talk! Can ever
my fourteenth year come round again?"

Life itself was thought cheap if honor and fame could be attained
therewith: hence, whenever a cause presented itself which was considered
dearer than life, with utmost serenity and celerity was life laid down.

Of the causes in comparison with which no life was too dear to
sacrifice, was


which was the key-stone making feudal virtues a symmetrical arch. Other
virtues feudal morality shares in common with other systems of ethics,
with other classes of people, but this virtue--homage and fealty to a
superior--is its distinctive feature. I am aware that personal fidelity
is a moral adhesion existing among all sorts and conditions of men,--a
gang of pickpockets owe allegiance to a Fagin; but it is only in the
code of chivalrous honor that Loyalty assumes paramount importance.

In spite of Hegel's criticism that the fidelity of feudal vassals,
being an obligation to an individual and not to a Commonwealth, is a
bond established on totally unjust principles,[16] a great compatriot of
his made it his boast that personal loyalty was a German virtue.
Bismarck had good reason to do so, not because the _Treue_ he boasts of
was the monopoly of his Fatherland or of any single nation or race, but
because this favored fruit of chivalry lingers latest among the people
where feudalism has lasted longest. In America where "everybody is as
good as anybody else," and, as the Irishman added, "better too," such
exalted ideas of loyalty as we feel for our sovereign may be deemed
"excellent within certain bounds," but preposterous as encouraged among
us. Montesquieu complained long ago that right on one side of the
Pyrenees was wrong on the other, and the recent Dreyfus trial proved the
truth of his remark, save that the Pyrenees were not the sole boundary
beyond which French justice finds no accord. Similarly, Loyalty as we
conceive it may find few admirers elsewhere, not because our conception
is wrong, but because it is, I am afraid, forgotten, and also because we
carry it to a degree not reached in any other country. Griffis[17] was
quite right in stating that whereas in China Confucian ethics made
obedience to parents the primary human duty, in Japan precedence was
given to Loyalty. At the risk of shocking some of my good readers, I
will relate of one "who could endure to follow a fall'n lord" and who
thus, as Shakespeare assures, "earned a place i' the story."

[Footnote 16: _Philosophy of History_ (Eng. trans. by Sibree), Pt. IV,
Sec. II, Ch. I.]

[Footnote 17: _Religions of Japan_.]

The story is of one of the purest characters in our history, Michizané,
who, falling a victim to jealousy and calumny, is exiled from the
capital. Not content with this, his unrelenting enemies are now bent
upon the extinction of his family. Strict search for his son--not yet
grown--reveals the fact of his being secreted in a village school kept
by one Genzo, a former vassal of Michizané. When orders are dispatched
to the schoolmaster to deliver the head of the juvenile offender on a
certain day, his first idea is to find a suitable substitute for it. He
ponders over his school-list, scrutinizes with careful eyes all the
boys, as they stroll into the class-room, but none among the children
born of the soil bears the least resemblance to his protégé. His
despair, however, is but for a moment; for, behold, a new scholar is
announced--a comely boy of the same age as his master's son, escorted by
a mother of noble mien. No less conscious of the resemblance between
infant lord and infant retainer, were the mother and the boy himself. In
the privacy of home both had laid themselves upon the altar; the one his
life,--the other her heart, yet without sign to the outer world.
Unwitting of what had passed between them, it is the teacher from whom
comes the suggestion.

Here, then, is the scape-goat!--The rest of the narrative may be briefly
told.--On the day appointed, arrives the officer commissioned to
identify and receive the head of the youth. Will he be deceived by the
false head? The poor Genzo's hand is on the hilt of the sword, ready to
strike a blow either at the man or at himself, should the examination
defeat his scheme. The officer takes up the gruesome object before him,
goes calmly over each feature, and in a deliberate, business-like tone,
pronounces it genuine.--That evening in a lonely home awaits the mother
we saw in the school. Does she know the fate of her child? It is not for
his return that she watches with eagerness for the opening of the
wicket. Her father-in-law has been for a long time a recipient of
Michizané's bounties, but since his banishment circumstances have forced
her husband to follow the service of the enemy of his family's
benefactor. He himself could not be untrue to his own cruel master; but
his son could serve the cause of the grandsire's lord. As one acquainted
with the exile's family, it was he who had been entrusted with the task
of identifying the boy's head. Now the day's--yea, the life's--hard work
is done, he returns home and as he crosses its threshold, he accosts his
wife, saying: "Rejoice, my wife, our darling son has proved of service
to his lord!"

"What an atrocious story!" I hear my readers exclaim,--"Parents
deliberately sacrificing their own innocent child to save the life of
another man's." But this child was a conscious and willing victim: it is
a story of vicarious death--as significant as, and not more revolting
than, the story of Abraham's intended sacrifice of Isaac. In both cases
it was obedience to the call of duty, utter submission to the command of
a higher voice, whether given by a visible or an invisible angel, or
heard by an outward or an inward ear;--but I abstain from preaching.

The individualism of the West, which recognizes separate interests for
father and son, husband and wife, necessarily brings into strong relief
the duties owed by one to the other; but Bushido held that the interest
of the family and of the members thereof is intact,--one and
inseparable. This interest it bound up with affection--natural,
instinctive, irresistible; hence, if we die for one we love with natural
love (which animals themselves possess), what is that? "For if ye love
them that love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the

In his great history, Sanyo relates in touching language the heart
struggle of Shigemori concerning his father's rebellious conduct. "If I
be loyal, my father must be undone; if I obey my father, my duty to my
sovereign must go amiss." Poor Shigemori! We see him afterward praying
with all his soul that kind Heaven may visit him with death, that he may
be released from this world where it is hard for purity and
righteousness to dwell.

Many a Shigemori has his heart torn by the conflict between duty and
affection. Indeed neither Shakespeare nor the Old Testament itself
contains an adequate rendering of _ko_, our conception of filial piety,
and yet in such conflicts Bushido never wavered in its choice of
Loyalty. Women, too, encouraged their offspring to sacrifice all for the
king. Ever as resolute as Widow Windham and her illustrious consort, the
samurai matron stood ready to give up her boys for the cause of Loyalty.

Since Bushido, like Aristotle and some modern sociologists, conceived
the state as antedating the individual--the latter being born into the
former as part and parcel thereof--he must live and die for it or for
the incumbent of its legitimate authority. Readers of Crito will
remember the argument with which Socrates represents the laws of the
city as pleading with him on the subject of his escape. Among others he
makes them (the laws, or the state) say:--"Since you were begotten and
nurtured and educated under us, dare you once to say you are not our
offspring and servant, you and your fathers before you!" These are words
which do not impress us as any thing extraordinary; for the same thing
has long been on the lips of Bushido, with this modification, that the
laws and the state were represented with us by a personal being. Loyalty
is an ethical outcome of this political theory.

I am not entirely ignorant of Mr. Spencer's view according to which
political obedience--Loyalty--is accredited with only a transitional
function.[18] It may be so. Sufficient unto the day is the virtue
thereof. We may complacently repeat it, especially as we believe _that_
day to be a long space of time, during which, so our national anthem
says, "tiny pebbles grow into mighty rocks draped with moss." We may
remember at this juncture that even among so democratic a people as the
English, "the sentiment of personal fidelity to a man and his posterity
which their Germanic ancestors felt for their chiefs, has," as Monsieur
Boutmy recently said, "only passed more or less into their profound
loyalty to the race and blood of their princes, as evidenced in their
extraordinary attachment to the dynasty."

[Footnote 18: _Principles of Ethics_, Vol. I, Pt. II, Ch. X.]

Political subordination, Mr. Spencer predicts, will give place to
loyalty to the dictates of conscience. Suppose his induction is
realized--will loyalty and its concomitant instinct of reverence
disappear forever? We transfer our allegiance from one master to
another, without being unfaithful to either; from being subjects of a
ruler that wields the temporal sceptre we become servants of the monarch
who sits enthroned in the penetralia of our heart. A few years ago a
very stupid controversy, started by the misguided disciples of Spencer,
made havoc among the reading class of Japan. In their zeal to uphold the
claim of the throne to undivided loyalty, they charged Christians with
treasonable propensities in that they avow fidelity to their Lord and
Master. They arrayed forth sophistical arguments without the wit of
Sophists, and scholastic tortuosities minus the niceties of the
Schoolmen. Little did they know that we can, in a sense, "serve two
masters without holding to the one or despising the other," "rendering
unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's and unto God the things that
are God's." Did not Socrates, all the while he unflinchingly refused to
concede one iota of loyalty to his _daemon_, obey with equal fidelity
and equanimity the command of his earthly master, the State? His
conscience he followed, alive; his country he served, dying. Alack the
day when a state grows so powerful as to demand of its citizens the
dictates of their conscience!

Bushido did not require us to make our conscience the slave of any lord
or king. Thomas Mowbray was a veritable spokesman for us when he said:

    "Myself I throw, dread sovereign, at thy foot.
     My life thou shalt command, but not my shame.
     The one my duty owes; but my fair name,
     Despite of death, that lives upon my grave,
     To dark dishonor's use, thou shalt not have."

A man who sacrificed his own conscience to the capricious will or freak
or fancy of a sovereign was accorded a low place in the estimate of the
Precepts. Such an one was despised as _nei-shin_, a cringeling, who
makes court by unscrupulous fawning or as _chô-shin_, a favorite who
steals his master's affections by means of servile compliance; these two
species of subjects corresponding exactly to those which Iago
describes,--the one, a duteous and knee-crooking knave, doting on his
own obsequious bondage, wearing out his time much like his master's ass;
the other trimm'd in forms and visages of duty, keeping yet his heart
attending on himself. When a subject differed from his master, the loyal
path for him to pursue was to use every available means to persuade him
of his error, as Kent did to King Lear. Failing in this, let the master
deal with him as he wills. In cases of this kind, it was quite a usual
course for the samurai to make the last appeal to the intelligence and
conscience of his lord by demonstrating the sincerity of his words with
the shedding of his own blood.

Life being regarded as the means whereby to serve his master, and its
ideal being set upon honor, the whole


were conducted accordingly.

The first point to observe in knightly pedagogics was to build up
character, leaving in the shade the subtler faculties of prudence,
intelligence and dialectics. We have seen the important part aesthetic
accomplishments played in his education. Indispensable as they were to a
man of culture, they were accessories rather than essentials of samurai
training. Intellectual superiority was, of course, esteemed; but the
word _Chi_, which was employed to denote intellectuality, meant wisdom
in the first instance and placed knowledge only in a very subordinate
place. The tripod that supported the framework of Bushido was said to be
_Chi_, _Jin_, _Yu_, respectively Wisdom, Benevolence, and Courage. A
samurai was essentially a man of action. Science was without the pale of
his activity. He took advantage of it in so far as it concerned his
profession of arms. Religion and theology were relegated to the priests;
he concerned himself with them in so far as they helped to nourish
courage. Like an English poet the samurai believed "'tis not the creed
that saves the man; but it is the man that justifies the creed."
Philosophy and literature formed the chief part of his intellectual
training; but even in the pursuit of these, it was not objective truth
that he strove after,--literature was pursued mainly as a pastime, and
philosophy as a practical aid in the formation of character, if not for
the exposition of some military or political problem.

