Justice of Japanese Philosophy

By Haruna

I’m going to look at how Japanese philosophy and culture shaped. As the most characteristic philosophy in Japan, I researched about Bushido and Shame culture.



Nitobe Inazo is a Japanese Ethical philosopher, agricultural economist, author, politician and educator, born in 1862 and died in 1933. He was also the founding director of the International Committee on Intellectual Cooperation. He published a book called “Bushido: The soul of Japan” (1899).  He started writing this book to let the world know how Japanese people learn morals or ethics not relying on the education of religious. He found that Bushido is  essentially building our moral obligation and ethical thinking. 


Bushido is found in 17th century in the Edo era, which is the ethical principle Bushi (=Samurai) believed in.  It’s based on the idea of Buddhism, Shinto, and Confucianism. The basic structure of Bushido is also from the Feudal system in 12c, the Kamakura era. But how could Bushido educate us the ethical thinking?


Before we go think of this question, I want to explain about the feudal system. Feudal system is the relationship between a master and warriors. Warriors sacrificed their lives to the master instead of they can get reward consisting money and the land. Although it seems like frivolity relation, it actually made a solid relation. From that, we started to respect any kind of human relationships and value other people’s perspective towards their behavior. 


This caused “Shame culture,” (on the other hand, western countries have “Guilt culture“) according to “The Chrysanthemum and the Sword: Patterns of Japanese Culture” written by Ruth Benedict, an American anthropologist 1887 to 1948.    Image

Shame culture is a culture in which conformity of behavior is maintained through the individual’s fear of being shamed in front of people. As you learned, this is because people value other people’s perspective, we were afraid of being judged and the collapse of human relationship. And in Bushido, we respected and regarded them as just.

  • Loyalty 
  • Honor
  • Pride
  • courage for suicide

Thus, when people were pushed on the Shame in the public, it was thought as losing loyalty, honor and pride. Consequently people chose committing suicide to protect the just, this specific suicide in those days called “Seppuku.” (Seppuku: Ritual suicide by disembowelment carried out by samurai. Literally means “stomach cutting.” The samurai committing seppuku would shove a dagger into their stomach while another samurai acted as their second by lopping off their head.)

The importance of Japanese philosophy is not suicide. Suicide is the only way to prove their loyalty to the master, to protect honor and pride, to show their moral obligation to the society. We can conclude that people in the Edo era respect Bushido (and potentially shaped shame culture) which enforce more precious human relationships. And Inazo Nitobe argues that Bushido would probably be gone though,  however we would get westernized, the soul of Bushi never vanish from our culture.





the justice of Bushido:     http://www.sacred-texts.com/shi/bsd/bsd08.htm





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