Yukio Mishima on Hagakure: The Samurai Ethic and Modern Japan

The wisdom of Hagakure : way of the samurai of Saga domain
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By taking meticulous care over the slightest word or deed, one will become unimaginably rich in new-found inner passion, and the heart will bear undreamed-of fruit.

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You might want to check that link out to Wikipedia, it's fascinating stuff I'm not sure it's always true, but I think controlling your reactions to events using thinking actually controls your emotions. I'll probably write another post on this sometime. This is the age of "pleasant men and plucky women.

We are surrounded by the stereotype of the man who is gentle, loved by all, never abrasive. He brims with a compromising, harmonizing spirit, and at heart is a cool opportunist. This is what Hagakure calls effeminacy. Beauty is not beauty for the sake of being loved. It is a beauty of strength, for the sake of appearances and to avoid losing face.

When one tries to be beautiful in order to be loved, effminacy begins. That is spiritual cosmetics. And in this day and age, when even bitter medicine is encased in a sugar coating, people will accept only what is palatable and easy to chew. The need for resistance to the currents of the age is the same now as then.

Again, "avoid losing face" is the externally-oriented morality mentioned earlier. Previously, I thought face-saving culture was kind of petty and prideful I didn't understand it. It's actually about manifesting your morality externally. Anyways, I like that quote - there's beauty in strength, purpose, and morality. I really like that bolded quote though again, you've got to understand the underlying meaning of "avoid losing face" - it refers more to morality than social status.

The Japanese have always been a people grimly conscious of death beneath the surface of their daily lives. But the Japanese concept of death is straight and clear, and in that sense it is different from the loathsome, fearful death as seen by Westerners. The medieval European god of death Father Time holding a large scythe has never existed in the Japanese imagination. The Japanese image of death is different, too, from the image of death in a country like Mexico, in the obscure corners of whose modern cities still tower the Aztec and Toltec ruins, completely overtaken by death, overgrown with luxuriant summer growth.

Not that kind of rough, wild death, but an image of death beyond which there exists a spring of pure water, from which tiny streams continuously pouring their pure waters into this world, has long enriched Japanese art. That last one was also a powerful insight for me - it explains why samurai were able to cultivate a spirit of being willing and even eager to die in battle. Likewise, devout Christians and Muslims had that the same spirit at various times, as did Spartan culture.

When you see death as a beautiful thing to be embraced, you lose fear of it, which enables a soldier to fight with purposeful reckless abandon. Historically, soldiers eager to die gloriously in battle tend to be very difficult to fight against. More on External Focused Morality. I'd be curious to hear your comments and reactions to Mishima.

It's so different from anything I've read or heard before Mishima died a suicide. A recent study showed that one personality trait shared by most suicide-victims, is an unrealistic perfectionism. That's why I'm not surprised to see Mishima writing: By taking meticulous care over the slightest word or deed, one will become unimaginably rich in new-found inner passion, and the heart will bear undreamed-of fruit.

The downside of this meticulous caring is despair when one inevitably falls short of one's high standards. There are good things about the Samuri way, but they are not to be taken in the Samuri context. Hagakure's a 17th Century work on bushido and Japanese samurai ethics and living - I've got some excerpts of it here - "Excerpts from Hagakure, Chapter 1. Reading Mishima, I realize something about the difference between Japanese and American superheroes and fictional characters. At the most desperate moments, American fictional heroes tend to win by discarding their training and going with instinct and feelings.

You see the hero who was beaten down and whose plans failed, who now "lets go" and thus wins. At the most desperate moments, Japanese fictional characters win by unleashing and realizing the effects of their training. A hallmark of Japanese fiction is the hero going through a long training period, but then not quite mastering his skill.

Yukio Mishima

Then, at his most desperate moment, the training kicks in to the full extent, and he wins. I am hoping you would share your resources for your reading on Japanese history. I got that a week ago, and I kind of sat there staring at the email. Japanese history is some of the most confusing to start to learn, because different elements of Japanese history and culture all play on and influence each other.

