Bushido Code

A text referred to as the “Bushido Code” exists on the Web for a long time now. I never found out who wrote it, or where it came from. I suspect I never will. Rumor has it that it is inspired on the book Bushido. The Soul of Japan by Nitobe Inazo. It has meant a lot to me throughout the years as a guide to character. May these words inspire you to contemplate yourself, your actions, behaviors, your speech.

Gi: Honesty & Justice

Be acutely honest throughout your dealings with all people. Believe in Justice, not from other people, but from yourself. To the true Samurai, there are no shades of gray in the question of Honesty and Justice.

There is only right and wrong.

Rei: Polite Courtesy

Samurai have no reason to be cruel. They do not need to prove their strength. A Samurai is courteous even to his enemies. Without this outward show of respect, we are nothing more than animals.

A Samurai is not only respected for his strength in battle, but also by his dealing with other men.

The true strength of a Samurai becomes apparent during difficult times.

Yū: Heroic Courage

Rise above the masses of people who are afraid to act. Hiding like a turtle in a shell is not living at all. A Samurai must have heroic courage. It is absolutely risky. It is dangerous. It is living life completely, fully, wonderfully. Heroic courage is not blind! It is intelligent and strong.

Meiyo: Honor

A true Samurai has only one judge of honor, and this is himself. Decisions you make and how these decisions are carried out are a reflection of whom you truly are.

You cannot hide from yourself.

Jin: Compassion

Through intense training the Samurai becomes quick and strong. He is not as other men. He develops a power that must be used for the good of all. He has compassion. He helps his fellow man at every opportunity. If an opportunity does not arise, he goes out of his way to find one.

Makoto: Complete Sincerity

When a Samurai has said he will perform an action, it is as good as done. Nothing will stop him from completing what he has said he will do. He does not have to “give his word.” He does not have to “promise.”

Speaking and doing are the same action.

Chūgi: Duty and Loyalty

For the Samurai, having done some “thing” or said some “thing,” he knows he owns that “thing.” He is responsible for it, and all the consequences that follow. A Samurai is immensely loyal to those in this care. To those he is responsible for, he remains fiercely true.

Tanabata Festival

People to the left. People to the right. People wherever you look. You hold on to your friends. A sweater. A hand. Whatever keeps you together until the group reaches the restaurant as you swim through a steady current of fellow festival enthousiasts. Above is a second stream. Bamboo branches dangle strips of paper by the thousands, weaving in the wind like an inverted stream of seaweed. You snap back into focus. You somehow made it into the restaurant. Not that it is quiet and abandoned, but at least you can sit. Your friend is asking you what you wrote on your paper strip. A date with your latest love interest perhaps? No stone is left unturned by your ever so curious friends. You smile a beacon of mystery.

On July 7th one of Japan’s traditional five festivals is celebrated, namely the Tanabata Festival (七夕 たなばた). In some places it is observed on the 7th of August. Two cities known for their elaborate celebrations of the Tanabata Festival are Sendai and Hiratsuka. Both celebrate on the 7th of August, which is closer to the traditional festival date. According to the legend, which originated in a Chinese folk legend about two stars, the Weaver Star (Vega) and the Cowherd Star (Altair) are said to be lovers. They can only meet once a year on the seventh night of the seventh lunar month. Upon it’s introduction to Japan it merged with native legends about a celestial weaving maiden (Tanabatatsume). One believed she fashioned clothes for the gods. Tanabata, which is short for Tanabatatsume, became one of the annual events observed by the imperial court. It fell close to the Bon Festival, a festival for the souls of the dead. Some practices concerning the welcoming and seeing off of the spirits of one’s departed ancestors became associated with the Tabata Festival. A common sight of the festival are the bamboo branches decorated with long narrow strips of colored paper, other small ornaments and talismans. The paper strips contain wishes and romantic aspirations. After the festival’s end, the decorated bamboo branches are placed in rice paddies to stimulate a plentiful harvest.

Further reading:

“Tanabata Festival” In: Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Kodansha.

Shitōkan

There’s a large table in the middle of the room. It’s rectangular, and very long. Lengthwise we find several men on both sides. These men all have notebooks, in which they are copying various bits of data with their pencil and ink. It’s very cleanly done. There are tables, and there’s no sign of any writing errors. This is most impressive. The middle of the table is covered with more papers and books. There is one man at the head of the table. He is sitting a bit higher than the rest. He looks important. He too is writing in a notebook. It all seems very civilized. The men bid each other goodbye, and leave the room. The one at the head, the important one, leaves last. Another workday has ended at the offices of the sakan. Not much has changed in over 900 years of history. I wonder what traffic was like in those days…

Shitōkan is a collective term for the four highest ranks of the bureaucrats in the Ritsuryō system of government. This system was in place in Japan during the Nara (710-794) and the Heian period (794-1185). The four ranks were kami (bureau chief), suke (assistant bureau chief), (supervisors), and sakan (clerks). Kami and suke were responsible for administration. was responsible for clerical work. Sakan compiled records and drafted documents. The hierarchy was taken from the Chinese dynasties Sui (589-618) and Tang (618-907). The ranks are also called shibukan.

Further reading:

“shitōkan” In: Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Kodansha.