Bushido, the Soul of Japan, by Inazo Nitobe, , at sacred-texts.com
AT the request of his publishers, to whom Dr. Nitobe has left some freedom of action concerning prefatory matter, I am glad to offer a few sentences of introduction to this new edition of Bushido, for readers of English everywhere. I have been acquainted with the author for over fifteen years, indeed, but, in a measure at least, with his subject during forty-five years.
It was in 1860, in Philadelphia (where, in 1847, I saw the Susquehanna, Commodore Perry's flagship launched), that I looked on my first Japanese and met members of the Embassy from Yedo. I was mightily impressed with these strangers, to whom Bushido was a living code of ideals and manners. Later, during three years at Rutgers College, New Brunswick, N. J., I was among scores of young men from Nippon, whom I taught or
knew as fellow-students. I found that Bushido, about which we often talked, was a superbly winsome thing. As illustrated in the lives of these future governors, diplomatists, admirals, educators, and bankers, yes, even in the dying hours of more than one who "fell on sleep" in Willow Grove Cemetery, the perfume of this most fragrant flower of far-off Japan was very sweet. Never shall I forget how the dying samurai lad, Kusakabe, when invited to the noblest of services and the greatest of hopes, made answer: "Even if I could know your Master, Jesus, I should not offer Him only the dregs of a life." So, "on the banks of the old Raritan," in athletic sports, in merry jokes at the supper table when contrasting things Japanese and Yankee, and in the discussion of ethics and ideals, I felt quite willing to take the "covert missionary retort," about which my friend Charles Dudley Warner once wrote. At some points, codes of ethics and proprieties differed, but rather in dots or tangents than as occultation or eclipse. As their own poet
wrote--was it a thousand years ago?--when in crossing a moor the dew-laden flowers brushed by his robe left their glittering drops on his brocade, "On account of its perfume, I brush not this moisture from my sleeve." Indeed, I was glad to get out of ruts, which are said to differ from graves only by their length. For, is not comparison the life of science and culture? Is it not true that, in the study of languages, ethics, religions, and codes of manners, "he who knows but one knows none"?
Called, in 1870, to Japan as pioneer educator to introduce the methods and spirit of the American public-school system, how glad I was to leave the capital, and at Fukui, in the province of Echizen, see pure feudalism in operation! There I looked on Bushido, not as an exotic, but in its native soil. In daily life I realised that Bushido, with its cha-no-yu, jū-jŭtsŭ ("jiu-jitsu"), hara-kiri, polite prostrations on the mats and genuflections on the street, rules of the sword and road, all leisurely salutations and politest
moulds of speech, canons of art and conduct, as well as heroisms for wife, maid, and child, formed the universal creed and praxis of all the gentry in the castled city and province. In it, as a living school of thought and life, girl and boy alike were trained. What Dr. Nitobe received as an inheritance, had breathed into his nostrils, and writes about so gracefully and forcibly, with such grasp, insight, and breadth of view, I saw. Japanese feudalism "died without the sight" of its ablest exponent and most convincing defender. To him it is as wafted fragrance. To me it was "the plant and flower of light."
Hence, living under and being in at the death of feudalism, the body of Bushido, I can bear witness to the essential truth of Dr. Nitobe's descriptions, so far as they go, and to the faithfulness of his analysis and generalisations. He has limned with masterly art and reproduced the colouring of the picture which a thousand years of Japanese literature reflects so gloriously. The Knightly Code grew up during a millenium of evolution,
and our author lovingly notes the blooms that have starred the path trodden by millions of noble souls, his countrymen.
Critical study has but deepened my own sense of the potency and value of Bushido to the nation. He who would understand twentieth-century Japan must know something of its roots in the soil of the past. Even if now as invisible to the present generation in Nippon as to the alien, the philosophic student reads the results of to-day in the stored energies of ages gone. The sunbeams of unrecorded time have laid the strata out of which Japan now digs her foot-pounds of impact for war or peace. All the spiritual senses are keen in those nursed by Bushido. The crystalline lump has dissolved in the sweetened cup, but the delicacy of the flavour remains to cheer. In a word, Bushido has obeyed the higher law enunciated by One whom its own exponent salutes and confesses his Master--"Except a grain of corn die, it abideth alone; but if it die it bringeth forth much fruit."
Has Dr. Nitobe idealised Bushido? Rather, we ask, how could he help doing so? He calls himself "defendant." In all creeds, cults, and systems, while the ideal grows, exemplars and exponents vary. Gradual cumulation and slow attainment of harmony is the law. Bushido never reached a final goal. It was too much alive, and it died at last only in its splendour and strength. The clash of the world's movement--for so we name the rush of influences and events which followed Perry and Harris--with feudalism in Japan, did not find Bushido an embalmed mummy, but a living soul. What it really met was the quickening spirit of humanity. Then the less was blessed of the greater. Without losing the best in her own history and civilisation, Japan, following her own noble precedents, first adopted and then adapted the choicest the world had to offer. Thus her opportunity to bless Asia and the race became unique, and grandly she has embraced it--"in diffusion ever more intense." To-day, not only are our gardens, our art,
our homes enriched by the flowers, the pictures, and the pretty things of Japan, whether "trifles of a moment or triumphs for all time," but in physical culture, in public hygiene, in lessons for peace and war, Japan has come to us with her hands gift-laden.
Not only in his discourse as advocate and counsel for the defence, but as prophet and wise householder, rich in things new and old, our author is able to teach us. No man in Japan has united the precepts and practice of his own Bushido more harmoniously in life and toil, labour and work, craft of hand and of pen, culture of the soil and of the soul. Illuminator of Dai Nippon's past, Dr. Nitobe is a true maker of the New Japan. In Formosa, the empire's new accretion, as in Kioto, he is the scholar and practical man, at home in newest science and most ancient diligence.
This little book on Bushido is more than a weighty message to the Anglo-Saxon nations. It is a notable contribution to the solution of this century's grandest problem--the reconciliation and unity of the East and the West.
[paragraph continues] There were of old many civilisations: in the better world coming there will be one. Already the terms "Orient" and "Occident," with all their freight of mutual ignorance and insolence, are ready to pass, away. As the efficient middle term between the wisdom and communism of Asia and the energy and individualism of Europe and America, Japan is already working with resistless power.
Instructed in things ancient and modern and cultured in the literatures of the world, Dr. Nitobe herein shows himself admirably fitted for a congenial task. He is a true interpreter and reconciler. He need not and does not apologise for his own attitude toward the Master whom he has long loyally followed. What scholar, familiar with the ways of the Spirit and with the history of the race as led by man's Infinite Friend, but must in all religions put difference between the teachings of the Founder and the original documents and the ethnic, rationalistic, and ecclesiastical additions and accretions? The doctrine of the testaments, hinted at in the
author's preface, is the teaching of Him who came not to destroy, but to fulfil. Even in Japan, Christianity, unwrapped from its foreign mould and matting, will cease being an exotic and strike its roots deep in the soil on which Bushido has grown. Stripped alike of its swaddling bands and its foreign regimentals, the church of the Founder will be as native as the air.
WILLIAM ELLIOT GRIPPIS.
ITHACA, May, 1905.