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Inventing the Way of the SamuraiNationalism, Internationalism, and Bushidō in Modern Japan$
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Oleg Benesch

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198706625

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2014

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198706625.001.0001

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Before Bushidō: Considering Samurai Thought and Identity

Before Bushidō: Considering Samurai Thought and Identity

(p.15) 1 Before Bushidō: Considering Samurai Thought and Identity
Inventing the Way of the Samurai

Oleg Benesch

Oxford University Press

This chapter provides a broad historical overview of samurai thought and ethics before the 1880s. For over two hundred years until the middle of the nineteenth century, many samurai were critical of their own time and looked to a romanticized past before the perceived decline of the warrior class into pacified bureaucrats. Discussions within Japanese society concerning ethics and contemporary issues tended to be phrased in broad terms and either not limited to the samurai or limited to specific regions or times. No widely accepted samurai ethic existed, nor did samurai thinkers have a direct connection to the first modern exponents of bushidō. The abolition of samurai privileges in the 1870s led to poverty among samurai and rebellions that reinforced a negative popular view of the samurai; there was little support for the idea that a samurai-based ethic should serve as a model for the nation.

Keywords:   samurai, Tokugawa, Edo, bushidō, Confucianism, martial, Bakumatsu, Meiji, nostalgia

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