From what has been said, it will not be surprising to note that the
curriculum of studies, according to the pedagogics of Bushido, consisted
mainly of the following,--fencing, archery, _jiujutsu_ or _yawara_,
horsemanship, the use of the spear, tactics, caligraphy, ethics,
literature and history. Of these, _jiujutsu_ and caligraphy may require
a few words of explanation. Great stress was laid on good writing,
probably because our logograms, partaking as they do of the nature of
pictures, possess artistic value, and also because chirography was
accepted as indicative of one's personal character. _Jiujutsu_ may be
briefly defined as an application of anatomical knowledge to the purpose
of offense or defense. It differs from wrestling, in that it does not
depend upon muscular strength. It differs from other forms of attack in
that it uses no weapon. Its feat consists in clutching or striking such
part of the enemy's body as will make him numb and incapable of
resistance. Its object is not to kill, but to incapacitate one for
action for the time being.

A subject of study which one would expect to find in military education
and which is rather conspicuous by its absence in the Bushido course of
instruction, is mathematics. This, however, can be readily explained in
part by the fact that feudal warfare was not carried on with scientific
precision. Not only that, but the whole training of the samurai was
unfavorable to fostering numerical notions.

Chivalry is uneconomical; it boasts of penury. It says with Ventidius
that "ambition, the soldier's virtue, rather makes choice of loss, than
gain which darkens him." Don Quixote takes more pride in his rusty spear
and skin-and-bone horse than in gold and lands, and a samurai is in
hearty sympathy with his exaggerated confrère of La Mancha. He disdains
money itself,--the art of making or hoarding it. It is to him veritably
filthy lucre. The hackneyed expression to describe the decadence of an
age is "that the civilians loved money and the soldiers feared death."
Niggardliness of gold and of life excites as much disapprobation as
their lavish use is panegyrized. "Less than all things," says a current
precept, "men must grudge money: it is by riches that wisdom is
hindered." Hence children were brought up with utter disregard of
economy. It was considered bad taste to speak of it, and ignorance of
the value of different coins was a token of good breeding. Knowledge of
numbers was indispensable in the mustering of forces as well, as in the
distribution of benefices and fiefs; but the counting of money was left
to meaner hands. In many feudatories, public finance was administered by
a lower kind of samurai or by priests. Every thinking bushi knew well
enough that money formed the sinews of war; but he did not think of
raising the appreciation of money to a virtue. It is true that thrift
was enjoined by Bushido, but not for economical reasons so much as for
the exercise of abstinence. Luxury was thought the greatest menace to
manhood, and severest simplicity was required of the warrior class,
sumptuary laws being enforced in many of the clans.

We read that in ancient Rome the farmers of revenue and other financial
agents were gradually raised to the rank of knights, the State thereby
showing its appreciation of their service and of the importance of money
itself. How closely this was connected with the luxury and avarice of
the Romans may be imagined. Not so with the Precepts of Knighthood.
These persisted in systematically regarding finance as something
low--low as compared with moral and intellectual vocations.

Money and the love of it being thus diligently ignored, Bushido itself
could long remain free from a thousand and one evils of which money is
the root. This is sufficient reason for the fact that our public men
have long been free from corruption; but, alas, how fast plutocracy is
making its way in our time and generation!

The mental discipline which would now-a-days be chiefly aided by the
study of mathematics, was supplied by literary exegesis and
deontological discussions. Very few abstract subjects troubled the mind
of the young, the chief aim of their education being, as I have said,
decision of character. People whose minds were simply stored with
information found no great admirers. Of the three services of studies
that Bacon gives,--for delight, ornament, and ability,--Bushido had
decided preference for the last, where their use was "in judgment and
the disposition of business." Whether it was for the disposition of
public business or for the exercise of self-control, it was with a
practical end in view that education was conducted. "Learning without
thought," said Confucius, "is labor lost: thought without learning is

When character and not intelligence, when the soul and not the head, is
chosen by a teacher for the material to work upon and to develop, his
vocation partakes of a sacred character. "It is the parent who has borne
me: it is the teacher who makes me man." With this idea, therefore, the
esteem in which one's preceptor was held was very high. A man to evoke
such confidence and respect from the young, must necessarily be endowed
with superior personality without lacking erudition. He was a father to
the fatherless, and an adviser to the erring. "Thy father and thy
mother"--so runs our maxim--"are like heaven and earth; thy teacher and
thy lord are like the sun and moon."

The present system of paying for every sort of service was not in vogue
among the adherents of Bushido. It believed in a service which can be
rendered only without money and without price. Spiritual service, be it
of priest or teacher, was not to be repaid in gold or silver, not
because it was valueless but because it was invaluable. Here the
non-arithmetical honor-instinct of Bushido taught a truer lesson than
modern Political Economy; for wages and salaries can be paid only for
services whose results are definite, tangible, and measurable, whereas
the best service done in education,--namely, in soul development (and
this includes the services of a pastor), is not definite, tangible or
measurable. Being immeasurable, money, the ostensible measure of value,
is of inadequate use. Usage sanctioned that pupils brought to their
teachers money or goods at different seasons of the year; but these were
not payments but offerings, which indeed were welcome to the recipients
as they were usually men of stern calibre, boasting of honorable penury,
too dignified to work with their hands and too proud to beg. They were
grave personifications of high spirits undaunted by adversity. They were
an embodiment of what was considered as an end of all learning, and were
thus a living example of that discipline of disciplines,


which was universally required of samurai.

The discipline of fortitude on the one hand, inculcating endurance
without a groan, and the teaching of politeness on the other, requiring
us not to mar the pleasure or serenity of another by manifestations of
our own sorrow or pain, combined to engender a stoical turn of mind, and
eventually to confirm it into a national trait of apparent stoicism. I
say apparent stoicism, because I do not believe that true stoicism can
ever become the characteristic of a whole nation, and also because some
of our national manners and customs may seem to a foreign observer
hard-hearted. Yet we are really as susceptible to tender emotion as any
race under the sky.

I am inclined to think that in one sense we have to feel more than
others--yes, doubly more--since the very attempt to, restrain natural
promptings entails suffering. Imagine boys--and girls too--brought up
not to resort to the shedding of a tear or the uttering of a groan for
the relief of their feelings,--and there is a physiological problem
whether such effort steels their nerves or makes them more sensitive.

It was considered unmanly for a samurai to betray his emotions on his
face. "He shows no sign of joy or anger," was a phrase used in
describing a strong character. The most natural affections were kept
under control. A father could embrace his son only at the expense of his
dignity; a husband would not kiss his wife,--no, not in the presence of
other people, whatever he might do in private! There may be some truth
in the remark of a witty youth when he said, "American husbands kiss
their wives in public and beat them in private; Japanese husbands beat
theirs in public and kiss them in private."

Calmness of behavior, composure of mind, should not be disturbed by
passion of any kind. I remember when, during the late war with China, a
regiment left a certain town, a large concourse of people flocked to the
station to bid farewell to the general and his army. On this occasion
an American resident resorted to the place, expecting to witness loud
demonstrations, as the nation itself was highly excited and there were
fathers, mothers, and sweethearts of the soldiers in the crowd. The
American was strangely disappointed; for as the whistle blew and the
train began to move, the hats of thousands of people were silently taken
off and their heads bowed in reverential farewell; no waving of
handkerchiefs, no word uttered, but deep silence in which only an
attentive ear could catch a few broken sobs. In domestic life, too, I
know of a father who spent whole nights listening to the breathing of a
sick child, standing behind the door that he might not be caught in such
an act of parental weakness! I know of a mother who, in her last
moments, refrained from sending for her son, that he might not be
disturbed in his studies. Our history and everyday life are replete with
examples of heroic matrons who can well bear comparison with some of the
most touching pages of Plutarch. Among our peasantry an Ian Maclaren
would be sure to find many a Marget Howe.

It is the same discipline of self-restraint which is accountable for the
absence of more frequent revivals in the Christian churches of Japan.
When a man or woman feels his or her soul stirred, the first instinct is
to quietly suppress any indication of it. In rare instances is the
tongue set free by an irresistible spirit, when we have eloquence of
sincerity and fervor. It is putting a premium upon a breach of the third
commandment to encourage speaking lightly of spiritual experience. It is
truly jarring to Japanese ears to hear the most sacred words, the most
secret heart experiences, thrown out in promiscuous audiences. "Dost
thou feel the soil of thy soul stirred with tender thoughts? It is time
for seeds to sprout. Disturb it not with speech; but let it work alone
in quietness and secrecy,"--writes a young samurai in his diary.

To give in so many articulate words one's inmost thoughts and
feelings--notably the religious--is taken among us as an unmistakable
sign that they are neither very profound nor very sincere. "Only a
pomegranate is he"--so runs a popular saying--"who, when he gapes his
mouth, displays the contents of his heart."

It is not altogether perverseness of oriental minds that the instant our
emotions are moved we try to guard our lips in order to hide them.
Speech is very often with us, as the Frenchman defined it, "the art of
concealing thought."

Call upon a Japanese friend in time of deepest affliction and he will
invariably receive you laughing, with red eyes or moist cheeks. At first
you may think him hysterical. Press him for explanation and you will get
a few broken commonplaces--"Human life has sorrow;" "They who meet must
part;" "He that is born must die;" "It is foolish to count the years of
a child that is gone, but a woman's heart will indulge in follies;" and
the like. So the noble words of a noble Hohenzollern--"Lerne zu leiden
ohne Klagen"--had found many responsive minds among us, long before they
were uttered.

Indeed, the Japanese have recourse to risibility whenever the frailties
of human nature are put to severest test. I think we possess a better
reason than Democritus himself for our Abderian tendency; for laughter
with us oftenest veils an effort to regain balance of temper, when
disturbed by any untoward circumstance. It is a counterpoise of sorrow
or rage.

The suppression of feelings being thus steadily insisted upon, they find
their safety-valve in poetical aphorism. A poet of the tenth century
writes, "In Japan and China as well, humanity, when moved by sorrow,
tells its bitter grief in verse." A mother who tries to console her
broken heart by fancying her departed child absent on his wonted chase
after the dragon-fly, hums,

    "How far to-day in chase, I wonder,
     Has gone my hunter of the dragon-fly!"

I refrain from quoting other examples, for I know I could do only scant
justice to the pearly gems of our literature, were I to render into a
foreign tongue the thoughts which were wrung drop by drop from bleeding
hearts and threaded into beads of rarest value. I hope I have in a
measure shown that inner working of our minds which often presents an
appearance of callousness or of an hysterical mixture of laughter and
dejection, and whose sanity is sometimes called in question.

It has also been suggested that our endurance of pain and indifference
to death are due to less sensitive nerves. This is plausible as far as
it goes. The next question is,--Why are our nerves less tightly strung?
It may be our climate is not so stimulating as the American. It may be
our monarchical form of government does not excite us as much as the
Republic does the Frenchman. It may be that we do not read _Sartor
Resartus_ as zealously as the Englishman. Personally, I believe it was
our very excitability and sensitiveness which made it a necessity to
recognize and enforce constant self-repression; but whatever may be the
explanation, without taking into account long years of discipline in
self-control, none can be correct.

Discipline in self-control can easily go too far. It can well repress
the genial current of the soul. It can force pliant natures into
distortions and monstrosities. It can beget bigotry, breed hypocrisy or
hebetate affections. Be a virtue never so noble, it has its counterpart
and counterfeit. We must recognize in each virtue its own positive
excellence and follow its positive ideal, and the ideal of
self-restraint is to keep our mind _level_--as our expression is--or, to
borrow a Greek term, attain the state of _euthymia_, which Democritus
called the highest good.

