Hagakure Book Summary - Hagakure Book explained in key points
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Hagakure summary

Yamamoto Tsunetomo & Alexander Bennett

The Secret Wisdom of the Samurai

4.3 (144 ratings)
10 mins
Table of Contents

    Hagakure
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    Book one

    In the heart of a true warrior lies not the anticipation of victory but the readiness for defeat. This profound understanding forms the core of the bushido ethos, where the fulfillment of one’s duties is intricately linked to the acceptance of death. 

    Embracing this concept, samurai are advised to “rehearse” their own demise morning and night of each day. This practice – far from morbid – is intended to instill a sense of freedom and focus, allowing the warrior to execute their responsibilities flawlessly, unencumbered by the fear of mortality.

    Of equal weight to the samurai way is the relationship with their lord. Warriors are urged to keep their lord at the forefront of their hearts, symbolizing loyalty and dedication that transcends mere service. From the proper handling of the lord’s possessions – viewing them not as items for personal use but as sacred objects imbued with the lord’s spirit – to the tactful offering of guidance – conveying such communications in a manner that encourages acceptance rather than resentment – attention and deep consideration must be given concerning duty to one’s lord.

    Similarly, organization and preparedness are highlighted as virtues that set the most respectable samurai apart. By meticulously planning for future encounters and maintaining a keen awareness of social etiquette, the warrior ensures they are always a step ahead. This preparedness extends to personal conduct, where, even in leisure – such as while drinking – the warrior remains vigilant and conscious of the impressions they leave on others.

    In sum, the first book in this tome of bushido wisdom emphasizes that a samurai’s life is captured not in the pursuit of honor or riches but in the mastery of self, service, and the unrelenting pursuit of excellence. Through accepting mortality, maintaining loyalty, and committing to continuous improvement, the warrior navigates life’s challenges with grace, unwavering resolve, and integrity. This journey, marked by the balance of strength and compassion, culminates in the realization that true victory lies in the quality of one’s character and the impact of their deeds. 

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    What is Hagakure about?

    Hagakure (1716) is a collection of insights and wisdom that serves as a guide to the way of the samurai, emphasizing honor, loyalty, and the acceptance of death. Its eleven books reflect on the virtues and ethics that governed the samurai’s life, offering advice and philosophical musings on living with integrity and courage.

    Hagakure Review

    Hagakure (1716) delves into the teachings of the samurai, offering timeless wisdom on honor, loyalty, and the way of the warrior. Here's why you should pick it up:

    • An invaluable resource, it provides profound insights on bushido ethics and the mindset of the samurai, shedding light on a fascinating historical perspective.
    • With its philosophical musings on death, loyalty, and discipline, the book challenges readers to reflect on their own values and beliefs.
    • Rich in wisdom and inspirational quotes, it offers a glimpse into a bygone era while imparting timeless principles for personal growth and self-discipline.

    Who should read Hagakure?

    • Enthusiasts of samurai lore and literature 
    • Students of Japanese history and culture 
    • Practitioners of martial arts

    About the Author

    Yamamoto Tsunetomo was a Japanese samurai of the early 18th century, best known for his insights into bushido, the samurai code of conduct. After his lord passed away in 1700, Tsunetomo became a monk, retiring to a hermitage in Kurotsuchibaru. Tsunetomo’s contributions have left a lasting legacy on Japanese culture and the broader philosophical discourse on ethics and morality. 

    Dr. Alexander Bennett is a professor of Japanese history and culture at Kansai University and current Director of the International Budo University’s Budo and Sports Research Institute. A prominent scholar with two doctoral degrees, Bennett previously worked at the International Research Center for Japanese Studies and Teikyo University.

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    Hagakure FAQs 

    What is the main message of Hagakure?

    The main message of Hagakure emphasizes the way of the samurai, discipline, and the acceptance of death.

    How long does it take to read Hagakure?

    To read Hagakure takes a few hours, while the Blinkist summary can be read in minutes.

    Is Hagakure a good book? Is it worth reading?

    Hagakure is a valuable read for those intrigued by samurai culture and seeking insights into discipline and honor.

    Who is the author of Hagakure?

    The author of Hagakure is Yamamoto Tsunetomo. Alexander Bennett translated the version you may read.

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