Bushidō

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Bushidō (武士道?), meaning "Way of the Warrior", is a name in common usage since the late 19th century which is used to describe a uniquely Japanese code of conduct adhered to by samurai since time immemorial. This code is said to have emphasized virtues such as loyalty, honor, obedience, duty, filial piety, and self-sacrifice.

Although Chinese-derived Confucian concepts such as loyalty and filial piety were certainly extolled in Japanese texts from the feudal period, the actual term bushidō is extremely rare in ancient texts, and does not even appear in famous texts supposedly describing this code, such as the Hagakure of Yamamoto Tsunetomo. Moreover, although at various points in Japanese history certain feudal lords promulgated prescriptive "House Codes" to guide the actions of their retainers, there never existed a single, unified "samurai code" which all Japanese warriors adhered to or were even aware of.

The first person to popularize the term bushidō in the west was Japanese author Nitobe Inazō (a converted Quaker living in Philadelphia who married an American wife) in his 1899 book Bushidō: The Soul of Japan, which was originally written and published in English and only later translated into Japanese. In this work, Inazō scoured Japanese tradition in an effort to recover an indigenous code of behavior analogous to the Western ideal of chivalry, which he then embedded with his own Christian ideology. Although Nitobe presented this concept as a timeless Japanese tradition which he had simply been taught as a child, he obscured his own numerous interpolations and extrapolations, and his efforts to unite diverse strands of Shintō and Buddhist teachings into a single unified code. Upon publication Nitobe's work was a massive success, and has returned to Japanese best-seller lists on numerous occasions (most recently in early 2004 following the release of the American film The Last Samurai), and the term quickly entered into widespread use in both Japanese and Western texts from that time.

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