Sword and Spirit: Bushido in Practice from the Late Sengoku Era through the Edo Period

Sengoku Period Battle Sword and Spirit: Bushido in Practice from the Late Sengoku Era through the Edo Period

Joe Lovatt

Western Oregon University:Bachelor of Arts in History Spring (2009)


The Samurai possessed a strict code of ethics known as Bushido (the way of the warrior), which allowed them to become some of the greatest warrior the world has ever known. However, there were different embodiments of this system, personifications that two Samurai themselves have documented in two of the most well known books ever written by Samurai; The Book of Five Rings by Miyamoto Musashi and Hagakure, by Yamamoto Tsunetomo. Bushido has usually been considered an ethical code that was set to a certain standard, just as the ten commandments are. This analysis suggests that it was in fact not a set of moral laws, but that bushido was embodied differently by every Samurai. Bushido was ultimately a guideline, just like rules in religion.


It was a path that one was to adhere to as well as they could, but history has made it clear that it depended upon the circumstances in which a Samurai lived; the life of a Samurai in the twelfth century would filled with fighting for their master and practical use of the code; far different from that of a Samurai living during the first half of the 1800’s, who would be keeping track of the business operations of their master instead of fighting. Because of these differing conditions, Bushido has changed constantly through time, proving that they Way of the Warrior was far more than an established ideal; it was a deeply personal code.

Click here to read this thesis from Western Oregon University


Sign up for our weekly email newsletter!