In modern culture, samurai have become the epitome of a model warrior. Across both the Western and Eastern world, popular culture portrays samurai as heroic, wise, loyal, and decisive. Japanese movies glorify the samurai life, whereas Hollywood creates an exotic hero from a far away land. This image of the samurai, however, has much further reaching connotations than mere popular culture representations. Samurai culture has been continuously portrayed as following a sacred warrior's code known as bushido. Bushido code has been applied not only to samurai warriors, but has also been linked to Japanese society as a whole. Historians have constantly tried to link bushido to Japan's militaristic behaviors during Japan's period of imperialism and during World War II. In addition, anthropologists have been trying to link bushido to modern Japanese culture and Japan's economic surge during the 1980s.
Although much work has been done to find connections between samurai ethics and other elements of Japanese society, some modern historians and archaeologists have begun to question this commonly perpetuated image. With further analysis into Japan's archaeological record and historical accounts, the image of the noble samurai becomes problematic. Unfortunately, ethical samurai with a universal, sacred code of bushido seems to be more of a myth than a reality.
[...] Reconsidering the Samurai Image In modern culture, samurai have become the epitome of a model warrior. Across both the Western and Eastern world, popular culture portrays samurai as heroic, wise, loyal, and decisive. Japanese movies glorify the samurai life, whereas Hollywood creates an exotic hero from a far away land. This image of the samurai, however, has much further reaching connotations than mere popular culture representations. Samurai culture has been continuously portrayed as following a sacred warrior's code known as bushido. [...]
[...] Mary Elizabeth Berry does this in her article “Presidential Address: Samurai Trouble: Thoughts on War and Loyalty”. Berry aims to analyze the warfare ethics of samurai while otherwise disregarding romanticized samurai images. Berry claims that, during the Japanese warring states period, conditions promoted belligerence during warfare. The times were chaotic, which was reflected through warfare tactics (Berry 2005: 836). In order to understand warfare, Berry states that it is more important to look at conditions surrounding battles rather than combat (Berry 2005: 837). In a way, soldiers are like victims to their commanders. [...]
[...] Whether or not this was completely true in World War II is up for debate. Friday's argument against samurai loyalty is very similar to Hurst's evidence. Instead of just seeing samurai as direct employees of lords, however, Friday argues that the samurai and lord relationship was more of a mutual agreement. Once the agreement no longer benefitted the samurai, then the samurai would most likely leave that lord for one who offered more benefits (Friday 1994: 342). Any loyalty was purely derived from Confucianism and was not due to militarism. [...]
[...] Hurst III, Cameron G “Death, Honor, and Loyalty: The Bushido Ideal.” Philosophy East and West 40:511-527. Howes, John F “Japan's Bridge Across the Pacific.” Journal of Japanese Studies 22: 450-453. Howland, Douglass R “Samurai Status, Class, and Bureaucracy.” The Journal of Asian Studies 60:353-380. Karasulas, Antony “Zaimokuza Reconsidered: The Forensic Evidence, and Classical Japanese Swordsmanship.” World Archaeology 36: 507-518. Schmidt, Nathaniel “Bushido, The Soul of Japan Review.” International Journal of Ethics 14:506-508 Shackley, Myra Arms and the Men; 14th Century Japanese Swordsmanship Illustrated by Skeletons from Zaimokuza near Kamakura, Japan.” World Archaeology 18: 247-254. [...]
[...] It is almost as if present Japanese society tries to create a nostalgia for a noble warrior past that never really existed much like Western societies hold the image of a chivalrous knight in such high esteem. Cameron G. Hurst III takes on this historical dilemma in his article, “Death, Honor, and Loyalty: The Bushido Ideal”. In this article, Hurst criticizes the modern notion of a single samurai code of honor. Although many other historians have worked to try and link Bushido to more modern events, such as WWII, Hurst disagrees. In fact, Hurst argues that a warrior code termed “bushido” never even existed in history (Hurst III 1990: 514). [...]
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