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BASHÔ (1644-1694)



SAIKAKU (1642-1693)

Transformation of the Samurai Class

Robert Oxnam :: A change of great significance was the transformation of the famous samurai class. During the Tokugawa years, the samurai evolved from a body of warriors to an urbanized class of educated bureaucrats. So if at the top of the Chinese Confucian social hierarchy was the scholar-bureaucrat, then in Japan the top was occupied by the warrior-bureaucrat.

H. Paul Varley :: One thing that is truly extraordinary about the Tokugawa period is that it was some two-and-a-half centuries of almost uninterrupted peace. So here you've got a major country that is at peace, has no warfare, during such a long period of time, and perhaps even most extraordinarily, it was ruled by a warrior class.

The elite class of society was a warrior class, people holding warrior status on the basis of birth. And yet, they didn't fight battles. They were not able to engage in their profession because of the success of the establishment of the Tokugawa regime.

Henry D. Smith, II :: During the coarse of the Tokugawa period, the self-image of the samurai, or the image of the samurai responsibility that emerged, was basically that of a Confucian type of ruler, one who through moral example led the country in peaceful and prosperous ways.

One related attitude was, the samurai sense of self-sacrifice, I think, is the best way to put it. The primal samurai mentality was that he should be able to sacrifice his life at any time. In times of peace this was transmuted through Confucian influence into a sense that a samurai should always be prepared to sacrifice himself for the good of the larger society and increasingly for the nation as a whole.

Robert Oxnam :: The influence of Confucian thought on the samurai class is particularly reflected in a famous book written in 1716. It gave expression to the philosophy of Bushidô, or "the way of the warrior," in a time of peace.

[Excerpts from the Hagakure]

Concerning martial valor, merit lies more in dying for one's master than in striking down the enemy ...

... A warrior should not say something fainthearted even casually. He should set his mind to this beforehand. Even in trifling matters the depths of one's heart can be seen ...

... When an official place is extremely busy and someone comes in thoughtlessly with some business or other, often there are people who will treat him coldly and become angry. This is not good at all. At such times, the etiquette of a samurai is to calm himself and deal with the person in a good manner. To treat a person harshly is the way of middle class lackeys.

Excerpt from Yamamoto Tsunetomo, The Book of the Samurai: Hagakure, trans. by William Scott Wilson (Tokyo, New York, San Francisco: Kodansha International Ltd., 1979), pp. 55, 51, 37.