Wednesday 21 July 2021

Book Review: The Illustrated Bushido - The Soul of Japan by Nitobe Inazou (Non-Fiction/Philosophy/History)

Title: The Illustrated Bushido: The Soul of Japan
Author: Nitobe Inazou
Publisher: Amber Books
Publication Date: 5 October 2021 (1900)
Pages: 160
Format: eBook - PDF
Genre: Non-Fiction/Philosophy/History
Source: ARC via NetGalley

Beautifully produced in traditional Chinese binding and with a timeless design, The Illustrated Bushido: The Soul of Japan includes the classic Inazo Nitobe text with a new introduction and colorful illustrations throughout. "Chivalry is a flower no less indigenous to the soil of Japan than cherry blossom" are the opening words to Inazo Nitobe's Bushido: The Soul of Japan. It was 1900 and Inazo, a Japanese academic living in the USA, had been prompted to write the book after an American professor had wondered how the Japanese imparted moral education to their children if schools didn't offer any religious instruction. The answer, Inazo realized, was through Bushido. Bushido is the chivalric code of moral principles that the Samurai followed: rectitude, courage, benevolence, respect, honesty, honor, and loyalty. Influenced by Confucianism, Shinto, and Zen Buddhism, it tempers the violence of a warrior with wisdom and serenity. Alongside Sun Tzu's The Art of War and Machiavelli's The Prince, Inazo's book has become influential among military and corporate leaders looking for ways to manage their people and overcome their opponents.


The Illustrated Bushido: The Soul of Japan is over 100 years old, and that does show in its approach to the topic, which exudes nostalgia rather than objective description. Nonetheless, the text still makes for interesting reading in the overview it offers of Bushido and Japanese moral and philosophical thought, complemented with pleasing illustrations. Perhaps a modern writer would tackle the topic in a different way, but the archaic thoughts and focus offer an appeal of their own in the way they highlight the methods through which the West was introduced to Japanese customs in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. This is a book that will certainly be of use to those interest in Japanese culture and history. It gets four stars from me.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. 

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