The acme of self-control is reached and best illustrated in the first of
the two institutions which we shall now bring to view; namely,


of which (the former known as _hara-kiri_ and the latter as
_kataki-uchi_ )many foreign writers have treated more or less fully.

To begin with suicide, let me state that I confine my observations only
to _seppuku_ or _kappuku_, popularly known as _hara-kiri_--which means
self-immolation by disembowelment. "Ripping the abdomen? How
absurd!"--so cry those to whom the name is new. Absurdly odd as it may
sound at first to foreign ears, it can not be so very foreign to
students of Shakespeare, who puts these words in Brutus' mouth--"Thy
(Caesar's) spirit walks abroad and turns our swords into our proper
entrails." Listen to a modern English poet, who in his _Light of Asia_,
speaks of a sword piercing the bowels of a queen:--none blames him for
bad English or breach of modesty. Or, to take still another example,
look at Guercino's painting of Cato's death, in the Palazzo Rossa in
Genoa. Whoever has read the swan-song which Addison makes Cato sing,
will not jeer at the sword half-buried in his abdomen. In our minds this
mode of death is associated with instances of noblest deeds and of most
touching pathos, so that nothing repugnant, much less ludicrous, mars
our conception of it. So wonderful is the transforming power of virtue,
of greatness, of tenderness, that the vilest form of death assumes a
sublimity and becomes a symbol of new life, or else--the sign which
Constantine beheld would not conquer the world!

Not for extraneous associations only does _seppuku_ lose in our mind any
taint of absurdity; for the choice of this particular part of the body
to operate upon, was based on an old anatomical belief as to the seat of
the soul and of the affections. When Moses wrote of Joseph's "bowels
yearning upon his brother," or David prayed the Lord not to forget his
bowels, or when Isaiah, Jeremiah and other inspired men of old spoke of
the "sounding" or the "troubling" of bowels, they all and each endorsed
the belief prevalent among the Japanese that in the abdomen was
enshrined the soul. The Semites habitually spoke of the liver and
kidneys and surrounding fat as the seat of emotion and of life. The term
_hara_ was more comprehensive than the Greek _phren_ or _thumos_ and
the Japanese and Hellenese alike thought the spirit of man to dwell
somewhere in that region. Such a notion is by no means confined to the
peoples of antiquity. The French, in spite of the theory propounded by
one of their most distinguished philosophers, Descartes, that the soul
is located in the pineal gland, still insist in using the term _ventre_
in a sense, which, if anatomically too vague, is nevertheless
physiologically significant. Similarly _entrailles_ stands in their
language for affection and compassion. Nor is such belief mere
superstition, being more scientific than the general idea of making the
heart the centre of the feelings. Without asking a friar, the Japanese
knew better than Romeo "in what vile part of this anatomy one's name did
lodge." Modern neurologists speak of the abdominal and pelvic brains,
denoting thereby sympathetic nerve-centres in those parts which are
strongly affected by any psychical action. This view of mental
physiology once admitted, the syllogism of _seppuku_ is easy to
construct. "I will open the seat of my soul and show you how it fares
with it. See for yourself whether it is polluted or clean."

I do not wish to be understood as asserting religious or even moral
justification of suicide, but the high estimate placed upon honor was
ample excuse with many for taking one's own life. How many acquiesced in
the sentiment expressed by Garth,

    "When honor's lost, 'tis a relief to die;
     Death's but a sure retreat from infamy,"

and have smilingly surrendered their souls to oblivion! Death when honor
was involved, was accepted in Bushido as a key to the solution of many
complex problems, so that to an ambitious samurai a natural departure
from life seemed a rather tame affair and a consummation not devoutly to
be wished for. I dare say that many good Christians, if only they are
honest enough, will confess the fascination of, if not positive
admiration for, the sublime composure with which Cato, Brutus, Petronius
and a host of other ancient worthies, terminated their own earthly
existence. Is it too bold to hint that the death of the first of the
philosophers was partly suicidal? When we are told so minutely by his
pupils how their master willingly submitted to the mandate of the
state--which he knew was morally mistaken--in spite of the possibilities
of escape, and how he took up the cup of hemlock in his own hand, even
offering libation from its deadly contents, do we not discern in his
whole proceeding and demeanor, an act of self-immolation? No physical
compulsion here, as in ordinary cases of execution. True the verdict of
the judges was compulsory: it said, "Thou shalt die,--and that by thy
own hand." If suicide meant no more than dying by one's own hand,
Socrates was a clear case of suicide. But nobody would charge him with
the crime; Plato, who was averse to it, would not call his master a

Now my readers will understand that _seppuku_ was not a mere suicidal
process. It was an institution, legal and ceremonial. An invention of
the middle ages, it was a process by which warriors could expiate their
crimes, apologize for errors, escape from disgrace, redeem their
friends, or prove their sincerity. When enforced as a legal punishment,
it was practiced with due ceremony. It was a refinement of
self-destruction, and none could perform it without the utmost coolness
of temper and composure of demeanor, and for these reasons it was
particularly befitting the profession of bushi.

Antiquarian curiosity, if nothing else, would tempt me to give here a
description of this obsolete ceremonial; but seeing that such a
description was made by a far abler writer, whose book is not much read
now-a-days, I am tempted to make a somewhat lengthy quotation. Mitford,
in his "Tales of Old Japan," after giving a translation of a treatise on
_seppuku_ from a rare Japanese manuscript, goes on to describe an
instance of such an execution of which he was an eye-witness:--

"We (seven foreign representatives) were invited to follow the Japanese
witness into the _hondo_ or main hall of the temple, where the ceremony
was to be performed. It was an imposing scene. A large hall with a high
roof supported by dark pillars of wood. From the ceiling hung a
profusion of those huge gilt lamps and ornaments peculiar to Buddhist
temples. In front of the high altar, where the floor, covered with
beautiful white mats, is raised some three or four inches from the
ground, was laid a rug of scarlet felt. Tall candles placed at regular
intervals gave out a dim mysterious light, just sufficient to let all
the proceedings be seen. The seven Japanese took their places on the
left of the raised floor, the seven foreigners on the right. No other
person was present.

"After the interval of a few minutes of anxious suspense, Taki
Zenzaburo, a stalwart man thirty-two years of age, with a noble air,
walked into the hall attired in his dress of ceremony, with the peculiar
hempen-cloth wings which are worn on great occasions. He was accompanied
by a _kaishaku_ and three officers, who wore the _jimbaori_ or war
surcoat with gold tissue facings. The word _kaishaku_ it should be
observed, is one to which our word executioner is no equivalent term.
The office is that of a gentleman: in many cases it is performed by a
kinsman or friend of the condemned, and the relation between them is
rather that of principal and second than that of victim and executioner.
In this instance the _kaishaku_ was a pupil of Taki Zenzaburo, and was
selected by friends of the latter from among their own number for his
skill in swordsmanship.

"With the _kaishaku_ on his left hand, Taki Zenzaburo advanced slowly
towards the Japanese witnesses, and the two bowed before them, then
drawing near to the foreigners they saluted us in the same way, perhaps
even with more deference; in each case the salutation was ceremoniously
returned. Slowly and with great dignity the condemned man mounted on to
the raised floor, prostrated himself before the high altar twice, and
seated[19] himself on the felt carpet with his back to the high altar,
the _kaishaku_ crouching on his left hand side. One of the three
attendant officers then came forward, bearing a stand of the kind used
in the temple for offerings, on which, wrapped in paper, lay the
_wakizashi_, the short sword or dirk of the Japanese, nine inches and a
half in length, with a point and an edge as sharp as a razor's. This he
handed, prostrating himself, to the condemned man, who received it
reverently, raising it to his head with both hands, and placed it in
front of himself.

[Footnote 19: Seated himself--that is, in the Japanese fashion, his
knees and toes touching the ground and his body resting on his heels. In
this position, which is one of respect, he remained until his death.]

"After another profound obeisance, Taki Zenzaburo, in a voice which
betrayed just so much emotion and hesitation as might be expected from a
man who is making a painful confession, but with no sign of either in
his face or manner, spoke as follows:--

'I, and I alone, unwarrantably gave the order to fire on the foreigners
at Kobe, and again as they tried to escape. For this crime I disembowel
myself, and I beg you who are present to do me the honor of witnessing
the act.'

"Bowing once more, the speaker allowed his upper garments to slip down
to his girdle, and remained naked to the waist. Carefully, according to
custom, he tucked his sleeves under his knees to prevent himself from
falling backward; for a noble Japanese gentleman should die falling
forwards. Deliberately, with a steady hand he took the dirk that lay
before him; he looked at it wistfully, almost affectionately; for a
moment he seemed to collect his thoughts for the last time, and then
stabbing himself deeply below the waist in the left-hand side, he drew
the dirk slowly across to his right side, and turning it in the wound,
gave a slight cut upwards. During this sickeningly painful operation he
never moved a muscle of his face. When he drew out the dirk, he leaned
forward and stretched out his neck; an expression of pain for the first
time crossed his face, but he uttered no sound. At that moment the
_kaishaku_, who, still crouching by his side, had been keenly watching
his every movement, sprang to his feet, poised his sword for a second in
the air; there was a flash, a heavy, ugly thud, a crashing fall; with
one blow the head had been severed from the body.

"A dead silence followed, broken only by the hideous noise of the blood
throbbing out of the inert head before us, which but a moment before had
been a brave and chivalrous man. It was horrible.

"The _kaishaku_ made a low bow, wiped his sword with a piece of paper
which he had ready for the purpose, and retired from the raised floor;
and the stained dirk was solemnly borne away, a bloody proof of the

"The two representatives of the Mikado then left their places, and
crossing over to where the foreign witnesses sat, called to us to
witness that the sentence of death upon Taki Zenzaburo had been
faithfully carried out. The ceremony being at an end, we left the

I might multiply any number of descriptions of _seppuku_ from literature
or from the relation of eye-witnesses; but one more instance will

Two brothers, Sakon and Naiki, respectively twenty-four and seventeen
years of age, made an effort to kill Iyéyasu in order to avenge their
father's wrongs; but before they could enter the camp they were made
prisoners. The old general admired the pluck of the youths who dared an
attempt on his life and ordered that they should be allowed to die an
honorable death. Their little brother Hachimaro, a mere infant of eight
summers, was condemned to a similar fate, as the sentence was pronounced
on all the male members of the family, and the three were taken to a
monastery where it was to be executed. A physician who was present on
the occasion has left us a diary from which the following scene is
translated. "When they were all seated in a row for final despatch,
Sakon turned to the youngest and said--'Go thou first, for I wish to be
sure that thou doest it aright.' Upon the little one's replying that, as
he had never seen _seppuku_ performed, he would like to see his brothers
do it and then he could follow them, the older brothers smiled between
their tears:--'Well said, little fellow! So canst thou well boast of
being our father's child.' When they had placed him between them, Sakon
thrust the dagger into the left side of his own abdomen and
asked--'Look, brother! Dost understand now? Only, don't push the dagger
too far, lest thou fall back. Lean forward, rather, and keep thy knees
well composed.' Naiki did likewise and said to the boy--'Keep thy eyes
open or else thou mayst look like a dying woman. If thy dagger feels
anything within and thy strength fails, take courage and double thy
effort to cut across.' The child looked from one to the other, and when
both had expired, he calmly half denuded himself and followed the
example set him on either hand."

