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Abstract

This essay will address the evolution of the samurai warrior code (bushido), concentrating on its depiction in several prominent works of Japanese literature from 1185 to 1989. This essay will argue that rather than a concrete set of principles, bushido was actually a malleable set of romanticized qualities supposedly possessed by the samurai that were repeatedly adapted to a changing Japanese society in order to maintain a national identity predicated on the warrior class. Beginning with the introduction of the samurai through the Tale of the Heike, this essay will then proceed to discuss the blatant romanticization of the samurai until the early 1900’s as illustrated in such prominent works and mediums as the house codes of various feudal lords, Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s Hagakure, and Nitobe Inazo’s Bushido. The militarism of the Pre-World War II period will then be analyzed along with Eiji Yoshikawa’s Musashi while the culture of death affiliated with the Second World War will be examined as the high-water mark for romanticized bushido as a means of national identity. This essay will then conclude with an analysis of Mishima Yukio’s Patriotism, the definitive end to the Japanese people’s overt identification with samurai and their idealized code by 1989.

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