hagakure


hagakure

Lord Katsushige always used to say that there are four kinds of retainers. They are the “quick, then lapping,” the “lagging, then quick,” the “continually quick,” and the ”continually lagging.”The “continually quick” are men who when given orders will undertake their execution quickly and settle the matter well. Fukuchi Kichizaemon and the like resemble this type.

The “lagging, then quick” are men who, though lacking in understanding when given orders, prepare quickly and bring the matter to a conclusion. I suppose that Nakano Kazuma and men similar are like this.

The “quick, then lagging” are men who when given orders seem to be going to settle things but in their preparation take time and procrastinate. There are many people like this.

Other than these, one could say that the rest are ”continually lagging.”

 

 

Hagakure, roughly translated as Hidden In the Shadow of Leaves, is a book that was authored by the samurai, Yamamoto Tsunetomo, former retainer to Nabeshima Mitsushige, the third ruler of what is now the Saga prefecture in Japan. Hagakure records Tsunetomo’s views on bushido, the warrior code of the samurai.

The Hagakure was written approximately one hundred years after the start of the Tokugawa era, a time of relative peace when Japan was closed to any foreign influence. With no battles left to fight, the samurai class was being transformed into an administrative arm of the government, training and practicing the martial arts but seldom engaging in combat outside of duels and brawls. After his master died, Tsunetomo was forbidden to perform a ritual suicide by an edict of the Tokugawa Shogunate and it is thought that the Hagakure may have been written as a response to the change in tradition and was an effort to define the role of the samurai in this more peaceful society. Several sections refer to the “old days”, and imply a dangerous weakening of the samurai class since that time.

His work represents one approach to the problem of maintaining military preparedness and a proper military mindset in a time when neither has much practical application. The Hagakure remained a fairly obscure work until 1930’s Japan where it played a role in the resurgent militarism of WWII imperial Japan. Illustrating the danger in trying to resurrect modes of thought from times that were vastly different from our own. The student studying these codes needs to remember that the “trick” lays in finding the similarities and consistency in human thought that may have remained over the ages and see how these ancient codes may or may not apply to our times.

 

Some sample translations of Hagakure can be found here.

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12 thoughts on “hagakure”

  1. Again, you bring up a very important point Tom. The idea that the Hagekure may have been a reactionary writing. If readers don’t recognize the human factor buried in text, it’s easy to turn into a Kool-Aid sipper w/o ever knowing it.

  2. There seems to be this tendency to “emulate” vs “assimilate” when it comes to this sort of thing.

    I ascribe it to a lack of critical thinking skills and the “immersion” entertainment that is so popular these days.

    Entertainment, games and media are all about “living it”. I cant count how many times Ive seen teeniboppers arguing weapons and tactics because of their X-Box experience with them. Reading the Hagakure and playing FinalFantasy wont give you any clout when discussing warriorship with me kiddo…sorry. 🙂

  3. Dear tgace,
    I recently began reading Hagakure, and I have a question. Regarding giri, page 95

    Lord Naoshige once said, “There is nothing felt quite so deeply as giri. There are times when someone like a cousin dies and it is not a matter of shedding tears. But we may hear of someone who lived fifty or a hundred years ago, of whom we know nothing and who has no family ties with us whatsoever, and yet from a sense of giri shed tears.”

    I know the concept of giri is very complicated and intense. I wonder if you have any insights, besides those of honorable sentiment.

    Sincerely,
    Ann T.

    1. Giri is a very “Japanese” concept and can be difficult to understand or explain..hell I don’t really know if my conception of it is accurate.

      However..on the passage you quoted, I sort of equate it to when you have a relative who may not be very close too pass away, you may feel sad but not really “moved”. However you can watch a movie or read a book about a heroic/courageous person and be moved to tears. I see that passage in that light. The Samurai would feel “moved” by a heroic tale because it touches on something important to them…something that makes them feel “indebted”.

      Not very dissimilar to how I feel when I go to the Vietnam Memorial, the Law Enforcement Memorial, Arlington, Memorial Day etc.

      1. Okay, this is what I got from it too. If you ever run across a definition better than the one in the glossary, I would love to share.

        And I promise to reciprocate.

        🙂

        Thank You,
        Ann T.

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