The glorification of _seppuku_ offered, naturally enough, no small
temptation to its unwarranted committal. For causes entirely
incompatible with reason, or for reasons entirely undeserving of death,
hot headed youths rushed into it as insects fly into fire; mixed and
dubious motives drove more samurai to this deed than nuns into convent
gates. Life was cheap--cheap as reckoned by the popular standard of
honor. The saddest feature was that honor, which was always in the
_agio_, so to speak, was not always solid gold, but alloyed with baser
metals. No one circle in the Inferno will boast of greater density of
Japanese population than the seventh, to which Dante consigns all
victims of self-destruction!

And yet, for a true samurai to hasten death or to court it, was alike
cowardice. A typical fighter, when he lost battle after battle and
was pursued from plain to hill and from bush to cavern, found himself
hungry and alone in the dark hollow of a tree, his sword blunt with use,
his bow broken and arrows exhausted--did not the noblest of the Romans
fall upon his own sword in Phillippi under like circumstances?--deemed
it cowardly to die, but with a fortitude approaching a Christian
martyr's, cheered himself with an impromptu verse:

    "Come! evermore come,
       Ye dread sorrows and pains!
     And heap on my burden'd back;
       That I not one test may lack
     Of what strength in me remains!"

This, then, was the Bushido teaching--Bear and face all calamities and
adversities with patience and a pure conscience; for as Mencius[20]
taught, "When Heaven is about to confer a great office on anyone, it
first exercises his mind with suffering and his sinews and bones with
toil; it exposes his body to hunger and subjects him to extreme poverty;
and it confounds his undertakings. In all these ways it stimulates his
mind, hardens his nature, and supplies his incompetencies." True honor
lies in fulfilling Heaven's decree and no death incurred in so doing is
ignominious, whereas death to avoid what Heaven has in store is cowardly
indeed! In that quaint book of Sir Thomas Browne's, _Religio Medici_
there is an exact English equivalent for what is repeatedly taught in
our Precepts. Let me quote it: "It is a brave act of valor to contemn
death, but where life is more terrible than death, it is then the truest
valor to dare to live." A renowned priest of the seventeenth century
satirically observed--"Talk as he may, a samurai who ne'er has died is
apt in decisive moments to flee or hide." Again--Him who once has died
in the bottom of his breast, no spears of Sanada nor all the arrows of
Tametomo can pierce. How near we come to the portals of the temple whose
Builder taught "he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it!"
These are but a few of the numerous examples which tend to confirm the
moral identity of the human species, notwithstanding an attempt so
assiduously made to render the distinction between Christian and Pagan
as great as possible.

[Footnote 20: I use Dr. Legge's translation verbatim.]

We have thus seen that the Bushido institution of suicide was neither
so irrational nor barbarous as its abuse strikes us at first sight. We
will now see whether its sister institution of Redress--or call it
Revenge, if you will--has its mitigating features. I hope I can dispose
of this question in a few words, since a similar institution, or call it
custom, if that suits you better, has at some time prevailed among all
peoples and has not yet become entirely obsolete, as attested by the
continuance of duelling and lynching. Why, has not an American captain
recently challenged Esterhazy, that the wrongs of Dreyfus be avenged?
Among a savage tribe which has no marriage, adultery is not a sin, and
only the jealousy of a lover protects a woman from abuse: so in a time
which has no criminal court, murder is not a crime, and only the
vigilant vengeance of the victim's people preserves social order. "What
is the most beautiful thing on earth?" said Osiris to Horus. The reply
was, "To avenge a parent's wrongs,"--to which a Japanese would have
added "and a master's."

In revenge there is something which satisfies one's sense of justice.
The avenger reasons:--"My good father did not deserve death. He who
killed him did great evil. My father, if he were alive, would not
tolerate a deed like this: Heaven itself hates wrong-doing. It is the
will of my father; it is the will of Heaven that the evil-doer cease
from his work. He must perish by my hand; because he shed my father's
blood, I, who am his flesh and blood, must shed the murderer's. The same
Heaven shall not shelter him and me." The ratiocination is simple and
childish (though we know Hamlet did not reason much more deeply),
nevertheless it shows an innate sense of exact balance and equal justice
"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth." Our sense of revenge is as
exact as our mathematical faculty, and until both terms of the equation
are satisfied we cannot get over the sense of something left undone.

In Judaism, which believed in a jealous God, or in Greek mythology,
which provided a Nemesis, vengeance may be left to superhuman agencies;
but common sense furnished Bushido with the institution of redress as a
kind of ethical court of equity, where people could take cases not to be
judged in accordance with ordinary law. The master of the forty-seven
Ronins was condemned to death;--he had no court of higher instance to
appeal to; his faithful retainers addressed themselves to Vengeance, the
only Supreme Court existing; they in their turn were condemned by common
law,--but the popular instinct passed a different judgment and hence
their memory is still kept as green and fragrant as are their graves at
Sengakuji to this day.

Though Lao-tse taught to recompense injury with kindness, the voice of
Confucius was very much louder, which counselled that injury must be
recompensed with justice;--and yet revenge was justified only when it
was undertaken in behalf of our superiors and benefactors. One's own
wrongs, including injuries done to wife and children, were to be borne
and forgiven. A samurai could therefore fully sympathize with Hannibal's
oath to avenge his country's wrongs, but he scorns James Hamilton for
wearing in his girdle a handful of earth from his wife's grave, as an
eternal incentive to avenge her wrongs on the Regent Murray.

Both of these institutions of suicide and redress lost their _raison
d'être_ at the promulgation of the criminal code. No more do we hear of
romantic adventures of a fair maiden as she tracks in disguise the
murderer of her parent. No more can we witness tragedies of family
vendetta enacted. The knight errantry of Miyamoto Musashi is now a tale
of the past. The well-ordered police spies out the criminal for the
injured party and the law metes out justice. The whole state and society
will see that wrong is righted. The sense of justice satisfied, there is
no need of _kataki-uchi_. If this had meant that "hunger of the heart
which feeds upon the hope of glutting that hunger with the life-blood of
the victim," as a New England divine has described it, a few paragraphs
in the Criminal Code would not so entirely have made an end of it.

As to _seppuku_, though it too has no existence _de jure_, we still hear
of it from time to time, and shall continue to hear, I am afraid, as
long as the past is remembered. Many painless and time-saving methods of
self-immolation will come in vogue, as its votaries are increasing with
fearful rapidity throughout the world; but Professor Morselli will have
to concede to _seppuku_ an aristocratic position among them. He
maintains that "when suicide is accomplished by very painful means or at
the cost of prolonged agony, in ninety-nine cases out of a hundred, it
may be assigned as the act of a mind disordered by fanaticism, by
madness, or by morbid excitement."[21] But a normal _seppuku_ does not
savor of fanaticism, or madness or excitement, utmost _sang froid_ being
necessary to its successful accomplishment. Of the two kinds into which
Dr. Strahan[22] divides suicide, the Rational or Quasi, and the
Irrational or True, _seppuku_ is the best example of the former type.

[Footnote 21: Morselli, _Suicide_, p. 314.]

[Footnote 22: _Suicide and Insanity_.]

From these bloody institutions, as well as from the general tenor of
Bushido, it is easy to infer that the sword played an important part in
social discipline and life. The saying passed as an axiom which called


and made it the emblem of power and prowess. When Mahomet proclaimed
that "The sword is the key of Heaven and of Hell," he only echoed a
Japanese sentiment. Very early the samurai boy learned to wield it. It
was a momentous occasion for him when at the age of five he was
apparelled in the paraphernalia of samurai costume, placed upon a
_go_-board[23] and initiated into the rights of the military profession
by having thrust into his girdle a real sword, instead of the toy dirk
with which he had been playing. After this first ceremony of _adoptio
per arma_, he was no more to be seen outside his father's gates without
this badge of his status, even if it was usually substituted for
every-day wear by a gilded wooden dirk. Not many years pass before he
wears constantly the genuine steel, though blunt, and then the sham arms
are thrown aside and with enjoyment keener than his newly acquired
blades, he marches out to try their edge on wood and stone. When be
reaches man's estate at the age of fifteen, being given independence of
action, he can now pride himself upon the possession of arms sharp
enough for any work. The very possession of the dangerous instrument
imparts to him a feeling and an air of self-respect and responsibility.
"He beareth not his sword in vain." What he carries in his belt is a
symbol of what he carries in his mind and heart--Loyalty and Honor. The
two swords, the longer and the shorter--called respectively _daito_ and
_shoto_ or _katana_ and _wakizashi_--never leave his side. When at home,
they grace the most conspicuous place in study or parlor; by night they
guard his pillow within easy reach of his hand. Constant companions,
they are beloved, and proper names of endearment given them. Being
venerated, they are well-nigh worshiped. The Father of History has
recorded as a curious piece of information that the Scythians sacrificed
to an iron scimitar. Many a temple and many a family in Japan hoards a
sword as an object of adoration. Even the commonest dirk has due respect
paid to it. Any insult to it is tantamount to personal affront. Woe to
him who carelessly steps over a weapon lying on the floor!

[Footnote 23: The game of _go_ is sometimes called Japanese checkers,
but is much more intricate than the English game. The _go-_board
contains 361 squares and is supposed to represent a battle-field--the
object of the game being to occupy as much space as possible.]

So precious an object cannot long escape the notice and the skill of
artists nor the vanity of its owner, especially in times of peace, when
it is worn with no more use than a crosier by a bishop or a sceptre by a
king. Shark-skin and finest silk for hilt, silver and gold for guard,
lacquer of varied hues for scabbard, robbed the deadliest weapon of half
its terror; but these appurtenances are playthings compared with the
blade itself.

The swordsmith was not a mere artisan but an inspired artist and his
workshop a sanctuary. Daily he commenced his craft with prayer and
purification, or, as the phrase was, "he committed his soul and spirit
into the forging and tempering of the steel." Every swing of the sledge,
every plunge into water, every friction on the grindstone, was a
religious act of no slight import. Was it the spirit of the master or of
his tutelary god that cast a formidable spell over our sword? Perfect as
a work of art, setting at defiance its Toledo and Damascus rivals, there
is more than art could impart. Its cold blade, collecting on its surface
the moment it is drawn the vapors of the atmosphere; its immaculate
texture, flashing light of bluish hue; its matchless edge, upon which
histories and possibilities hang; the curve of its back, uniting
exquisite grace with utmost strength;--all these thrill us with mixed
feelings of power and beauty, of awe and terror. Harmless were its
mission, if it only remained a thing of beauty and joy! But, ever within
reach of the hand, it presented no small temptation for abuse. Too often
did the blade flash forth from its peaceful sheath. The abuse sometimes
went so far as to try the acquired steel on some harmless creature's

The question that concerns us most is, however,--Did Bushido justify
the promiscuous use of the weapon? The answer is unequivocally, no! As
it laid great stress on its proper use, so did it denounce and abhor its
misuse. A dastard or a braggart was he who brandished his weapon on
undeserved occasions. A self-possessed man knows the right time to use
it, and such times come but rarely. Let us listen to the late Count
Katsu, who passed through one of the most turbulent times of our
history, when assassinations, suicides, and other sanguinary practices
were the order of the day. Endowed as he once was with almost
dictatorial powers, repeatedly marked out as an object for
assassination, he never tarnished his sword with blood. In relating some
of his reminiscences to a friend he says, in a quaint, plebeian way
peculiar to him:--"I have a great dislike for killing people and so I
haven't killed one single man. I have released those whose heads should
have been chopped off. A friend said to me one day, 'You don't kill
enough. Don't you eat pepper and egg-plants?' Well, some people are no
better! But you see that fellow was slain himself. My escape may be due
to my dislike of killing. I had the hilt of my sword so tightly fastened
to the scabbard that it was hard to draw the blade. I made up my mind
that though they cut me, I will not cut. Yes, yes! some people are truly
like fleas and mosquitoes and they bite--but what does their biting
amount to? It itches a little, that's all; it won't endanger life."
These are the words of one whose Bushido training was tried in the fiery
furnace of adversity and triumph. The popular apothegm--"To be beaten is
to conquer," meaning true conquest consists in not opposing a riotous
foe; and "The best won victory is that obtained without shedding of
blood," and others of similar import--will show that after all the
ultimate ideal of knighthood was Peace.

