The Hagakure (meaning "Hidden by the Leaves"), or Hagakure Kikigaki, is the Book of Bushido. It is a practical and spiritual guide for a warrior, drawn from a collection of commentaries by the samurai Yamamoto Tsunetomo, former retainer to Nabeshima Mitsushige, the third ruler of what is now the Saga prefecture in Japan. The book was written over a period of seven years, after Tsunetomo retired as a samurai and lived in semi-seclusion as a converted buddhist. An old friend by the name of Tsuramato Tashiro, a younger samurai, would frequently visit. Over the course of seven years (1709-1716), he had dictated every personal thought, recollection, anecdote or philosophical musing Tsunetomo had. It would be published several years later, well after the older samurai was dead. Obscure at the time of publication, it has since become one of the most influential treatises on the samurai way of life, alongside other integral works as Miyamoto Musashi's The Book of Five Rings and The Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War by Yagyu Munenori.The Hagakure was written a century after the start of the Tokugawa era. As a time of relative peace and stability, society was changing, and with a total lack of large scale wars the samurai were transforming from warriors to administrators of the land. The book outlines what the author felt should be the true role of the warrior in society. His work represents one approach to the problem of maintaining military preparedness and a proper military mindset in a time when neither has much practical application.A must read for historians, fans of Japanese culture and Samurai, and for those who even practice the art of Bushido. Also keep in mind that the translations of the Hagakure are only a small part of the original book- William Scott Wilson's translation is composed out of roughly 300 fragments, and the original text out of 13000.
This book provides examples of:
A Father to His Men: This attitude is encouraged. According to Tsunetomo, a leader should treat his men with respect and compassion, fostering morale and a powerful connection amongst all comrades.
Author Tract: Tsunetomo clearly longs for the old days, before the Tokugawa period, and is quick to decry the "weakened" samurai of the next generation.
Back from the Dead: A certain samurai by the name of Ōno Dōken had been condemned to death by burning, and he was reduced to a charred corpse. When an official came by to inspect his remains, what remained of Ōno reportedly sprang up to its feet, grabbed the official's sword and stabbed him to death before collapsing to ashes.
Badass Creed: Look at the page quote. There are a couple scattered throughout the book.
Badass Crew: "The Men of Seven Spears," a band of famous warriors who led a charge at the battle of Shizugatake.
Subverted in one anecdote, when one crew of samurai get into a brawl at a teahouse and kill the employees senselessly. They were more like armed thugs than badasses.
Badass Grandpa: Nabeshima Naoshige, first daimyo of the clan. He actively fought and commanded men during the Sengoku era, and was part of Hideyoshi's Korean campaign as a commander. He later saved his clan from annihilation with some wise advice to his son whose decision to side against Tokugawa in the Battle of Sekigahara would bring the wrath of the victorious Tokugawa. It is claimed that his personal kill count is in the hundreds. On top of all this he lived for roughly 8 decades and his sayings had lasting effects on his son Lord Katsushige, grandson Lord Mitsushige and Tsunetomo himself, who immortalized many of Naoshige's maxims inside the Hagakure.
Crosses over with Badass Pacifist. A priest known as Ungo of Matsushima is passing through the mountains at night when he's suddenly surrounded by bandits. Calmly, Ungo says, "I am a man of this area, not a pilgrim. I have no money at all. But I have these clothes, if you want. Please, spare my life." The bandits put their weapons away and say, "Our efforts have been in vain. We have no need for clothes." And as they ride off, Ungo calls out to them, "I have broken the commandment against lying. In my confusion I had forgotten I had one piece of silver in my moneybag. I am truly regretful that I had said nothing at all. I have it here now. Please, take it." The bandits, impressed and shaken by the priest's humility, bow down to him. They shave their heads and join Ungo as his disciples.
Badass On Paper: This is what Tsunetomo accuses the vast majority of young samurai from his era to be. He is particularly resentful about the fact that said young samurai are becoming increasingly materialistic, with their thoughts becoming despicable and their sense of duty faltering.
Battle Couple: Aside from the aforementioned husband and wife and their little asskicking spree, Tsunetomo believes any samurai should feel this way towards his Heterosexual Life Partner or lover.
Beware the Nice Ones: In one anecdote a samurai offers advice on a go game, causing the losing player to slash him. He receives a mortal wound to his thigh but manages to make it seem as if he was uninjured, and furthermore says that the incident is no big deal. A bit later when the other samurai who had attacked him approaches him to offer sake, he is promptly beheaded. The injured samurai then reveals his wounds to the others present and tells them that he could save just enough energy to get his revenge, and dies.
Bookworm: Tsunetomo is said to have been one in his childhood.
Can't Catch Up: Averted as Tsunetomo says that a talentless servant with will and dedication can catch up to or surpass one with natural talent. One anecdote tells of Yagyu Munenori immediately certifying a complete newcomer without any previous martial arts experience. This was because the newcomer had since long internalized the principles of martial arts but wasn't really aware of it.
The Clan: The Nabeshima clan. Several others are mentioned, like the Tokugawa.
Clap Your Hands If You Believe: When a doctor challenges Buddhism by asking a priest called Daiyu to resurrect a newly deceased patient, Daiyu starts meditating and the man comes back to life for half a year. Tsunetomo has no doubts about the event as it was told to him by the priest Tannen.
Fright Deathtrap: One anecdote tells of a man in China who really loved dragons. To make him happy, the Dragon god sent an underling to the man, giving him the chance to see a real dragon. His plan backfired when the man instantly died of fright.
Handicapped Badass: A thief tries to steal from a sick samurai suffering a hard fever. Do the math.
