The best books about Samurai and Bushido
Hi there, my dear t-shirt and Japan fans!
Time for some more insight into the world of Japanese culture, to be more specific, the ancient warrior philosophy of bushido. In case you don’t know, Bushido code of conduct/honor employed by Japan’s ancient warrior caste – the Samurai. With its roots in the feudal system, Zen-Buddhism and Shinto, Bushido is still very alive in Japanese martial arts and even everyday life. But this article is not about the specifics of Bushido per se (this topic is very complex and would blow this little microblog out of proportion) but instead, we want to show you the top 5 books about samurai and bushido that are available out there.
1) Hagakure – Tsunemoto Yamamoto
The classic. This is a compilation of sayings, stories and pieces of wisdom by former Samurai turned monk Tsunemoto Yamamoto. If you would have to read just one book about Bushido, READ THIS ONE.
2) Bushido – Inazo Nitobe
This is more of a study guide. An intellectual treaty of what the code of bushido entails, what it meant for ancient Samurai and how it relates to other areas like zen or Japanese culture. A great read if you want to have more detail about the structure and framework of Bushido.
3) Gorin no Sho (The Book of Five Rings) – Miyamoto Musashi
This is a tough one but must be included in this list. If you can’t deal with abstract thought about tactics, strategy and one-armed combat, then skip this one. In his only written work, Musashi – Japan’s most famous samurai and many would argue one of the greatest (if not the greatest) swordfighter who ever lived describes his philosophy about one-armed combat, fighting and training in general. This is a goldmine if you do Kendo, Iaido, Kenjutsu or anything of that sorts.
4) The Lone Samurai – William Scott
Another on Musashi. This time it’s his most widely accepted biography by William Scott. If you want to know what shaped one of the most famous Samurai who ever lived, read this book! I personally highly enjoy reading biographies, they can teach you a great deal about life. Give this one a try if you like martial arts, samurai or sword-fighting.
5) The Unfettered Mind – Takuan Soho, William Scott
This is a treaty written by Takuan Soho, the famous zen master. It contains the correspondence between him and Yagyu Munenori, another very famous samurai of his time. This work has highly influenced bushido from that moment onward and is considered (together with Hagakure – to be one of the canonical texts). If you are interested in the relationship between fighting, samurai, bushido and zen (hint: you most likely are if you are reading this) then give this one a try.
Conclusion on the top 5 books about Samurai
Bushido and Samurai culture are well worth studying. So much is clear. These books will definitely give you greater insight into what made these elite warriors so calm and collected when they faced adversity or worse death. If you want to express your love and appreciation for samurai aJapaneseese culture, check out our Samurai with Katana design or our Japanese T-Shirts section. Give us a follow on social media or sub to our newsletter if you like our content. As usual, take care!