It was a great pity that this high ideal was left exclusively to priests
and moralists to preach, while the samurai went on practicing and
extolling martial traits. In this they went so far as to tinge the
ideals of womanhood with Amazonian character. Here we may profitably
devote a few paragraphs to the subject of


The female half of our species has sometimes been called the paragon of
paradoxes, because the intuitive working of its mind is beyond the
comprehension of men's "arithmetical understanding." The Chinese
ideogram denoting "the mysterious," "the unknowable," consists of two
parts, one meaning "young" and the other "woman," because the physical
charms and delicate thoughts of the fair sex are above the coarse mental
calibre of our sex to explain.

In the Bushido ideal of woman, however, there is little mystery and only
a seeming paradox. I have said that it was Amazonian, but that is only
half the truth. Ideographically the Chinese represent wife by a woman
holding a broom--certainly not to brandish it offensively or defensively
against her conjugal ally, neither for witchcraft, but for the more
harmless uses for which the besom was first invented--the idea involved
being thus not less homely than the etymological derivation of the
English wife (weaver) and daughter (_duhitar_, milkmaid). Without
confining the sphere of woman's activity to _Küche, Kirche, Kinder_, as
the present German Kaiser is said to do, the Bushido ideal of womanhood
was preeminently domestic. These seeming contradictions--Domesticity and
Amazonian traits--are not inconsistent with the Precepts of Knighthood,
as we shall see.

Bushido being a teaching primarily intended for the masculine sex, the
virtues it prized in woman were naturally far from being distinctly
feminine. Winckelmann remarks that "the supreme beauty of Greek art is
rather male than female," and Lecky adds that it was true in the moral
conception of the Greeks as in their art. Bushido similarly praised
those women most "who emancipated themselves from the frailty of their
sex and displayed an heroic fortitude worthy of the strongest and the
bravest of men."[24] Young girls therefore, were trained to repress
their feelings, to indurate their nerves, to manipulate
weapons,--especially the long-handled sword called _nagi-nata_, so as to
be able to hold their own against unexpected odds. Yet the primary
motive for exercises of this martial character was not for use in the
field; it was twofold--personal and domestic. Woman owning no suzerain
of her own, formed her own bodyguard. With her weapon she guarded her
personal sanctity with as much zeal as her husband did his master's. The
domestic utility of her warlike training was in the education of her
sons, as we shall see later.

[Footnote 24: Lecky, _History of European Morals_ II, p. 383.]

Fencing and similar exercises, if rarely of practical use, were a
wholesome counterbalance to the otherwise sedentary habits of woman. But
these exercises were not followed only for hygienic purposes. They could
be turned into use in times of need. Girls, when they reached womanhood,
were presented with dirks (_kai-ken_, pocket poniards), which might be
directed to the bosom of their assailants, or, if advisable, to their
own. The latter was very often the case: and yet I will not judge them
severely. Even the Christian conscience with its horror of
self-immolation, will not be harsh with them, seeing Pelagia and
Domnina, two suicides, were canonized for their purity and piety. When a
Japanese Virginia saw her chastity menaced, she did not wait for her
father's dagger. Her own weapon lay always in her bosom. It was a
disgrace to her not to know the proper way in which she had to
perpetrate self-destruction. For example, little as she was taught in
anatomy, she must know the exact spot to cut in her throat: she must
know how to tie her lower limbs together with a belt so that, whatever
the agonies of death might be, her corpse be found in utmost modesty
with the limbs properly composed. Is not a caution like this worthy of
the Christian Perpetua or the Vestal Cornelia? I would not put such an
abrupt interrogation, were it not for a misconception, based on our
bathing customs and other trifles, that chastity is unknown among
us.[25] On the contrary, chastity was a pre-eminent virtue of the
samurai woman, held above life itself. A young woman, taken prisoner,
seeing herself in danger of violence at the hands of the rough soldiery,
says she will obey their pleasure, provided she be first allowed to
write a line to her sisters, whom war has dispersed in every direction.
When the epistle is finished, off she runs to the nearest well and saves
her honor by drowning. The letter she leaves behind ends with these

    "For fear lest clouds may dim her light,
     Should she but graze this nether sphere,
     The young moon poised above the height
     Doth hastily betake to flight."

[Footnote 25: For a very sensible explanation of nudity and bathing see
Finck's _Lotos Time in Japan_, pp. 286-297.]

It would be unfair to give my readers an idea that masculinity alone was
our highest ideal for woman. Far from it! Accomplishments and the
gentler graces of life were required of them. Music, dancing and
literature were not neglected. Some of the finest verses in our
literature were expressions of feminine sentiments; in fact, women
played an important role in the history of Japanese _belles lettres_.
Dancing was taught (I am speaking of samurai girls and not of _geisha_)
only to smooth the angularity of their movements. Music was to regale
the weary hours of their fathers and husbands; hence it was not for the
technique, the art as such, that music was learned; for the ultimate
object was purification of heart, since it was said that no harmony of
sound is attainable without the player's heart being in harmony with
herself. Here again we see the same idea prevailing which we notice in
the training of youths--that accomplishments were ever kept subservient
to moral worth. Just enough of music and dancing to add grace and
brightness to life, but never to foster vanity and extravagance. I
sympathize with the Persian prince, who, when taken into a ball-room in
London and asked to take part in the merriment, bluntly remarked that in
his country they provided a particular set of girls to do that kind of
business for them.

The accomplishments of our women were not acquired for show or social
ascendency. They were a home diversion; and if they shone in social
parties, it was as the attributes of a hostess,--in other words, as a
part of the household contrivance for hospitality. Domesticity guided
their education. It may be said that the accomplishments of the women
of Old Japan, be they martial or pacific in character, were mainly
intended for the home; and, however far they might roam, they never lost
sight of the hearth as the center. It was to maintain its honor and
integrity that they slaved, drudged and gave up their lives. Night and
day, in tones at once firm and tender, brave and plaintive, they sang to
their little nests. As daughter, woman sacrificed herself for her
father, as wife for her husband, and as mother for her son. Thus from
earliest youth she was taught to deny herself. Her life was not one of
independence, but of dependent service. Man's helpmeet, if her presence
is helpful she stays on the stage with him: if it hinders his work, she
retires behind the curtain. Not infrequently does it happen that a youth
becomes enamored of a maiden who returns his love with equal ardor, but,
when she realizes his interest in her makes him forgetful of his duties,
disfigures her person that her attractions may cease. Adzuma, the ideal
wife in the minds of samurai girls, finds herself loved by a man who,
in order to win her affection, conspires against her husband. Upon
pretence of joining in the guilty plot, she manages in the dark to take
her husband's place, and the sword of the lover assassin descends upon
her own devoted head.

The following epistle written by the wife of a young daimio, before
taking her own life, needs no comment:--"Oft have I heard that no
accident or chance ever mars the march of events here below, and that
all moves in accordance with a plan. To take shelter under a common
bough or a drink of the same river, is alike ordained from ages prior to
our birth. Since we were joined in ties of eternal wedlock, now two
short years ago, my heart hath followed thee, even as its shadow
followeth an object, inseparably bound heart to heart, loving and being
loved. Learning but recently, however, that the coming battle is to be
the last of thy labor and life, take the farewell greeting of thy loving
partner. I have heard that Kō-u, the mighty warrior of ancient China,
lost a battle, loth to part with his favorite Gu. Yoshinaka, too, brave
as he was, brought disaster to his cause, too weak to bid prompt
farewell to his wife. Why should I, to whom earth no longer offers hope
or joy--why should I detain thee or thy thoughts by living? Why should I
not, rather, await thee on the road which all mortal kind must sometime
tread? Never, prithee, never forget the many benefits which our good
master Hideyori hath heaped upon thee. The gratitude we owe him is as
deep as the sea and as high as the hills."

Woman's surrender of herself to the good of her husband, home and
family, was as willing and honorable as the man's self-surrender to the
good of his lord and country. Self-renunciation, without which no
life-enigma can be solved, was the keynote of the Loyalty of man as well
as of the Domesticity of woman. She was no more the slave of man than
was her husband of his liege-lord, and the part she played was
recognized as _Naijo_, "the inner help." In the ascending scale of
service stood woman, who annihilated herself for man, that he might
annihilate himself for the master, that he in turn might obey heaven. I
know the weakness of this teaching and that the superiority of
Christianity is nowhere more manifest than here, in that it requires of
each and every living soul direct responsibility to its Creator.
Nevertheless, as far as the doctrine of service--the serving of a cause
higher than one's own self, even at the sacrifice of one's
individuality; I say the doctrine of service, which is the greatest that
Christ preached and is the sacred keynote of his mission--as far as that
is concerned, Bushido is based on eternal truth.

My readers will not accuse me of undue prejudice in favor of slavish
surrender of volition. I accept in a large measure the view advanced
with breadth of learning and defended with profundity of thought by
Hegel, that history is the unfolding and realization of freedom. The
point I wish to make is that the whole teaching of Bushido was so
thoroughly imbued with the spirit of self-sacrifice, that it was
required not only of woman but of man. Hence, until the influence of its
Precepts is entirely done away with, our society will not realize the
view rashly expressed by an American exponent of woman's rights, who
exclaimed, "May all the daughters of Japan rise in revolt against
ancient customs!" Can such a revolt succeed? Will it improve the female
status? Will the rights they gain by such a summary process repay the
loss of that sweetness of disposition, that gentleness of manner, which
are their present heritage? Was not the loss of domesticity on the part
of Roman matrons followed by moral corruption too gross to mention? Can
the American reformer assure us that a revolt of our daughters is the
true course for their historical development to take? These are grave
questions. Changes must and will come without revolts! In the meantime
let us see whether the status of the fair sex under the Bushido regimen
was really so bad as to justify a revolt.