Heroic Sacrifice: One anecdote tells of a retainer who dives inside a burning mansion to recover his lord's genealogy. Unable to escape the flames, he cuts his stomach open and places it inside to shield it. He dies, but the genealogy is recovered intact.
Het is Ew: Men and women? Bah, they'll never have the same "true" love as men have together.
Note however that Tsunetomo has very strict conditions and advice for people considering getting into homosexual relationships. He reminds the readers that homosexuality is not for everyone and might put a stain on one's entire life.
Heterosexual Life-Partners: Another attitude encouraged. It makes sense, given the author's take on homosexuality and male bonding.
It was more of a matter of having the guarantee that your head would be preserved by the enemy and not thrown away, as only the heads of males were kept as kill trophies. The nose and ears were cut off, but the head would be definitely kept if a moustache was present.
Karmic Death: Goroemon and his brother are rightfully slain.
Kid Samurai: One anecdote tells of a 13-year old youngster who, after hearing Takeda Shingen's proclamation of a big reward for any man who could kill Lord Ieyasu, becomes Ieyasu's servant and then attempts to kill him, but fails and gets caught. Ieyasu is greatly impressed by his motives and sends him back to Takeda.
Knight in Shining Armor: Taken to the extreme with a certain Tazaki Geki who wore an overly decorated and pompous armor, which displeased Lord Katsushige and prompted him to compare everything he saw as showy to Geki's armor.
Made of Iron: Some accounts have a few samurai surviving mortal wounds. In particular, one low-ranking samurai - formerly a cook - ran straight into enemy lines to kill as many enemies for his lord as possible. When the fight was over and he was pulled out of the fray, he suffered numerous lacerations. He lived.
Another example is about a man named Horie San'emon, who was sentenced to death by torture. All the hairs on his body were burnt oﬀ, his ﬁngernails pulled out, his tendons cut and his body bored with drills. He reportedly didn't even flinch. So he was subjected to a number of other tortures, and in the end he was boiled in soy sauce and his back was bent into two, at which point he probably died.
Manly Gay: You're a samurai, you're contractually obligated to kick some ass, and chances are you have a male lover (a very popular trend among the samurai). You're this by default.
Manly Tears: Lord Naoshige says that it is normal and understandable for one to shed tears out of a sense of giri.
Revenge Before Reason: Both this and the trope right below are often subverted by Tsunemoto. The act of revenge is an ugly thing, and may tarnish one's honor. Played straight with the Denko the monk's story.
Tsunetomo definitely supports taking more or less justified revenge, and he stresses that in revenge speed is essential above all, which is why he isn't too enthusiastic about the Forty-seven Ronin.
Ronin: Especially interesting is Tsunetomo's mention about how a samurai could be made ronin more than once if the master wanted to. Tsunetomo stresses that roninhood is also an opportunity to serve the master. There also seems to be a line dividing "temporary" ronins and those who have been banished permanently.
Seppuku: Many instances throughout the book, but curiously averted with the author. Around his time, the practice of tsuifuku -the servant committing seppuku at the death of his lord- was prohibited by the Tokugawa Shogunate and by Lord Mitsushige himself. It was thus illegal to commit seppuku for that reason, thereby he couldn't die with his lord. If he did, we never would have had the Hagakure. Therefore, Author Existence Failureaverted!
Still, he renounced the samurai life after Mitsushige's death and became a monk, so in a way commited a symbolic seppuku.
The Stoic: One samurai comes back home to catch a strange man in bed with his wife. He promptly kills the man, then damages a wall in his house and so makes the incident pass as though he had killed a robber. After some time he divorces his wife.
True Companions: According to Tsunetomo, a samurai should always make more friends than enemies. Examples of samurai being asked to be kaishakus (meaning that they will take on the act of beheading their comrade after he cuts his belly open) by their friends who have been ordered to commit seppuku also pertain to this.
Truth in Television: The Hagakure is definitive proof that such a thing called "bushido" actually existed. Sort of averted as it's not really what it is shown to be in media. Tsunetomo mentions that most clans have a code for their warriors to adhere to, and the actual intricacy, length and contents of these codes will vary. He gives the example of the "Four Vows of the Nabeshima samurai", the bushido code of the clan he belongs to. And of course, the actual adherence to these values by individual samurai will also vary.
Victorious Loser: Even if slain in battle, face the opponent. Never falter. Never close your eyes. Even if your head is cut off, it is certain the body can be capable of one last action.
Warrior Poet: A strange Zig-Zagging Trope. Tsunetomo speaks out against the arts as being the samurai's primary concern or interest, yet he's very philosophical about the nature of death and loyalty. Other passages speak how a samurai should refine his mind through poetry, yet - as said - "artistry" is reserved for "other classes."
This might have to do with the fact that at the time of Hagakure's writing, Tsunetomo is technically no longer a samurai, having become a monk after Lord Mitsushige's death.
Who Wants to Live Forever?: An anecdote tells of a small story of Lord Nabeshima travelling with his men across the country. Stopping by an old house, one of his men proceeds to suggest the lord should meet the oldest man in the region. His age? Ninety-eight years old. The advisor claims it's a wonderful thing for a man to have lived so long (especially given this is seventeenth century Japan). Nabeshima, however, is skeptical that longevity is a gift. He's quick to point out that the old man must be old enough to have outgrown most - if not all - his friends and family, arguing prolonged life is tragic, worthless and isolating. This ties in with the book's overall theme of embracing death. To run away, an act of cowardice according to Tsunetomo, is to not fulfill life itself.