BUSHIDO HONOR AND LOYALTY
“A code unuttered and unwritten, possessing all the more powerful sanction of an actual deed and law written on tablets of the heart” Bushido: The Warrior’s Code The Bushi were warriors of old comparable to that of Knights
“A code unuttered and unwritten, possessing all the more powerful sanction of an actual deed and law written on tablets of the heart”
Bushido: The Warrior’s Code
The Bushi were warriors of old comparable to that of Knights, we know them as the more commonly called Samurai, which means one who serves. These warriors, like all warriors live to certain standards, these standards were called the Buke Hatto (Military Statutes). However, in the Buke Hatto, surprisingly enough, there was no written code on honor; this was fashioned on hearts of the greatest warriors that have ever lived. The Samurai were at the top of the class in their society, Honor, Loyalty, The Code past from father to son, generation to generation. The Samurai were that of raw steel that had been fashioned by centuries of the hammer and fire.
An extreme consciousness of self image is implied in the word honor for samurai. Honor was expressed with words like “na” (name), men-moku (countenance) and guai bun (outside bearings). Any act of dishonor for the samurai was viewed more like a wound that would not heal. It was said among them, that dishonor was like a tree that when the bark was cut into, after time had pass, but only became larger and more apparent. Therefore the Samurai were willing to kill or be killed instead of bearing the shame of dishonor and once shamed, the Samurai had to regain his honor even if by committing Sepeku (ritual suicide) to regain their honor in their death.
Legend holds that many men lost their lives at the blade of Samurai for the mere hint of shame or dishonor. One such legend states that of a man calling the attention of a samurai to a flea on his body, cost him his life. The man was cut in two because the samurai thought it be disrespectful to associate his name with that of a flea. Thus nothing that the samurai had an extreme sense of shame and it was these sort of acts would reflect their fierce behavior that human life little value when compared to that of their own name. However not all bushi were of such short temper. There were those that avoided such over reacting, comforting themselves with a proverb “to bear what you think you can not really bear is to really bear”. These samurai were fashioned with patience and forgiveness, which formed the core elements of honor having been impacted by different religions, such as Shintoism, Buddhism and the Confucius.
Honor is and was greatly intertwined with making a name or being known and famous, which led to the ability for a samurai to provide for his family. Fame, not wealth was the goal to which many young samurai strived for, not a fame as might would think of a Hollywood star, but fame to be known, to be great, fierce fame, men of renown. Life itself was thought cheap if honor and fame could be obtained, therefore whenever a cause presented itself, which was considered more dearly than life, the bushi with the utmost serenity and speed laid down his life for the cause.
One such man had his name written about in the pages of history for such an act. Miyamoto Musashi after surviving one of the bloodiest battles of Japanese history set out to make a name for his self. Musashi in the year 1605 at the age of twenty-one, set out to find duels, to further his art and understanding of swordsmanship and that he did very well. Musashi, issued a challenge to Yoshioka Genzaemon on of the most notable swordsmen of Kyoto. Even though Genzaemon was very reputable and had already established himself a skilled component to the art, he still accepted Musashi’s challenge. No doubt it was his honor he sought to keep intact. Nonetheless he accepted and arrived at the appointed place of the duel on time with several of his retainers with him. While Musashi was not there, a man was sent to see if he was still at the Inn and he was there still sleeping. It would be several more hours before Musashi made it to the field. Genzaemon was very angered by this and when Musashi came to the field Genzaemon charged with a head on attack. The two men fought both relieving very devastating blows (in the duel they were using Bokken); however it was Genzaemon that was knocked out by a blow to the head. Genzaemon awoke only to realize defeat and that his arm had been broken in several places. Genzaemon humiliated by this defeat, therefore his younger brother Denshishiro challenged Musashi. Upon the appointed time and Denshishiro arrived with a 5ft sword in hand thinking to him-self to be technically superior to his elder brother. Denshishiro took his aim to have Musashi’s blood upon his blade in and effort to redeem his brother’s honor. Upon the day that the two men were set to duel, Musashi arrived late again to the duel. Once Musashi arrived, he launched a furious attack against Denshishiro and with only his bokken in hand; Musashi quickly ended the battle with a fatal blow to the head of Denshishiro. Genzaemon’s son later challenged Musashi and though he died in the duel against Musashi, being bound by honor to that of the family name, he died with honor.
These men of the Yoshioka family were a prime example of how the samurai lived to their code of honor. Genzaemon could have turned down Musashi’s challenge, but compelled by his honor and name, he accepted. Genzaemon’s brother Denshishiro reflects that of giri (duty with right reason), for the honor of the family name he sought to redeem his brother and the family name, the same is true for the son of Genzaemon. Mushashi reflects how fame and honor was sought after in the era of the Bushi.