We hear much of the outward respect European knights paid to "God and
the ladies,"--the incongruity of the two terms making Gibbon blush; we
are also told by Hallam that the morality of Chivalry was coarse, that
gallantry implied illicit love. The effect of Chivalry on the weaker
vessel was food for reflection on the part of philosophers, M. Guizot
contending that Feudalism and Chivalry wrought wholesome influences,
while Mr. Spencer tells us that in a militant society (and what is
feudal society if not militant?) the position of woman is necessarily
low, improving only as society becomes more industrial. Now is M.
Guizot's theory true of Japan, or is Mr. Spencer's? In reply I might
aver that both are right. The military class in Japan was restricted to
the samurai, comprising nearly 2,000,000 souls. Above them were the
military nobles, the _daimio_, and the court nobles, the _kugé_--these
higher, sybaritical nobles being fighters only in name. Below them were
masses of the common people--mechanics, tradesmen, and peasants--whose
life was devoted to arts of peace. Thus what Herbert Spencer gives as
the characteristics of a militant type of society may be said to have
been exclusively confined to the samurai class, while those of the
industrial type were applicable to the classes above and below it. This
is well illustrated by the position of woman; for in no class did she
experience less freedom than among the samurai. Strange to say, the
lower the social class--as, for instance, among small artisans--the more
equal was the position of husband and wife. Among the higher nobility,
too, the difference in the relations of the sexes was less marked,
chiefly because there were few occasions to bring the differences of sex
into prominence, the leisurely nobleman having become literally
effeminate. Thus Spencer's dictum was fully exemplified in Old Japan. As
to Guizot's, those who read his presentation of a feudal community will
remember that he had the higher nobility especially under consideration,
so that his generalization applies to the _daimio_ and the _kugé_.

I shall be guilty of gross injustice to historical truth if my words
give one a very low opinion of the status of woman under Bushido. I do
not hesitate to state that she was not treated as man's equal; but until
we learn to discriminate between difference and inequalities, there will
always be misunderstandings upon this subject.

When we think in how few respects men are equal among themselves,
_e.g._, before law courts or voting polls, it seems idle to trouble
ourselves with a discussion on the equality of sexes. When, the American
Declaration of Independence said that all men were created equal, it had
no reference to their mental or physical gifts: it simply repeated what
Ulpian long ago announced, that before the law all men are equal. Legal
rights were in this case the measure of their equality. Were the law the
only scale by which to measure the position of woman in a community, it
would be as easy to tell where she stands as to give her avoirdupois in
pounds and ounces. But the question is: Is there a correct standard in
comparing the relative social position of the sexes? Is it right, is it
enough, to compare woman's status to man's as the value of silver is
compared with that of gold, and give the ratio numerically? Such a
method of calculation excludes from consideration the most important
kind of value which a human being possesses; namely, the intrinsic. In
view of the manifold variety of requisites for making each sex fulfil
its earthly mission, the standard to be adopted in measuring its
relative position must be of a composite character; or, to borrow from
economic language, it must be a multiple standard. Bushido had a
standard of its own and it was binomial. It tried to guage the value of
woman on the battle-field and by the hearth. There she counted for very
little; here for all. The treatment accorded her corresponded to this
double measurement;--as a social-political unit not much, while as wife
and mother she received highest respect and deepest affection. Why among
so military a nation as the Romans, were their matrons so highly
venerated? Was it not because they were _matrona_, mothers? Not as
fighters or law-givers, but as their mothers did men bow before them. So
with us. While fathers and husbands were absent in field or camp, the
government of the household was left entirely in the hands of mothers
and wives. The education of the young, even their defence, was entrusted
to them. The warlike exercises of women, of which I have spoken, were
primarily to enable them intelligently to direct and follow the
education of their children.

I have noticed a rather superficial notion prevailing among
half-informed foreigners, that because the common Japanese expression
for one's wife is "my rustic wife" and the like, she is despised and
held in little esteem. When it is told that such phrases as "my foolish
father," "my swinish son," "my awkward self," etc., are in current use,
is not the answer clear enough?

To me it seems that our idea of marital union goes in some ways further
than the so-called Christian. "Man and woman shall be one flesh." The
individualism of the Anglo-Saxon cannot let go of the idea that husband
and wife are two persons;--hence when they disagree, their separate
_rights_ are recognized, and when they agree, they exhaust their
vocabulary in all sorts of silly pet-names and--nonsensical
blandishments. It sounds highly irrational to our ears, when a husband
or wife speaks to a third party of his other half--better or worse--as
being lovely, bright, kind, and what not. Is it good taste to speak of
one's self as "my bright self," "my lovely disposition," and so forth?
We think praising one's own wife or one's own husband is praising a part
of one's own self, and self-praise is regarded, to say the least, as bad
taste among us,--and I hope, among Christian nations too! I have
diverged at some length because the polite debasement of one's consort
was a usage most in vogue among the samurai.

The Teutonic races beginning their tribal life with a superstitious awe
of the fair sex (though this is really wearing off in Germany!), and the
Americans beginning their social life under the painful consciousness of
the numerical insufficiency of women[26] (who, now increasing, are, I am
afraid, fast losing the prestige their colonial mothers enjoyed), the
respect man pays to woman has in Western civilization become the chief
standard of morality. But in the martial ethics of Bushido, the main
water-shed dividing the good and the bad was sought elsewhere. It was
located along the line of duty which bound man to his own divine soul
and then to other souls, in the five relations I have mentioned in the
early part of this paper. Of these we have brought to our reader's
notice, Loyalty, the relation between one man as vassal and another as
lord. Upon the rest, I have only dwelt incidentally as occasion
presented itself; because they were not peculiar to Bushido. Being
founded on natural affections, they could but be common to all mankind,
though in some particulars they may have been accentuated by conditions
which its teachings induced. In this connection, there comes before me
the peculiar strength and tenderness of friendship between man and man,
which often added to the bond of brotherhood a romantic attachment
doubtless intensified by the separation of the sexes in youth,--a
separation which denied to affection the natural channel open to it in
Western chivalry or in the free intercourse of Anglo-Saxon lands. I
might fill pages with Japanese versions of the story of Damon and
Pythias or Achilles and Patroclos, or tell in Bushido parlance of ties
as sympathetic as those which bound David and Jonathan.

[Footnote 26: I refer to those days when girls were imported from
England and given in marriage for so many pounds of tobacco, etc.]

It is not surprising, however, that the virtues and teachings unique in
the Precepts of Knighthood did not remain circumscribed to the military
class. This makes us hasten to the consideration of


on the nation at large.

We have brought into view only a few of the more prominent peaks which
rise above the range of knightly virtues, in themselves so much more
elevated than the general level of our national life. As the sun in its
rising first tips the highest peaks with russet hue, and then gradually
casts its rays on the valley below, so the ethical system which first
enlightened the military order drew in course of time followers from
amongst the masses. Democracy raises up a natural prince for its leader,
and aristocracy infuses a princely spirit among the people. Virtues are
no less contagious than vices. "There needs but one wise man in a
company, and all are wise, so rapid is the contagion," says Emerson. No
social class or caste can resist the diffusive power of moral

Prate as we may of the triumphant march of Anglo-Saxon liberty, rarely
has it received impetus from the masses. Was it not rather the work of
the squires and _gentlemen_? Very truly does M. Taine say, "These three
syllables, as used across the channel, summarize the history of English
society." Democracy may make self-confident retorts to such a statement
and fling back the question--"When Adam delved and Eve span, where then
was the gentleman?" All the more pity that a gentleman was not present
in Eden! The first parents missed him sorely and paid a high price for
his absence. Had he been there, not only would the garden have been more
tastefully dressed, but they would have learned without painful
experience that disobedience to Jehovah was disloyalty and dishonor,
treason and rebellion.

What Japan was she owed to the samurai. They were not only the flower of
the nation but its root as well. All the gracious gifts of Heaven flowed
through them. Though they kept themselves socially aloof from the
populace, they set a moral standard for them and guided them by their
example. I admit Bushido had its esoteric and exoteric teachings; these
were eudemonistic, looking after the welfare and happiness of the
commonalty, while those were aretaic, emphasizing the practice of
virtues for their own sake.

In the most chivalrous days of Europe, Knights formed numerically but a
small fraction of the population, but, as Emerson says--"In English
Literature half the drama and all the novels, from Sir Philip Sidney to
Sir Walter Scott, paint this figure (gentleman)." Write in place of
Sidney and Scott, Chikamatsu and Bakin, and you have in a nutshell the
main features of the literary history of Japan.

The innumerable avenues of popular amusement and instruction--the
theatres, the story-teller's booths, the preacher's dais, the musical
recitations, the novels--have taken for their chief theme the stories of
the samurai. The peasants round the open fire in their huts never tire
of repeating the achievements of Yoshitsuné and his faithful retainer
Benkei, or of the two brave Soga brothers; the dusky urchins listen with
gaping mouths until the last stick burns out and the fire dies in its
embers, still leaving their hearts aglow with the tale that is told. The
clerks and the shop-boys, after their day's work is over and the
_amado_[27] of the store are closed, gather together to relate the story
of Nobunaga and Hidéyoshi far into the night, until slumber overtakes
their weary eyes and transports them from the drudgery of the counter to
the exploits of the field. The very babe just beginning to toddle is
taught to lisp the adventures of Momotaro, the daring conqueror of
ogre-land. Even girls are so imbued with the love of knightly deeds and
virtues that, like Desdemona, they would seriously incline to devour
with greedy ear the romance of the samurai.

[Footnote 27: Outside shutters.]

The samurai grew to be the _beau ideal_ of the whole race. "As among
flowers the cherry is queen, so among men the samurai is lord," so sang
the populace. Debarred from commercial pursuits, the military class
itself did not aid commerce; but there was no channel of human activity,
no avenue of thought, which did not receive in some measure an impetus
from Bushido. Intellectual and moral Japan was directly or indirectly
the work of Knighthood.

Mr. Mallock, in his exceedingly suggestive book, "Aristocracy and
Evolution," has eloquently told us that "social evolution, in so far as
it is other than biological, may be defined as the unintended result of
the intentions of great men;" further, that historical progress is
produced by a struggle "not among the community generally, to live, but
a struggle amongst a small section of the community to lead, to direct,
to employ, the majority in the best way." Whatever may be said about the
soundness of his argument, these statements are amply verified in the
part played by bushi in the social progress, as far as it went, of our

How the spirit of Bushido permeated all social classes is also shown in
the development of a certain order of men, known as _otoko-daté_, the
natural leaders of democracy. Staunch fellows were they, every inch of
them strong with the strength of massive manhood. At once the spokesmen
and the guardians of popular rights, they had each a following of
hundreds and thousands of souls who proffered in the same fashion that
samurai did to daimio, the willing service of "limb and life, of body,
chattels and earthly honor." Backed by a vast multitude of rash and
impetuous working-men, those born "bosses" formed a formidable check to
the rampancy of the two-sworded order.

In manifold ways has Bushido filtered down from the social class where
it originated, and acted as leaven among the masses, furnishing a moral
standard for the whole people. The Precepts of Knighthood, begun at
first as the glory of the elite, became in time an aspiration and
inspiration to the nation at large; and though the populace could not
attain the moral height of those loftier souls, yet _Yamato Damashii_,
the Soul of Japan, ultimately came to express the _Volksgeist_ of the
Island Realm. If religion is no more than "Morality touched by
emotion," as Matthew Arnold defines it, few ethical systems are better
entitled to the rank of religion than Bushido. Motoori has put the mute
utterance of the nation into words when he sings:--

    "Isles of blest Japan!
       Should your Yamato spirit
     Strangers seek to scan,
       Say--scenting morn's sun-lit air,
     Blows the cherry wild and fair!"

Yes, the _sakura_[28] has for ages been the favorite of our people and
the emblem of our character. Mark particularly the terms of definition
which the poet uses, the words the _wild cherry flower scenting the
morning sun_.

[Footnote 28: _Cerasus pseudo-cerasus_, Lindley.]

