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Full-time Lecturer Department of Japanese Studies Airlangga University, Indonesia. Curently as a Research Student at Graduate School of Arts and Letters Tohoku University, Japan. Also Visit: http://pujopurnomo.multiply.com/


Foreword for Bushido: The Soul of Japan

Foreword for Bushido: The Soul of Japan (Indonesian Edition)

Antonius R. Pujo Purnomo, M.A.

Airlangga University


My first acquaintance with this book was when I wrote my Bachelor’s thesis on the seppuku[1] ritual executed by 46 rōnin[2] from Akō.[3] Nitobe Inazō, the writer of the Bushidō: The Soul of Japan formulates the meaning of seppuku in a very eloquent language which left a deep impression in my heart. “I will open the resting place of my soul and I will show you its real condition. You can witness whether it is dirty or pure” wrote Nitobe. I found the expression very shocking. I thought there is no religion in the world that suggests its adherents solve problems by committing suicide. Yet, in Bushidō, seppuku is meant to be a punishment as well as the highest honor of the samurai class. “The way of the samurai is found in death” wrote Yamamoto Tsunetomo in Hagakure.[4] Death for a samurai is the final goal of his service to his master.

Very powerful and meaningful! This impression has stayed vividly in my youthful spirit since I read the book years ago. My interest in further studying Bushidō’s philosophy has led me to choose a similar theme for my Master’s degree thesis. “The bright star from the sky has illuminated the black paths on my way” in learning about the principles of Bushidō. The Bushidō principles that I learned mostly come from Nitobe Inazō’s writings. Nitobe was a son of a samurai from the Nanbu clan (Morioka) who has become one of Japan’s great thinkers of the Meiji era. Bushidō: The Soul of Japan is one of his many great works that introduced Japanese thought to the world, especially to the Anglo-Saxon nations. According to Nitobe, Bushidō is not to be compared to the loving principles of Christianity embraced by the Westerners, it is a characteristic of the Japanese derived from different sources of good teachings. If Christianity could be combined with Bushidō’s teachings, Bushidō would surely become a perfect good teaching.[5]

After finishing my M.A., I returned to my beloved campus and devoted myself to working as a lecturer of Japanese studies, a path that I have chosen since I got my Bachelor’s degree. I taught several units which closely related to Japanese studies such as Japanese literature in translation, Comparative literature, and the History of East Asia. In some units, other than introducing some Japanese literary works and their history, I also introduced some Japanese ways of thinking and elements of culture which mould the literary works. Among Japanese writers that attracted students’ attention are Akutagawa Ryūnosuke, Natsume Sōseki, Mishima Yukio, Kawabata Yasunari and Murakami Haruki. Most of my classes were full of students who expressed high enthusiasm to learn Japanese culture and literature. After several meetings, questions about Japanese ways of thinking and behavior started to emerge. For instance; why is the Japanese psychology is complex and difficult to understand? (regarding Akutagawa Ryunosuke’s work ‘Rashōmon’ and Natsume Sōseki ‘Kokoro’); do all Japanese love beauty and describe things by employing beautiful words? (regarding Mishima Yukio’s work ‘Shiosai’ and Kawabata Yasunari’s ‘Izu no Odoriko’); is the morality of young Japanese that ‘horrible’? (regarding Murakami Haruki’s work ‘Norwegian Wood’); and even more absurdly, why the Japanese prefer to commit suicide?

Even though literary works do not necessarily reflect the society of their era, nonetheless they portray the writers’ state of mind. It was impossible for me to discuss all aspects of Japanese behavior and ways of thinking in the duration of 90 minutes x 14 meetings. Therefore, I tried to find a way by which ‘the young souls’ longing for new knowledge might quench their thirst. Finally, I introduced them to Bushidō: The Soul of Japan – though I realized that it was not really appropriate to provide them with only one book. I reckoned, though, that the book was sufficient to give them a foundation in understanding the Japanese way of thinking, at least at the introductory level. Despite the difficulties in familiarizing themselves with Nitobe Inazō’s writing style, I believed that they could benefit from studying the book.