I could run you through the military history of Japan from The Battle of Okehazama to Sekigahara to the Boshin War, from there into Dai Nippon Tekoku Era, from there into defeat and the Occupation under McArthur, and then we could do a little post-war history. Did you know that Sett's InstantAudience feature brings new readers to your blog? So far Sett has brought you readers who wouldn't have otherwise known your blog exists.

Sett's paid plans bring you even more readers. With the Hobbyist plan, you would have had readers, and with the Leader plan, you would have had new readers. This is the fastest and easiest way to grow your audience and get your writing in front of new people. Click a plan to upgrade.


Even if I were to die and be reborn again seven times, I neither expected nor wanted anything more than to be a Nabeshima samurai and to devote myself entirely to the Han. Therefore one is a coward. Just select the list below, and click 'Add'. To the Samurai, death is the focus of his life, even in times of peace. Read more. During World War II it was widely read, and its slogan on the way of death was used to inspire the Kamikaze pilots.

You now have an account that works here as well as any blog that's powered by Sett. To change your picture, display name, or password, visit account settings. You also have a new blog, which we've tentatively named. You can click to see it in a new tab. There are many references to links with Western culture, such as epicureanism, hedonism and nihilism.

There are aphorisms and sections prescribing proper conduct with other people and on a variety of occasions. There are also many references to Chinese and Japanese culture, and references to other works interpreting Japanese culture, such as The Chrysanthemum and the Sword. The Samurai ethic and modern Japan only contains Yukio Mishima's reflections on the Hagakure Analects, but offer no interpretations.

Thus, while the book apparently tells the reader a lot about Japanese culture, by the end of the book one is no wiser as to Mishima's motives, or how elements of the books connect with episodes in his life and work. The Samurai ethic and modern Japan seems mainly very interesting to the reader who is seeking to understand the Japanese Mind in general. Thinking of Hagakure? Think of Emily Post. Think of the complete transformation of the human being. This introduction is both a fascinating read of 18th century philosophy and a very useful lifestyle guide for the people of today.

The spin Mishima puts on Jocho's work is that people still can strive towards a spiritually meaningful and contented life. People can improve in the face of modernity which states that everything is mathematically, scientifically, sociologically and statistically determined. The lessons are both big and small, e. For example: yawning in public is both rude to others and embarrassing to yourself, but if you stroke your head in an upward motion or lick the inside of your lips your yawn will subside.

Yukio Mishima

The deeper meaning behind Mishima's primer on Hagakure is related to his view that human civilization and development was cyclical. Essentially, there are spiritual boom and bust cycles or periods of high spiritual activity and awareness and then periods of worldly decadence. The great age of samurai, who died for the liege lord and lived for a dignified death according to the principles collected in the Hagakure, Mishima believed was mirrored in that of prewar Japan, from the Meiji to Likewise, the Tokugawa period, an age of material decadence and spiritual emptiness that followed the samurai era, can be seen today.

Mishima's goal, here presumed, was the same as Jocho in preserve the wisdom of the past for when it will be needed later. Another reason given for Mishima's interest was to rehabilitate Hagakure after its overuse during the War and validate his own views. Perhaps those theories are true, or are not. Regardless, this was interesting book. I feel that illustrations by Basic Books were kinda cheap—cheap but idiosyncratic. Also, I found the length appendix unnecessary to read; the best of passages in the appendix were mentioned and analyzed earlier in the book.

Overall, I don't feel that my time was wasted reading this, but in fact enhanced. I feel like yawning, but I'm stroking my head in an upward motion to dissipate it, avoiding the "calculating, imitation samurai ethic of arrogant Osaka merchants" as I live my life.

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Best known for the axiom, 'The way of the samurai is death,' Hakakure is also a call to action and passion and a guide to everyday living and spiritual salvation. Hagakure by Yamamoto Tsunetomo. Home Groups Talk Zeitgeist. I Agree This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and if not signed in for advertising. There is a contradiction in that if you choose to live beautifully and seek to die beautifully, you will choose to live, but if you live horribly and choose to die horribly, you will choose to die.