The Yamato spirit is not a tame, tender plant, but a wild--in the sense
of natural--growth; it is indigenous to the soil; its accidental
qualities it may share with the flowers of other lands, but in its
essence it remains the original, spontaneous outgrowth of our clime. But
its nativity is not its sole claim to our affection. The refinement and
grace of its beauty appeal to _our_ aesthetic sense as no other flower
can. We cannot share the admiration of the Europeans for their roses,
which lack the simplicity of our flower. Then, too, the thorns that are
hidden beneath the sweetness of the rose, the tenacity with which she
clings to life, as though loth or afraid to die rather than drop
untimely, preferring to rot on her stem; her showy colors and heavy
odors--all these are traits so unlike our flower, which carries no
dagger or poison under its beauty, which is ever ready to depart life at
the call of nature, whose colors are never gorgeous, and whose light
fragrance never palls. Beauty of color and of form is limited in its
showing; it is a fixed quality of existence, whereas fragrance is
volatile, ethereal as the breathing of life. So in all religious
ceremonies frankincense and myrrh play a prominent part. There is
something spirituelle in redolence. When the delicious perfume of the
_sakura_ quickens the morning air, as the sun in its course rises to
illumine first the isles of the Far East, few sensations are more
serenely exhilarating than to inhale, as it were, the very breath of
beauteous day.

When the Creator himself is pictured as making new resolutions in his
heart upon smelling a sweet savor (Gen. VIII, 21), is it any wonder that
the sweet-smelling season of the cherry blossom should call forth the
whole nation from their little habitations? Blame them not, if for a
time their limbs forget their toil and moil and their hearts their pangs
and sorrows. Their brief pleasure ended, they return to their daily
tasks with new strength and new resolutions. Thus in ways more than one
is the sakura the flower of the nation.

Is, then, this flower, so sweet and evanescent, blown whithersoever the
wind listeth, and, shedding a puff of perfume, ready to vanish forever,
is this flower the type of the Yamato spirit? Is the Soul of Japan so
frailly mortal?


Or has Western civilization, in its march through the land, already
wiped out every trace of its ancient discipline?

It were a sad thing if a nation's soul could die so fast. That were a
poor soul that could succumb so easily to extraneous influences. The
aggregate of psychological elements which constitute a national
character, is as tenacious as the "irreducible elements of species, of
the fins of fish, of the beak of the bird, of the tooth of the
carnivorous animal." In his recent book, full of shallow asseverations
and brilliant generalizations, M. LeBon[29] says, "The discoveries due
to the intelligence are the common patrimony of humanity; qualities or
defects of character constitute the exclusive patrimony of each people:
they are the firm rock which the waters must wash day by day for
centuries, before they can wear away even its external asperities."
These are strong words and would be highly worth pondering over,
provided there were qualities and defects of character which _constitute
the exclusive patrimony_ of each people. Schematizing theories of this
sort had been advanced long before LeBon began to write his book, and
they were exploded long ago by Theodor Waitz and Hugh Murray. In
studying the various virtues instilled by Bushido, we have drawn upon
European sources for comparison and illustrations, and we have seen that
no one quality of character was its _exclusive_ patrimony. It is true
the aggregate of moral qualities presents a quite unique aspect. It is
this aggregate which Emerson names a "compound result into which every
great force enters as an ingredient." But, instead of making it, as
LeBon does, an exclusive patrimony of a race or people, the Concord
philosopher calls it "an element which unites the most forcible persons
of every country; makes them intelligible and agreeable to each other;
and is somewhat so precise that it is at once felt if an individual lack
the Masonic sign."

[Footnote 29: _The Psychology of Peoples_, p. 33.]

The character which Bushido stamped on our nation and on the samurai in
particular, cannot be said to form "an irreducible element of species,"
but nevertheless as to the vitality which it retains there is no doubt.
Were Bushido a mere physical force, the momentum it has gained in the
last seven hundred years could not stop so abruptly. Were it
transmitted only by heredity, its influence must be immensely
widespread. Just think, as M. Cheysson, a French economist, has
calculated, that supposing there be three generations in a century,
"each of us would have in his veins the blood of at least twenty
millions of the people living in the year 1000 A.D." The merest peasant
that grubs the soil, "bowed by the weight of centuries," has in his
veins the blood of ages, and is thus a brother to us as much as "to the

An unconscious and irresistible power, Bushido has been moving the
nation and individuals. It was an honest confession of the race when
Yoshida Shoin, one of the most brilliant pioneers of Modern Japan, wrote
on the eve of his execution the following stanza;--

    "Full well I knew this course must end in death;
     It was Yamato spirit urged me on
     To dare whate'er betide."

Unformulated, Bushido was and still is the animating spirit, the motor
force of our country.

Mr. Ransome says that "there are three distinct Japans in existence
side by side to-day,--the old, which has not wholly died out; the new,
hardly yet born except in spirit; and the transition, passing now
through its most critical throes." While this is very true in most
respects, and particularly as regards tangible and concrete
institutions, the statement, as applied to fundamental ethical notions,
requires some modification; for Bushido, the maker and product of Old
Japan, is still the guiding principle of the transition and will prove
the formative force of the new era.

The great statesmen who steered the ship of our state through the
hurricane of the Restoration and the whirlpool of national rejuvenation,
were men who knew no other moral teaching than the Precepts of
Knighthood. Some writers[30] have lately tried to prove that the
Christian missionaries contributed an appreciable quota to the making
of New Japan. I would fain render honor to whom honor is due: but this
honor can hardly be accorded to the good missionaries. More fitting it
will be to their profession to stick to the scriptural injunction of
preferring one another in honor, than to advance a claim in which they
have no proofs to back them. For myself, I believe that Christian
missionaries are doing great things for Japan--in the domain of
education, and especially of moral education:--only, the mysterious
though not the less certain working of the Spirit is still hidden in
divine secrecy. Whatever they do is still of indirect effect. No, as yet
Christian missions have effected but little visible in moulding the
character of New Japan. No, it was Bushido, pure and simple, that urged
us on for weal or woe. Open the biographies of the makers of Modern
Japan--of Sakuma, of Saigo, of Okubo, of Kido, not to mention the
reminiscences of living men such as Ito, Okuma, Itagaki, etc.:--and you
will find that it was under the impetus of samuraihood that they thought
and wrought. When Mr. Henry Norman declared, after his study and
observation of the Far East,[31] that only the respect in which Japan
differed from other oriental despotisms lay in "the ruling influence
among her people of the strictest, loftiest, and the most punctilious
codes of honor that man has ever devised," he touched the main spring
which has made new Japan what she is and which will make her what she is
destined to be.

[Footnote 30: Speer; _Missions and Politics in Asia_, Lecture IV, pp.
189-190; Dennis: _Christian Missions and Social Progress_, Vol. I, p.
32, Vol. II, p. 70, etc.]

[Footnote 31: _The Far East_, p. 375.]

The transformation of Japan is a fact patent to the whole world. In a
work of such magnitude various motives naturally entered; but if one
were to name the principal, one would not hesitate to name Bushido. When
we opened the whole country to foreign trade, when we introduced the
latest improvements in every department of life, when we began to study
Western politics and sciences, our guiding motive was not the
development of our physical resources and the increase of wealth; much
less was it a blind imitation of Western customs. A close observer of
oriental institutions and peoples has written:--"We are told every day
how Europe has influenced Japan, and forget that the change in those
islands was entirely self-generated, that Europeans did not teach Japan,
but that Japan of herself chose to learn from Europe methods of
organization, civil and military, which have so far proved successful.
She imported European mechanical science, as the Turks years before
imported European artillery. That is not exactly influence," continues
Mr. Townsend, "unless, indeed, England is influenced by purchasing tea
of China. Where is the European apostle," asks our author, "or
philosopher or statesman or agitator who has re-made Japan?"[32] Mr.
Townsend has well perceived that the spring of action which brought
about the changes in Japan lay entirely within our own selves; and if he
had only probed into our psychology, his keen powers of observation
would easily have convinced him that that spring was no other than
Bushido. The sense of honor which cannot bear being looked down upon as
an inferior power,--that was the strongest of motives. Pecuniary or
industrial considerations were awakened later in the process of

[Footnote 32: Meredith Townsend, _Asia and Europe_, N.Y., 1900, 28.]

The influence of Bushido is still so palpable that he who runs may read.
A glimpse into Japanese life will make it manifest. Read Hearn, the most
eloquent and truthful interpreter of the Japanese mind, and you see the
working of that mind to be an example of the working of Bushido. The
universal politeness of the people, which is the legacy of knightly
ways, is too well known to be repeated anew. The physical endurance,
fortitude and bravery that "the little Jap" possesses, were sufficiently
proved in the China-Japanese war.[33] "Is there any nation more loyal
and patriotic?" is a question asked by many; and for the proud answer,
"There is not," we must thank the Precepts of Knighthood.

[Footnote 33: Among other works on the subject, read Eastlake and Yamada
on _Heroic Japan_, and Diosy on _The New Far East_.]

On the other hand, it is fair to recognize that for the very faults and
defects of our character, Bushido is largely responsible. Our lack of
abstruse philosophy--while some of our young men have already gained
international reputation in scientific researches, not one has achieved
anything in philosophical lines--is traceable to the neglect of
metaphysical training under Bushido's regimen of education. Our sense of
honor is responsible for our exaggerated sensitiveness and touchiness;
and if there is the conceit in us with which some foreigners charge us,
that, too, is a pathological outcome of honor.

Have you seen in your tour of Japan many a young man with unkempt hair,
dressed in shabbiest garb, carrying in his hand a large cane or a book,
stalking about the streets with an air of utter indifference to mundane
things? He is the _shosei_ (student), to whom the earth is too small and
the Heavens are not high enough. He has his own theories of the universe
and of life. He dwells in castles of air and feeds on ethereal words of
wisdom. In his eyes beams the fire of ambition; his mind is athirst for
knowledge. Penury is only a stimulus to drive him onward; worldly goods
are in his sight shackles to his character. He is the repository of
Loyalty and Patriotism. He is the self-imposed guardian of national
honor. With all his virtues and his faults, he is the last fragment of

Deep-rooted and powerful as is still the effect of Bushido, I have said
that it is an unconscious and mute influence. The heart of the people
responds, without knowing the reason why, to any appeal made to what it
has inherited, and hence the same moral idea expressed in a newly
translated term and in an old Bushido term, has a vastly different
degree of efficacy. A backsliding Christian, whom no pastoral persuasion
could help from downward tendency, was reverted from his course by an
appeal made to his loyalty, the fidelity he once swore to his Master.
The word "Loyalty" revived all the noble sentiments that were permitted
to grow lukewarm. A band of unruly youths engaged in a long continued
"students' strike" in a college, on account of their dissatisfaction
with a certain teacher, disbanded at two simple questions put by the
Director,--"Is your professor a blameless character? If so, you ought
to respect him and keep him in the school. Is he weak? If so, it is
not manly to push a falling man." The scientific incapacity of the
professor, which was the beginning of the trouble, dwindled into
insignificance in comparison with the moral issues hinted at. By
arousing the sentiments nurtured by Bushido, moral renovation of great
magnitude can be accomplished.

