Book Nook: Hagakure, by Yamamota Tsunetomo

I’ve been reading a few classics this year (Frankenstein, Evangeline, etc.) Those were not as “classic” as Hagakure, by age standards. Hagakure was written in the early 18th by Yamamota Tsunetomo, a retainer to a Japanese ruler.

Hagakure is a book on the way of the samurai, written largely in peace time and often opining for the days of war, when samurai were real samurai. See, nothing is at time honored as complaining the current generation is softer than ever. It has existed since the dawn of time.

Tsunetomo’s commentaries were collected by another man, Tashiro Tsuramoto and turned into this book. It largely disappeared for a couple centuries before being rediscovered in the 20th century. The translation I listened to was completed by William Scott Wilson and narrated by Brian Nishii.

I went into Hagakure thinking it was a philosophy book. It had some of that, but I was expecting more, more or less. I will say I think the audio version loses some of the philosophical aspect. I think this book would be best consumed in passage form, where one can read a passage, and then sit and ponder said passage. In the audiobook consumption, you tend to skip the pondering and move straight on to the next one.

It also spends a fair amount of time detailing reasons why and how samurai should kill themselves. Fun book, right?

All that being said, I did order a manga version of the same book, that is currently backordered. I would like to see if I enjoy this more when I can spend more time with it. Plus, pictures always help, right?


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