Bushidō: The Soul of Japan, An Exposition of Japanese Thought was written in English by Nitobe Inazō when he was 38 years old and underwent health treatment in The United States. The book was launched at the end of 1899 by The Leeds and Biddle Company, Philadelphia. In the next year, the book was published in Japan – the English version – by local publisher, Shokabō. In 1905, the tenth printed edition was published along with the revised edition, by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York. This book was greatly appreciated by Western readers, especially after the Japanese won a war over Russia in the same year. The book was translated into several languages afterward i.e; German, Polish, Bohemian, and Marathi. Then it was translated into French, Norwegian, Hungarian, Russian, Chinese, Greek and Arabic. The book has been translated into more than 30 languages. The translation into Japanese was conducted by Sakurai Oson in 1908. The book was then translated many times by different scholars. One of the versions which is still reprinted and distributed to some Japanese book stores is Yanaihara Tadao’s translation. He was one of Nitobe Inazō’s students at Tokyo Imperial University Preparatory School. On the other hand, according to the online catalog of The Republic of Indonesia’s National Library, the earliest English version of Bushidō distributed in Indonesia is the one published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons, New York, 1905. The first Indonesian edition was written in 1992 by Haryono from Soegijapranata Catholic University, Semarang, in collaboration with the Karti Sarana Foundation. Unfortunately it was a rare book and it was not distributed or sent to bookstores or big university libraries in Indonesia. While I was in Indonesia I never saw the Indonesian version. Translating this book is one of my biggest dreams.

Nitobe Inazō divides his book of 17 chapters into four major sections which are: (1) Introduction to Bushidō (Chapter I Bushidō as an Ethics system, Chapter II Sources of Bushidō), (2) The Wisdoms of Bushidō (Chapter III – IX about Rectitude or Justice, Courage – The Spirit of Daring and Bearing, Benevolence – the Feeling of Distress, Politeness, Veracity or Truthfulness, Honor, the Duty of Loyalty), (3) The Samurai Life (Chapter X Education and Trainings of Bushidō, Chapter XI Self-Control, Chapter XII The Institutions of Suicide and Redress, Chapter XIII Sword: Samurai Soul, Chapter XIV The Training and Position of Women), (4) Bushidō’s future (Chapter XV The Influence of Bushidō, Chapter XVI Is Bushidō Still Alive?, Chapter XVII The Future of Bushidō).

In the preface, Nitobe stated two reasons for writing the book; first, he wanted to answer all questions asked by his acquaintance, a Belgian jurist, E.L.V. de Laveleye about how to impart moral values to students at school, in the absence of religion in Japan. Second, he wanted to answer questions proposed by his own wife, an American by the name of Mary P. Elkinton about Japanese culture and ways of thinking. Considering those two reasons, he summarized that the moral values of the Japanese society are based on Bushidō’s principles. “I found out that Bushidō had breathed into my nostrils,” he said.

In writing this book, Nitobe compared the history of nations in the East and the West. He tried to compare the principles of chivalry from medieval Europe and the principles of chivalry of Japan’s feudal era. The chivalric principle of noblesse oblige, protecting the weak, was seen as a striking similarity between Japanese Bushido and European Knightly Codes. Furthermore, Nitobe explained that there are three major sources which greatly influence the rules of Bushidō. In Buddhism, there is a sense of calm trust in fate, and stoic composure in sight of danger or calamity and no fear of death. In addition, Shintōism contributes to shaping an attitude of loyalty to the sovereign, ancestral memory and filial piety. Two characteristics drawn from Shintōism are patriotism and nationalism. While Buddhism and Shintoism provide ethical doctrines, the most dominant teaching, Confucianism, explained the other aspects. Confucius taught about the ethics of social life, which was relevant to the socio-political position of the samurai class, which was also the ruling class during the Japanese feudal era. The five basic relationships in Confucianism are those between master and servant (the governing and the governed), father and son, husband and wife, older and younger brother, and between friend and friend. They have been the main foundation of Japan’s social system over generations.

From the seven wisdoms in Bushidō explained by Nitobe Inazō, Gi (), rectitude or justice is placed in the highest position. “Rectitude is similar to the bones that provide strength and figure to the body” according to a statement of Mencius. “Rectitude is the power of deciding upon a certain course of conduct in accordance with reason, without wavering – to die when it is right to die, to strike when to strike is right” stated sternly by Hayashi Shihei, a Sendai samurai. The generated of Gi is Giri (義理) which means the Right Reason that give the background of assignments to be executed. The twin brother of Gi is Yū () courage. In the Analects, Confucius said that courage is doing the right thing. This was echoed by a prince from Mito who said that the true courage is to live when it is necessary to live and to die when it is required to die. The teachings about courage were engraved into samurai hearts from an early age.

