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A samurai in his armor in the 1860s. Hand-colored photograph by Felice Beato

Bushidō (武士道, "the way of the warrior") is a moral code concerning samurai attitudes, behavior and lifestyle, formalized in the Edo period (1603–1868). There are multiple types of bushido which evolved significantly through history. Contemporary forms of bushido are still used in the social and economic organization of Japan. Bushido is also used as an overarching term for all the codes, practices, philosophies and principles of samurai culture. It is loosely analogous to the European concept of chivalry, but there are major differences.


  • Bushido (Shintoism) offers us the ideal of poverty instead of wealth, humility in place of ostentation, reserve instead of reclame, self-sacrifice in place of selfishness, the care of the interest of the State rather than that of the individual. It inspires ardent courage and the refusal to turn back upon the enemy. It looks death calmly in the face, and prefers it to ignominy of any kind. It preaches submission to authority and the sacrifice of all private interests, whether of self or of family, to the common weal. It requires its disciples to submit to a strict physical and mental discipline, develops a martial spirit, and by lauding the virtues of courage, constancy, fortitude, faithfulness, daring, self-restraint, offers an exalted code of moral principles, not only for the man and the warrior, but for men and women in times both of peace and war.
  • The Way of the Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either/or, there is only the quick choice of death. It is not particularly difficult. Be determined and advance. To say that dying without reaching one's aim is to die a dog's death is the frivolous way of sophisticates. When pressed with the choice of life or death, it is not necessary to gain one's aim.
    We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim and continuing to live is cowardice. This is a thin dangerous line. To die without gaining one's aim is a dog's death and fanaticism. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one's heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.
    • Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure 葉隠; In the Shadow of Leaves (also translated as Hidden by the Leaves, Hidden behind the Leaves, and Hidden Leaves; also known as Hagakure Kikigaki 葉隠聞書) sayings transcribed (c.1716) by the samurai scribe Tsuramoto Tashiro, Chapter 1; various translations, but primarily drawing on that of William Scott Wilson (1979). ISBN 4770011067. This first sentence of this passage was used as a military slogan during the early 20th century to encourage soldiers to throw themselves into battle. Variant translations:
      • Bushido is realised in the presence of death. In the case of having to choose between life and death you should choose death. There is no other reasoning. Move on with determination. To say dying without attaining ones aim is a foolish sacrifice of life is the flippant attitude of the sophisticates in the Kamigata area. In such a case it is difficult to make the right judgement. No one longs for death. We can speculate on whatever we like. But if we live without having attaining that aim, we are cowards. This is an important point and the correct path of the Samurai. When we calmly think of death morning and evening and are in despair, We are able to gain freedom in the way of the Samurai. Only then can we fulfil our duty without making mistakes in life.
      • By the Way of the warrior is meant death. The Way of the warrior is death. This means choosing death whenever there is a choice between life and death. It means nothing more than this. It means to see things through, being resolved.
      • I have found that the Way of the samurai is death. This means that when you are compelled to choose between life and death, you must quickly choose death.
      • The way of the Samurai is in death.
      • I have found the essence of Bushido: to die!

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