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Modern Legacy

The values of the bushi, both actual and idealized, have permeated all levels of Japanese society. In the Edo period, members of the merchant class deliberately adopted samurai standards of behavior to identify themselves more closely with the ruling class. After the Meiji Restoration, unemployed samurai became doctors and educators, and brought their written codes with them. The Imagawa kabegaki, by the fourteenth-century poet-warlord Imagawa Ryōshun, was even used as a textbook in Edo-period schools. During the years prior to the Meiji Restoration, the samurai's spirit of sincerity in action, loyalty, and self-sacrifice allowed them to take leadership in the revolt that would lead to the abolition of their class.

Bushido's most tragic legacy is the warped version ultranationalists used in formulating propaganda to encourage and sustain the Japanese solider before and during World War II. The spirit of the Hagakure incited young Japanese men to become kamikaze suicide pilots; death was promoted as preferable to surrender.

In the early twenty-first century the term Bushido appeared more frequently in English-language martial arts publications than it ever did in early warrior texts. And even though Nitobe's list of virtues was not directly derived from actual warrior codes, it did reflect romanticized warrior ideals that the rapidly modernized Japanese recognized as noble and found comforting to call their own.


Rokuhara-dono gokakun (The precepts of the lord of Rokuhara, 1247), by Hōjō Shigetoki

Gokurakuji-dono goshōsoku (The message of the master of Gokurakuji, 1256), by Hōjō Shigetoki

Tōjiin goisho (Last testament from the Tōjiin Temple, 1357), attributed to Ashikaga Takauji

Chikubashō (Bamboo stilt anthology, 1383), by Shiba Yoshimasa

Imagawa kabegaki (Imagawa's wall inscriptions, 1395–1409), by Imagawa Ryōshun

Yoshisadaki (The records of Yoshisada, c. 1338), attributed to Nitta Yoshisada

Jūshichikajō (The seventeen articles, c. 1479), by Asakura Takakage

Nijūikkajō (Twenty-one precepts, c. 1495), by HōjōSōun

Soteki waki (The recorded words of Asakura Soteki, c. 1553), by Asakura Soteki

Kyūjūkyū kakun (Ninety-nine precepts, 1558), by Takeda Nobushige; collected in the Kōyō gunkan. Redefining the Warrior: the Tokugawa peace (1600–1868)

Kōyō gunkan (A military history of the great men of Kai, c. 1625), compiled by Kōsaka Danjō and Obata Kagenori

Bukyōyōroku (Essentials of military studies, 1656), by Yamaga Sokō

Budō shoshinshū (Introduction to the way of the warrior, 1716), by Daidōji Yūzan

Hagakure (In the shadow of leaves, 1716), by Yamamoto Tsunetomo

See also Chinese Warlordism.


Edwards, Bernard. Blood and Bushido: Japanese Atrocities at Sea 1941–1945. New York: Brick Tower Press, 1991.

Friday, Karl F. "Bushido or Bull? A Medieval Historian's Perspective on the Imperial Army and the Japanese Warrior Tradition." The History Teacher 27, no. 3 (1994): 339–349.

Hurst, G. Cameron III. "The Warrior As Ideal for a New Age." In The Origins of Japan's Medieval World: Courtiers, Clerics, Warriors, and Peasants in the Fourteenth Century, edited by Jeffrey P. Mass, 209–233. Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1997.

Wilson, William Scott, trans. Ideals of the Samurai: Writings of Japanese Warriors. Edited by Gregory N. Lee. Burbank, Calif.: Ohara, 1982.

Yamamoto Tsunetomo. Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai. Translated by William Scott Wilson. Tokyo and New York: Kodansha International, 1983.

Diane Skoss

Additional topics

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Boolean algebra to Calcium PropionateBushido - The Warrior Governments Of Japan, From War To Peace, Modern Legacy, Precepts Of The Fighting Man (kamakura, Muromachi, Azuchi-momoyama Periods, 1185–1600)