The next wisdom is Jin () a wisdom which comes from the humanity common to all human beings. Mencius has formulated that wisdom is the human himself. The wisdom sourced from humanity supported the gentle quality of a samurai —bushi no nasake— in addition to their stern and dignified characters which are the must-have characteristics of a samurai. Besides this, a samurai should always be humble and respect other people. This characteristic is called Rei () or Politeness. The politeness which is based on humbleness and respect for other people balanced out the behavior of the samurai ruling class in the feudal era. Some of those characters above need to be cemented with Makoto (), veracity. Regarding this trait Confucius said that honesty is the beginning and the end of all things. Without veracity all is emptiness. Therefore, every word which comes out of a samurai – bushi no ichigon – is guaranteed as sincere and should never be questioned.

The last two wisdoms are Meiyo (名誉) honor and Chūgi (忠義) loyalty. The dignity of a samurai is based on the sense of shame —Renchishin (廉恥心)— which touches their sensibility. The loyalty of samurai is not only based on gratitude but also on obedience and sincerity. In the introduction of his revised edition, Nitobe said that loyalty and filial piety —Kō ()— are similar to two wheels of the chariot which are equally important. Yet, in Bushidō, loyalty is put slightly higher than filial piety.

According to Nitobe, the first and foremost thing to consider in teaching chivalry is character building. The next step is teaching other aspects such as alertness, intelligence and logic. Bushidō perceives action as more important than other knowledge which has no direct relation with life. Therefore, the dominant training for samurai consisted of physical exercises such as; sword play, archery, jiujitsu, horse riding, etc. Scientific knowledge is focused on practical purposes for the samurai. One important thing in samurai training is self-control. Self-control means acting calmly, having a peaceful mind, and preventing low desires from interfering with the act and the mind. A valiant samurai will never show his emotions through his countenance.

I have already mentioned that based on the classical literature, the path of a samurai is finding his own death. Yet, I would like to emphasize that the death dedicated to the master is an honorable death as taught in Bushidō. On the other hand, this ‘heroic’ death can be achieved through several means such as in battle or in the form of Seppuku (切腹)—which in layman’s terms is called hara-kiri. Seppuku is a formal institution of Bushidō. It can be seen as a punishment or a independent action. The formal procedure of seppuku is the cutting of the abdomen which is meant to show the purity of the heart. In addition, another common practice in Bushidō is Katakiuchi (敵討), revenge. Nitobe said that revenge will satisfy someone’s feeling of justice. Bushidō upholds one of Confucius’s teachings which states that a crime must be avenged by justice. Revenge is justified when it is executed to the benefit of the masters and those who help them. In performing these acts the only weapon a samurai uses is a sword (katana) which is also called the soul of samurai. Therefore, a samurai who always has two swords (katana and wakizashi) of his side must be able to defend the swords as if they were his own soul.

In Bushidō, women had no equal position to men; they were more equal in other social classes such as the noble class, farmers, crafts people or traders, – but they had a special and important position. Nitobe said that a woman’s role was in the house, especially taking care of the husband and overseeing the children’s education, and was as important as the husband’s role in battle. She is not the slave of the husband, not less than the husband is a slave of his master. A woman’s role is acknowledged as Naijo (内助) the help from inside, which is highly valued in Bushidō. Nitobe also criticized the Western Knightly Code that mentions respect to “God and women” but in reality often manifested the respect to the gentler sex in the form of unlawful love-relationships.

How do the Bushidō moral values affect all Japan citizens? Nitobe explained that since the feudal era, many different entertainments or educations for common people such as; theater, itinerant theatrical troupes, preachers of many varieties, musical lyrics, and novels often raised themes concerning samurai in their stories. The people loved these samurai heroes. Bushidō is understood and learned by all people from its source (the samurai), and has become a way of life and one of the moral standards of Japanese society. Furthermore, Nitobe explained that though Bushidō has gone along with the death of the feudalism at its root, the moral values were still intact among the Japanese leaders of the restoration era. Many eras had come and gone, things changed, and new ethical systems had replaced the old ones. Yet, the spirit of Bushidō still burns in the bosom of its heirs in Japan. Just like the sakura flower which suffers wind gusts from the four directions, yet its fragrance will still fill the air and color life.


