ASIA212Varley

But with the growth in complexity of shogunate

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Unformatted text preview: tate of psychosis in which only action—not goals or purpose—matters. With its radical advocacy of violent irrationality—to the point of psychosis—Hagakure has shocked many people. But during Japan’s militarist years of the 1930s and World War II, soldiers and others hailed it as something of a bible of samurai behavior, and the postwar nationalist writer Mishima Yukio was even inspired to write a book in praise of its values.12 In studying both Hagakure and the story of the forty-seven rònin, we should note in particular the distinction, already adumbrated, that we find drawn between the concept of samurai loyalty, on the one hand, and samurai honor, on the other. True samurai loyalty meant total commitment to one’s lord, manifested primarily by acting in accordance with what was, or at least could be judged as, best for him. In that regard, Òishi Kuranosuke and the others among the rònin who wished above all to save the Asano house were surely loyal to the spirit of their dead lord, even though such loyalty might mean a diminution of their honor because they did not take personal revenge against Kira. Yamamoto Tsunetomo Heterodox Trends 213 was certainly a staunch advocate of loyalty, and says much about it Hagakure. He does not, however, address the question of what the samurai should do if loyalty conflicted with personal honor, as it did in the case of the forty-seven rònin when some of them rejected loyalty if it meant dropping plans to kill Kira (and thus losing honor) in order to save the Asano house. Tsunetomo’s central concern was, in fact, not at all with loyalty but with honor. We can observe this, for example, in the above two quotations from Hagakure in which he stresses avoidance of shame, the mortal enemy of honor, above all else. His criticism of the forty-seven rònin was that they did not act immediately. To satisfy him, the rònin should have launched an immediate attack on Kira’s residence even though it was then extremely well guarded in anticipation of just such an action. The rònin would all ha...
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