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Hagakure the book of the samurai

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  • Hagakure the book of the samurai

    What were your thoughts on this book?
    What did you like.
    What did you find interesting.
    What didn't you like.
    Were you surprised at anything?

  • #2
    what is the book about? i havent had a chance to read it.

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    • #3
      reply

      The book is about all the stories, memories and life advice written by a samuri 400 or so years ago. It also discusses the samuri code. The samuri who wrote the book, never fought, which I find remarkable in itself!

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      • #4
        This book was interesting. But it applies to the time the book was written. there are things in there you can't use now. but its still a good book. Another good book is Go rin no sho. you should read this if you havn't allready.

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        • #5
          If I may say so, I did not like it very much. I'm halfway through an english translation of it (i think it's abrdiged) and like Richiro said, most of it applies only to the time it was written. There are many things in there I don't agree with and I think for me to qualify a book as good, it has to apply to me now (or if it was fiction interest me now) and for it to be really good, it has to apply to all times (and for fiction, interest me/people at most ages).

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          • #6
            I have an english translation by William Scott Wilson (it's what the book store had), which has 300 (out of 1300 or so) sections. So it is an "abridged" version so to speak. This undoubtabley has colored my view of it, since the portions I have not read may well be the innapplicable content so many others constantly refer to.

            However, even in the version I have, I can see why some would say this. Many statements are merely the opinions of someone, rather than a deep, spiritual understanding underlying his statements. It reads like a conversation over dinner, with opinionated ideas and a lot of silly stories that are mildly interesting, but don't seem to have much point.

            But I am a very large fan of this work anyways. This is because there are some very astute perceptions about morality, human nature, and some judgements that I think are well spoken. Some of the ideas are ones that most people do not share in our society today, but I think this applies to any time or culture.

            I like the fact that I can pick up this book, open to any page, read a little "nugget" and ponder it for a bit. It is not a book about swordsmanship. Better yet, it is not a treatise. Plato being my greatest love for writing and thinking, I like books that are not treatise types. I like books that are like dialogues, involving thoughts that are not afraid to be what they are - just thoughts.

            But back to my lack of skill with a sword. Gorin no sho is a fascinating book to read, but it is in many ways pointless for me, since I am not at a level of swordsmanship where I can understand the statements. Intellectually? Sure, when musashi says something, I know what it is he's saying, but I do not have the practice, experience, or what-have-you to really know what this truly means outside of abstract intellectualism. "Hold a sword tightly, loosely, control your opponent, etc." I know what these words "mean" but I don't understand what his words really mean. Heh. Maybe after 20 or 30 years of Kendo I might think I can at least gain something practical from Musashi's work.

            Now then, Hagakure is about human nature, the value of life, how to behave, how to face things, and many other little ideas. I am no experienced swordsman, but I have spent 31 years living - so I feel better equipped to enter a dialectic with these thoughts than those of gorin no sho.

            In this way, it doesn't matter if Yamamoto Tsunetomo never fought. He's not talking about fighting. He's talking about living, and acting in the world. He's an old man who is trying to tell a younger bunch how life is, how life should be lived. Of course he's wrong about some things, and right about some, and in some areas just interesting to hear. But so is everyone. We are all human and imperfect.

            Perhaps that is what I enjoy most about the Hagakure - it is human, and appeals to me as much for it's faults as it's strengths.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by dohrt
              I have an english translation by William Scott Wilson (it's what the book store had), which has 300 (out of 1300 or so) sections. So it is an "abridged" version so to speak. This undoubtabley has colored my view of it, since the portions I have not read may well be the innapplicable content so many others constantly refer to.

              However, even in the version I have, I can see why some would say this. Many statements are merely the opinions of someone, rather than a deep, spiritual understanding underlying his statements.
              Hello dohrt

              But it is in actual fact a transcript of aphorisms. Perhaps that should have been made more clear by translators. It's some of these opinions that actually identify with the Japan and its values that people would have wished to continue with.

              Living here literally meters away from Yamamoto's birthplace and place of work I have a record of many of the aphorisms that have never been published. A lot of them are rather mundane but some I find very interesting that relate to the role of a woman in those times. But still not enough to do another book.

              As you say the parts of Gorin no Sho you refer to such as holding a sword are not understandable and probably never will be unless you practice the ryu. Just a simple written guideline to a very practical tradition.

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              • #8
                In the preface of the book mentioned above, the translator explains that the original manuscript no longer exists today, but that there are copies, each of which is slight differences. He refers to Kurihara-hon, Takashiro-hon and Nakano-hon, but says that he based his translation primarily on Mochiki Nabeshimake-hon, as given in the Nihon Shiso Taikei.

                He also says that the text has traditionally been divided into eleven chapters, and that some chapters, such as chapter five, primarily involve notable dates and birthdays, and some recounting of current events of that time. Other chapters, such as "Precepts,", "The Sayings of Lord Naoshige," or even "Stories of Other Clans" do seem more focused on aphorisms (concise moral precepts) rather than on more concrete factual information.

                He also discusses Tashiro Tsuramoto, the young samurai (ex-scribe) who over the course of seven years had conversations with Yamamoto and wrote down his words. There is a fairly detailed discussion of the location, history, and events around the end of Yamamoto's life and the author's as well.

                Of course, not having any exposure to the real culture, writings, I can make no claim of knowlege of this on my own. I merely hope that my description didn't misrepresent what the translator had to say.

                Thank you for chiming in and for speaking about it. I found your explanation to be very enjoyable and interesting. I actually would be very happy to read the rest of these aphorisms, if only they were available in english (I unfortunately do not speak or read Japanese).

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                • #9
                  if you want to read something closer to our time try nitobe's 'bushido' from 1900

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                  • #10
                    Hmmmmm, ...

                    Originally posted by Zaphiel
                    if you want to read something closer to our time try nitobe's 'bushido' from 1900
                    Actually Nitobe was a Christian apologist.

                    Stick with writings of those who saw battle like Musashi and Yagyu Munenori.

                    FWIW,

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                    • #11
                      Hagakure was a good read and identified some of the things that we will never be able to relate to in terms of social statuses, stigmas and customs.

                      "Zen and the Art of the Sword" was very good and was attributed to a Yagyu, if I recall correctly. Maybe less philosophical than Hagakure, but very good from the point of view of a swordsman's mentality.

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                      • #12
                        I like to read

                        Ive read this book(hagekure) over three times, I have also read the book of five rings, Nitobe's Bushido and Tsuntomo's text: the life giving sword. I'm a philosophy minor as well as a kenshi. What I found is you have to use what you can that is applicable from those books and bear in mind the time in which they were written. These books are not really the codes of conduct that most who read them wish them to be, they are copiliations of ideas, conversation fragments, historical events, and the thoughts of one individual reguarding the social coloring of the time. Well hell, theres my two cents worth.

                        Richmond-san

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