Since it was launched for the first time in 1899, this book about the core of Japanese traditional values based on the samurai code of ethics has received a warm welcome from readers in the West, especially in The United States. For instance, the Daily Chronicle of San Francisco, 4 February 1900 edition opined that this interesting little book can only be written by the very widely-knowledgeable Japanese that is Nitobe Inazō, a Phd. in Philosophy.[6] The Times of Washington DC 18 March 1900 edition mentioned that Nitobe Inazō’s book is very interesting to read. They perceived that Bushidō has similar meaning to the paths and principles of Western chivalry.[7] This warm welcome from The United States press made a Japanese friend of President Roosevelt[8] during his student life in Harvard suggest that he read the book. After reading the book enthusiastically, President Roosevelt bought at least 30 copies and distributed them among his friends.[9] This book might have influenced the president such that he became the mediator for the Portsmouth treaty between the Japanese and Russia for a postwar peace solution in 1905. His role as a successful mediator led to his inauguration as a Nobel laureate for peace in the following year. [10]

In Japan, the book has been reprinted more than a hundred times until this day,[11] and many scholars have written various opinions regarding this book. Some harsh criticisms were put forward by some scholars of Japanese history and philosophy, for instance Tsuda Sōkichi (1873 – 1961) and Watsuji Tetsurō (1889 – 1960). Tsuda Sōkichi said that the Bushidō put forward by Nitobe Inazō is actually Yamato-damashii (大和魂) Yamato spirit, instead of Bushidō that is reviewed based on historical science and authentic evidences.[12] Therefore, according to Tsuda, it can be said that the accuracy of Nitobe Inazō’s work Bushidō is questionable. Furthermore, Watsuji Tetsurō stated that the moral values of Bushido reflected by Nitobe are the moral values that have grown in the heart of samurai since the Period of the Country at WarSengoku Jidai (戦国時代)— such as the sense of shame, and other high moralities. In other words, Watsuji suggests Nitobe wanted to transpose those Sengoku moral values into parts of the Confucianism of Bushidō. In fact, those traits had already become the samurai path since the Kamakura eraKamakura Jidai (鎌倉時代). These even included the moral values of loyalty and filial piety —Chūkō (忠孝)the foundation of the samurai path during the feudal era. Nitobe made efforts to explain the backbones of Japanese national morality by tracing all to the samurai path. He wanted to show that the Japanese nation is not a nation with special traits which are incomprehensible to Western nations.[13] From the comments of the two scholars mentioned above, we can understand that among Japanese scholars themselves the scientific aspect of Nitobe’s Bushidō was doubted. Failings are understandable since the writing of Bushidō was conducted in the United States where the materials for the book such as Japanese historical documents were impossible to get. On the other hand, the vast knowledge of Nitobe Inazō about great philosophers from the East and the West (including Japan) and their thoughts on chivalry makes this book worth reading.

Some researchers focused on Nitobe Inazō’s thoughts, especially the ones written down on Bushido presented different views. Professor Furukawa Tetsufumi from Tokyo University, by analyzing Professor B. H. Chamberlain’s writing entitled The Invention of a New Religion (1912), which stated that the term Bushidō reappeared 10 – 20 years before his time of writing,[14] stated that the realization about the existence of the term Bushidō during the Meiji era shows that the term Bushidō had different meanings during the Tokugawa era or during the previous eras. Finally, he categorized Bushido’ as written by Nitobe Inazō as typicallyMeiji Bushidō” and thus the term “Bushidōas used by Nitobe only applies to that of the Meiji era.[15] Professor Kamei Shunsuke from Tokyo University categorized Bushidō written by Nitobe Inazō as “Nationalism Literature”.[16] He stated that in his book, Nitobe Inazō wrote his opinion about challenging the Western missionaries who classified the world into two halves, the Christians and the infidel – the Japanese belonging to the latter because they are not Christian. Professor Ōta Yūzo from McGill University Canada who gave harsh criticism to Nitobe Inazō’s thoughts – including Bushidō – called Nitobe Inazō a “culture mediator” since he has been able to bridge the difference between the East and the West, in this case between Japan and the United States.[17]

Almost at the same time as the publishing of Bushidō in the United States, at least two other Japanese wrote books concerning Japanese thought in English. Uchimura Kanzō (1861-1930) an activist of the Christian movement without a church Mukyōkai (無教会)— who was also Nitobe Inazō’s best friend wrote How I Became a Christian (1893) and Japan and the Japanese (1904), that reflect his determination in building a Christianity in Japanese style. The second writer is Okakura Tenshin (1862-1913) a thinker and Japanese calligrapher who wrote The Ideals of East (1903) and The Awakening of Japan (1904). Those books were published in England and the United States. In the books, the writers emphasized that Asia is one, thereby trying to make the Japanese realize that they don’t have to take all on aspects of Western culture. Instead, they encouraged to the Japanese respect the Eastern moral values. The publication of books in English during the Meiji era had a significant role in the spirit of Japan’s modernization. Those great works have become a living proof of the Japanese character and strengthen the Japanese national position in the world, especially in the face of Western nations. One thing Nitobe wished to emphasize is that the Japanese had moral values and culture which were as high and respected as Christianity in the United States and in Europe. This is one of the implementations of Meiji Nationalism.