One cause of the failure of mission work is that most of the
missionaries are grossly ignorant of our history--"What do we care for
heathen records?" some say--and consequently estrange their religion
from the habits of thought we and our forefathers have been accustomed
to for centuries past. Mocking a nation's history!--as though the career
of any people--even of the lowest African savages possessing no
record--were not a page in the general history of mankind, written by
the hand of God Himself. The very lost races are a palimpsest to be
deciphered by a seeing eye. To a philosophic and pious mind, the races
themselves are marks of Divine chirography clearly traced in black and
white as on their skin; and if this simile holds good, the yellow race
forms a precious page inscribed in hieroglyphics of gold! Ignoring the
past career of a people, missionaries claim that Christianity is a new
religion, whereas, to my mind, it is an "old, old story," which, if
presented in intelligible words,--that is to say, if expressed in the
vocabulary familiar in the moral development of a people--will find easy
lodgment in their hearts, irrespective of race or nationality.
Christianity in its American or English form--with more of Anglo-Saxon
freaks and fancies than grace and purity of its founder--is a poor scion
to graft on Bushido stock. Should the propagator of the new faith uproot
the entire stock, root and branches, and plant the seeds of the Gospel
on the ravaged soil? Such a heroic process may be possible--in Hawaii,
where, it is alleged, the church militant had complete success in
amassing spoils of wealth itself, and in annihilating the aboriginal
race: such a process is most decidedly impossible in Japan--nay, it is
a process which Jesus himself would never have employed in founding his
kingdom on earth. It behooves us to take more to heart the following
words of a saintly man, devout Christian and profound scholar:--"Men
have divided the world into heathen and Christian, without considering
how much good may have been hidden in the one, or how much evil may
have been mingled with the other. They have compared the best part of
themselves with the worst of their neighbors, the ideal of Christianity
with the corruption of Greece or the East. They have not aimed at
impartiality, but have been contented to accumulate all that could be
said in praise of their own, and in dispraise of other forms of

[Footnote 34: Jowett, _Sermons on Faith and Doctrine_, II.]

But, whatever may be the error committed by individuals, there is little
doubt that the fundamental principle of the religion they profess is a
power which we must take into account in reckoning


whose days seem to be already numbered. Ominous signs are in the air,
that betoken its future. Not only signs, but redoubtable forces are at
work to threaten it.

Few historical comparisons can be more judiciously made than between the
Chivalry of Europe and the Bushido of Japan, and, if history repeats
itself, it certainly will do with the fate of the latter what it did
with that of the former. The particular and local causes for the decay
of Chivalry which St. Palaye gives, have, of course, little application
to Japanese conditions; but the larger and more general causes that
helped to undermine Knighthood and Chivalry in and after the Middle Ages
are as surely working for the decline of Bushido.

One remarkable difference between the experience of Europe and of Japan
is, that, whereas in Europe when Chivalry was weaned from Feudalism and
was adopted by the Church, it obtained a fresh lease of life, in Japan
no religion was large enough to nourish it; hence, when the mother
institution, Feudalism, was gone, Bushido, left an orphan, had to shift
for itself. The present elaborate military organization might take it
under its patronage, but we know that modern warfare can afford little
room for its continuous growth. Shintoism, which fostered it in its
infancy, is itself superannuated. The hoary sages of ancient China are
being supplanted by the intellectual parvenu of the type of Bentham and
Mill. Moral theories of a comfortable kind, flattering to the
Chauvinistic tendencies of the time, and therefore thought well-adapted
to the need of this day, have been invented and propounded; but as yet
we hear only their shrill voices echoing through the columns of yellow

Principalities and powers are arrayed against the Precepts of
Knighthood. Already, as Veblen says, "the decay of the ceremonial
code--or, as it is otherwise called, the vulgarization of life--among
the industrial classes proper, has become one of the chief enormities
of latter-day civilization in the eyes of all persons of delicate
sensibilities." The irresistible tide of triumphant democracy, which can
tolerate no form or shape of trust--and Bushido was a trust organized
by those who monopolized reserve capital of intellect and culture,
fixing the grades and value of moral qualities--is alone powerful enough
to engulf the remnant of Bushido. The present societary forces are
antagonistic to petty class spirit, and Chivalry is, as Freeman severely
criticizes, a class spirit. Modern society, if it pretends to any unity,
cannot admit "purely personal obligations devised in the interests of an
exclusive class."[35] Add to this the progress of popular instruction,
of industrial arts and habits, of wealth and city-life,--then we can
easily see that neither the keenest cuts of samurai's sword nor the
sharpest shafts shot from Bushido's boldest bows can aught avail. The
state built upon the rock of Honor and fortified by the same--shall we
call it the _Ehrenstaat_ or, after the manner of Carlyle, the
Heroarchy?--is fast falling into the hands of quibbling lawyers and
gibbering politicians armed with logic-chopping engines of war. The
words which a great thinker used in speaking of Theresa and Antigone may
aptly be repeated of the samurai, that "the medium in which their ardent
deeds took shape is forever gone."

[Footnote 35: _Norman Conquest_, Vol. V, p. 482.]

Alas for knightly virtues! alas for samurai pride! Morality ushered into
the world with the sound of bugles and drums, is destined to fade away
as "the captains and the kings depart."

If history can teach us anything, the state built on martial virtues--be
it a city like Sparta or an Empire like Rome--can never make on earth a
"continuing city." Universal and natural as is the fighting instinct in
man, fruitful as it has proved to be of noble sentiments and manly
virtues, it does not comprehend the whole man. Beneath the instinct to
fight there lurks a diviner instinct to love. We have seen that
Shintoism, Mencius and Wan Yang Ming, have all clearly taught it; but
Bushido and all other militant schools of ethics, engrossed, doubtless,
with questions of immediate practical need, too often forgot duly to
emphasize this fact. Life has grown larger in these latter times.
Callings nobler and broader than a warrior's claim our attention to-day.
With an enlarged view of life, with the growth of democracy, with better
knowledge of other peoples and nations, the Confucian idea of
Benevolence--dare I also add the Buddhist idea of Pity?--will expand
into the Christian conception of Love. Men have become more than
subjects, having grown to the estate of citizens: nay, they are more
than citizens, being men.

Though war clouds hang heavy upon our horizon, we will believe that the
wings of the angel of peace can disperse them. The history of the world
confirms the prophecy the "the meek shall inherit the earth." A nation
that sells its birthright of peace, and backslides from the front rank
of Industrialism into the file of Filibusterism, makes a poor bargain

When the conditions of society are so changed that they have become not
only adverse but hostile to Bushido, it is time for it to prepare for an
honorable burial. It is just as difficult to point out when chivalry
dies, as to determine the exact time of its inception. Dr. Miller says
that Chivalry was formally abolished in the year 1559, when Henry II. of
France was slain in a tournament. With us, the edict formally
abolishing Feudalism in 1870 was the signal to toll the knell of
Bushido. The edict, issued two years later, prohibiting the wearing of
swords, rang out the old, "the unbought grace of life, the cheap defence
of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise," it rang
in the new age of "sophisters, economists, and calculators."

It has been said that Japan won her late war with China by means of
Murata guns and Krupp cannon; it has been said the victory was the work
of a modern school system; but these are less than half-truths. Does
ever a piano, be it of the choicest workmanship of Ehrbar or Steinway,
burst forth into the Rhapsodies of Liszt or the Sonatas of Beethoven,
without a master's hand? Or, if guns win battles, why did not Louis
Napoleon beat the Prussians with his _Mitrailleuse_, or the Spaniards
with their Mausers the Filipinos, whose arms were no better than the
old-fashioned Remingtons? Needless to repeat what has grown a trite
saying that it is the spirit that quickeneth, without which the best of
implements profiteth but little. The most improved guns and cannon do
not shoot of their own accord; the most modern educational system does
not make a coward a hero. No! What won the battles on the Yalu, in Corea
and Manchuria, was the ghosts of our fathers, guiding our hands and
beating in our hearts. They are not dead, those ghosts, the spirits of
our warlike ancestors. To those who have eyes to see, they are clearly
visible. Scratch a Japanese of the most advanced ideas, and he will show
a samurai. The great inheritance of honor, of valor and of all martial
virtues is, as Professor Cramb very fitly expresses it, "but ours on
trust, the fief inalienable of the dead and of the generation to come,"
and the summons of the present is to guard this heritage, nor to bate
one jot of the ancient spirit; the summons of the future will be so to
widen its scope as to apply it in all walks and relations of life.

It has been predicted--and predictions have been corroborated by the
events of the last half century--that the moral system of Feudal Japan,
like its castles and its armories, will crumble into dust, and new
ethics rise phoenix-like to lead New Japan in her path of progress.
Desirable and probable as the fulfilment of such a prophecy is, we must
not forget that a phoenix rises only from its own ashes, and that it is
not a bird of passage, neither does it fly on pinions borrowed from
other birds. "The Kingdom of God is within you." It does not come
rolling down the mountains, however lofty; it does not come sailing
across the seas, however broad. "God has granted," says the Koran, "to
every people a prophet in its own tongue." The seeds of the Kingdom, as
vouched for and apprehended by the Japanese mind, blossomed in Bushido.
Now its days are closing--sad to say, before its full fruition--and we
turn in every direction for other sources of sweetness and light, of
strength and comfort, but among them there is as yet nothing found to
take its place. The profit and loss philosophy of Utilitarians and
Materialists finds favor among logic-choppers with half a soul. The
only other ethical system which is powerful enough to cope with
Utilitarianism and Materialism is Christianity, in comparison with
which Bushido, it must be confessed, is like "a dimly burning wick"
which the Messiah was proclaimed not to quench but to fan into a flame.
Like His Hebrew precursors, the prophets--notably Isaiah, Jeremiah, Amos
and Habakkuk--Bushido laid particular stress on the moral conduct of
rulers and public men and of nations, whereas the Ethics of Christ,
which deal almost solely with individuals and His personal followers,
will find more and more practical application as individualism, in its
capacity of a moral factor, grows in potency. The domineering,
self-assertive, so-called master-morality of Nietzsche, itself akin in
some respects to Bushido, is, if I am not greatly mistaken, a passing
phase or temporary reaction against what he terms, by morbid distortion,
the humble, self-denying slave-morality of the Nazarene.

Christianity and Materialism (including Utilitarianism)--or will the
future reduce them to still more archaic forms of Hebraism and
Hellenism?--will divide the world between them. Lesser systems of morals
will ally themselves on either side for their preservation. On which
side will Bushido enlist? Having no set dogma or formula to defend, it
can afford to disappear as an entity; like the cherry blossom, it is
willing to die at the first gust of the morning breeze. But a total
extinction will never be its lot. Who can say that stoicism is dead? It
is dead as a system; but it is alive as a virtue: its energy and
vitality are still felt through many channels of life--in the philosophy
of Western nations, in the jurisprudence of all the civilized world.
Nay, wherever man struggles to raise himself above himself, wherever his
spirit masters his flesh by his own exertions, there we see the immortal
discipline of Zeno at work.

Bushido as an independent code of ethics may vanish, but its power will
not perish from the earth; its schools of martial prowess or civic honor
may be demolished, but its light and its glory will long survive their
ruins. Like its symbolic flower, after it is blown to the four winds, it
will still bless mankind with the perfume with which it will enrich
life. Ages after, when its customaries shall have been buried and its
very name forgotten, its odors will come floating in the air as from a
far-off unseen hill, "the wayside gaze beyond;"--then in the beautiful
language of the Quaker poet,

    "The traveler owns the grateful sense
     Of sweetness near he knows not whence,
     And, pausing, takes with forehead bare
     The benediction of the air."


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