Empowering the Would-be Warrior

Michele M Mason

in Recreating Japanese Men

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9780520267374
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520950320 | DOI:
Empowering the Would-be Warrior

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The Japanese warrior’s powerful hold on the social imagination persists despite the vast and growing temporal, political, and cultural distance between the period of samurais and today. At the turn of the twentieth-first century, with the millennial crossroads inspiring reflection on the past and the future, Japan experienced a “bushidō boom”. This boom spurred discussions about the state of the nation, the significance of “the Japanese spirit”, and the usefulness of “samurai values”. This chapter examines the works addressing bushidō by three figures who, in different but gendered ways shaped the images of both the body politic (the Japanese nation-state) and the ideals of physical bodies (modern Japanese samurai/citizens) as they responded to their changing historical, political, and social environments. First, the chapter discusses the Meiji-era (1868–1912) author, educator, politician, and diplomat Nitobe Inazō, whose legacy can be found in many of the central arguments of the twenty-first century reworkings of bushidō. The chapter then focuses on Mishima Yukio (1925–70), a famous writer of fiction and drama, actor, and provocative public personality. His works offer a postwar articulation of the “samurai”. He is a Nobel Prize for Literature contender, and like Nitobe, was well known at home and abroad. Finally, the chapter discusses one of the contemporary “Bushido boom” writers, Hyōdō Nisohachi, a self-proclaimed military theorist who has neither the influence or the reputation of Nitobe and Yukio. Nevertheless, his interpretation of bushidō as representing a contemporary politics that promotes a remilitarization of Japan deserves critical attention.

Keywords: Japanese warrior; bushidō boom; bushidō; Nitobe Inazō; Mishima Yukio

Chapter.  9612 words. 

Subjects: Gender and Sexuality

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