It is obvious that Bushidō has become one of the Japanese nationalistic icons of history in facing modernism in the early 20th century. This great work will always be a milestone of Japanese intellectual history and point to a moral touchstone for the Japanese people.


This book could inspire us—the Indonesian people—to return to our true character as a nation. In a time when our national identity is questioned, we can turn to this book and remember our founding fathers that have united this nation and sworn to build the nation. They united our nation with a pledge to have one nation, one language and one motherland, Indonesia.[18] And this pledge is completed by the Pancasila, the guidance to build the nation’s character.[19] Nationalism is an abstract concept—and some say that nations are merely imagined things,[20] yet it may become a way to draw us together as a nation, setting down our own moral values and dignity.

Finally, this translation appears not only because I admired the spirit espoused in this book, but I also feel obliged to become “a cross-cultural bridge” between Indonesia and Japan. It is my duty to take an active role in introducing the culture of both countries. Therefore, I would like to express my gratitude to Professor Nakamura Yasuhiro, Professor Okazaki Masamichi and Professor Kobayashi Hidenobu from Iwate University who have provided guidance while I conducted a research on Bushidō in 2003-2005. I also thank Professor Satō Hiroo and Professor Kataoka Ryū for their patience in guiding me during my research at Tohoku University. I am also very thankful to all parties that I could not mention one by one for all their help in translating this book.

[1] The self-elimination ritual by cutting out the stomach usually commited by the Samurai class in the feudal era of Japan.

[2] A samurai who has lost his master.

[3] Antonius R. Pujo Purnomo. “An Analysis on Seppuku in a novel Ako Roshi by Yasuyuki Funato: A Study on Japanese Moral Philosophy” (in Indonesian), Department of Japanese studies, Faculty of Letters, Padjadjaran University, 1999.

[4] A samurai manual written by Tsuramoto Tashirō based on Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s story, a former samurai who became a monk from the Nabeshima clan between 1710 and 1716.

[5] Antonius R. Pujo Purnomo. “A Study on Nitobe Inazō’s Bushidō: A Historical Thought Perspective” (In Japanese), Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Iwate University, 2005.

[6] Satō Masahiro, “Bushidō” Shuppan Tōhyo no Kaigai Hyōka (Jō), Nitobe Inazō Kenkyū, 2005.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919) as the 26th President of the United States, serving 1901 - 1909

[9] Satō Masahiro, “Nitobe Inazō and Bushidō”, Japanese Journal of Trade and Industry, February 2002

[10] Ibid.

[11] For instance, the Japanese version of Bushidō by Yanaihara Tadao, published by Iwanami Bunkō had been reprinted 84 times from 1938 to 2004. Not to mention other translations and publication by other publishers which account for 7 companies (including the English edition in Japan).

[12] Tsuda Sōkichi, “Bushidō no Engen ni Tsuite”, Tsuda Sōkichi Zenshu 22, Iwanami Shoten, 1988.

[13] Watsuji Tetsurō, “Nihon Rinri Shisōshi (Ka)”, Iwanami Shoten, 1979.

[14] Chamberlain’s writing refers to Bushidō published in 1900 in Japan.

[15] Furukawa Tetsufumi, “Bushidō no Shisō to Sono Shūhen”, Fukumura Shoten, 1957.

[16] Kamei Shunsuke, “Nashonarizumu no Bungaku—Meiji Seishin no Tankyū—” Kenkyūsha Shuppan, 1971

[17] Ōta Yūzo, Nitobe Inazō as a “Bridge Across The Pacific”, Misuzu Shobō, 1986.

[18] Youth Pledge, October 28, 1928.

[19] Five principles of Republic of Indonesia’s nation foundation.

[20] Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism, Verso, 1991.

1 件のコメント:

Kadafi さんのコメント...

hajimemashite...ammar desu..makassar kara kimashita..unhas no nihongo gakka no gakusei desu..yoroshiku onegaishimasu..

sy dah membaca buku foreword for bushido..sy sndri lg mencari referensi ttg bushido..dan sy tertarik tuk membaca tulisan Furukawa Tetsufumi, "Bushido no Shiso to Sono Shuhen"..tp sy kesulitan menemukannya..sy ingin lebih jauh mendalami bushido namun yang ada pada masa sengoku jidai..

mhon bantuannya..
doumo arigatou gozaimasu..