In a life or death situation, it is better to choose death.

There is nothing to it, just proceed. In that sense a horrible death can be beautiful, thus suggesting the paradoxical nature of the Samurai ethic. He then moves onto a subject which western culture has a very hard time grasping. Love in the west is something we profess to, we tell people, we tell the person we love and we announce it with proposals, marriage and children. While in the Hagakure true love is that which is never spoken of. By confessing within ourselves that love, instead of sharing it with the world with a profession, it is cultured and grows.

In this sense one must die for love without professing it, and this death makes the love pure and more intense, and this is considered ideal love in the Hagakure. A worthy comparison is that of duty. It is certainly good that you consider and follow your duty, but if your duty was to bring your life to an end and you knew that one day that would be so, that duty would become more intense, refined, pure and ideal. If we are willing to die for our duty, our duty itself will hold a tension which makes that duty much more than mere duty.

In the same light love, while going towards death, is much more than mere love. It is pure love. In a similar way the Hagakure is considered a type of medicine for the modern way of living. Medicine both means to cure and to poison. Poison can cure you of life, yet being cured can poison your life, and vice versa. The Hagakure will cure you, Mishima says, of your peaceful life, and through this it will bring you death.

In cultures where you are too comfortable, the ability to work or be masculine is dwindling. The modern world requires being poisoned in order to cure it of its materialistic and soulless malady. Though poisoning the body harms it and goes towards death, the soul is soothed and cured. The modern world is suppressing inside us one side of the contradictions that make us human, but not the other. For example, it is suppressing the urge to die and surrender ourselves to something bigger than us, but not the urge to be free and rebel. By making headway towards socialism they will never be satisfied, because no real death struggle is happening.

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There is nothing real to rebel against, there is nothing to surrender to, so as we live as freely as possible we become bored with living and being free. Mishima then points out that the way Christianity conducted itself when it was oppressed was exactly why it succeeded: the youth wanted something meaningful to die for, and Christianity offered that meaningful death which made living as a Christian beautiful and filled it with meaning. In the same way that Rome worked to protect its own people and to conquer the foreign to bring peace to its own people, the frontier guards had found a goal worth dying for: peace in Rome, and that peace was obtained by those frontier guards who were willing to die and go to war.


Hagakure: Samurai Ethic and Modern Japan [Yukio Mishima] on fuwypobixo.tk * FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. by Yukio Mishima (Author), Kathryn Sparling (Translator) Story time just got better with Prime Book Box, a subscription that delivers editorially hand-picked children’s books every 1, 2, or 3 months — at 40% off List Price. Publisher: Charles E. Tuttle & Company ().

In modern Japan at the time of Mishima it was illegal according to their post world war II constitution to have a working army. From this the whole of the Japanese identity was being denied the human ability to have the urge to die and surrender to something bigger, thus the Japanese became obsessed with the urge to be free and rebel. With this comes a one sided humanity, who is only half of a true human being.

We are living as one side of a contradictory nature, but not the other which balances us out.

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Or to say it in other words: modern man is allowed to be female, while the male is banned. To be a Samurai is to live towards death and surrender to your lord, in the same way, modern Japan has made it illegal to be a Samurai. This denial of the Japanese identity and tradition is why it is meaningless and materialistic. Then Mishima writes poetically about how modern man does not forget that death exists, but avoids it all together. This sounds like Martin Heidegger , the German Philosopher of Phenomenology, who thought that when one forgets death or at least pretends to you take away a core essence of life.

Mishima says very similar things when he talks about how old people die in their hospital beds, and more people have been killed by traffic accidents than in the great war Japan waged against Russia. Yet, we will not ponder death and think that to do so is wrong or morbidly obsessive. But, for Mishima and Heidegger, to ponder death daily is to ponder life profoundly.