On Bushido and the Placement of Japanese sword

katana vs samurai sword

Bushido definition 

Bushido, like its symbol, the cherry blossom, is an inherent flower of the land of Japan. Bushido is a set of moral principles and rules that samurai are required or instructed to follow. It is not a written code. It is just some aphorisms passed down by word of mouth and written by some famous samurai or scholars. The spirit of Bushido emphasizes that it is brave to live if you live and to die if you die without hesitation, the typical behavior is to cut the throat. Bushido originated during the Kamakura Shogunate period in the 12th century. In the following years, it continuously absorbed the Confucian and Taoist culture from China and gradually formed its own theoretical system, namely "Name, Loyalty, Courage, Righteousness, Courtesy, Honesty, Discipline, and Benevolence"! These eight words are the principles of the Bushido spirit.

Righteousness: This is the strictest teaching in the Samurai Code, and despicable and cunning behavior is disliked by samurai. It emphasizes that samurai must adhere to righteousness and morality.
Courage: Samurai must have a keen and correct sense of courage, bravery, and perseverance. Bushido believes that it is very easy to die in battle, and anyone can do it. But true courage is to live when it is time to live and to die when it is time to die.
Benevolence: Samurai practice the cruelest martial arts, and they must have the virtues of compassion, tolerance, benevolence, and sympathy to prevent them from becoming extremist warriors.
Rite: It is not only a matter of behavior, but also an outward expression of emotion and concern for others. True courtesy should be a corresponding respect for legitimate things.
Sincerity: It requires the samurai to maintain honesty. When honesty is lost, etiquette becomes a farce. The noble social status of the samurai requires higher standards of honesty than those of peasants and commoners.
Loyalty: Of paramount importance, it is the bond between people in various situations, and loyalty to one's master is a creed that samurai must adhere to.
Name: It embodies the dignity of personality and a clear sense of value. It requires the samurai to be willing to give everything for the sake of reputation, to have the character to distinguish right from wrong, and to maintain patience and perseverance.
Krishnamurti: Samurai are required to restrain their personal desires and not be influenced by their beliefs in order to serve the monarch and protect the people of the neighboring country.

A samurai photo from 160 years ago, the definition of Bushido

Bushido arose in Japan under the autocratic political background of the Fujiwara clan. The formation of the samurai was related to the collapse of the centralized system under the emperor and the development of the manor system. The conscription system introduced after the Great Reform became increasingly relaxed with the decline of centralized power. At the beginning of the 9th century, the "fitness system" was introduced, which resulted in military service becoming an aristocratic dictatorship, leading to a significant decline in the quality of the military.
At this time, various estates were formed in Japan, and the owners of the estates gradually separated some peasants for training in order to maintain their territory and security. Later, they even established a samurai regiment specifically for security work. Some temples and shrines also organized "monk soldiers". But the establishment of the lord's armed forces posed a threat to the local area, so local forces also organized armed forces. They are usually composed of local wealthy people, known as "Langdang and Langzhong".

The emergence and strengthening of samurai power gradually led to the formation of regional armed groups beyond the confines of manors from the early 11th century. Countless scattered samurai gathered in one place, unified their command, and formed a samurai regiment. The leader of the samurai order is called a "sowling", and his subordinates are called "concubines". The samurai regiment has a strong sense of clan, resolutely carrying out the leader's orders and establishing a master-slave relationship. The warriors' bravery and devotion to their masters on the battlefield are the basic requirements of both the individual and the samurai group. They have developed new concepts such as "Martial Arts Habits" and "The Way of Bow and Arrow", and have become an important ideological pillar for maintaining the organization of the samurai group!

The era of the rise of the samurai was the time when Japan transitioned from a legal society to a noble society. It was also the time when feudal society began to dominate. The rise of the samurai is not only a process of power struggle between the nobles and the samurai, but also includes the emerging forces generated by the samurai from the local wealthy peasants. At that time, samurai were rooted in the land as local landlords. They were appointed as captains, wardens, and supported military generals from prestigious backgrounds.
The word Bushido really became a Japanese word around the time of the Russo-Japanese War. In the 32nd year of the Meiji era, Nishido Inazawa was represented in the United States by the English word "BUSHIDO," which at that time was known only to American intellectuals. It was not until Meiji 41, when the book was returned to Japan from the United States, that it was officially translated into "Bushido".

Excellent aspect

The purpose of Bushido is very similar to the rules of chivalry in the Western Middle Ages: to establish the concept of survival for soldiers and to sublimate their status as hired killers. Bushido advocates integrity, perseverance, simplicity, frugality, courage, etiquette, righteousness, honesty, bravery, loyalty, love, passion, generosity, warrior worship, loyalty, integrity, shame, fame, commitment, kindness, loyalty and filial piety, reputation, human feelings and justice, honesty, faithfulness, and cooperation. As long as a samurai is faithful to his duty, he will receive honor. This belief in maintaining personal honor at all costs prevents the samurai from avoiding what might be considered unnecessary self-sacrifice. The samurai who is surrounded by the enemy and still fights bravely is not sacrificing his own life by Bushido standards. Such behavior is a concrete manifestation of the samurai's sincere loyalty. From a modern perspective, this is a somewhat strange, even suicidal behavior. In fact, this is not the case and is similar to European chivalry.
Deeply influenced by Bushido, the Samurai simply ignore their personal life and death when considering their next action. Life and death are secondary to everything, and letting your actions be effective is the way to go. Try, even if you die, it's better than not trying at all, because samurai don't have to consider their own gains or losses at all, and move forward bravely. However, this spirit cannot prevent some warriors from escaping from the formation because they are also flesh and blood. Bushido does not mean fighting to the death regardless of the chances of victory. It is wrong and foolish to sacrifice one's life unnecessarily. For example, the suicide of defenders who open the city to meet the enemy must often be reconsidered with Bushido in mind. Leaving the city to face the enemy besieging the castle is like committing suicide, but if it can contain the enemy and give the lord time to repel them, it is a manifestation of loyalty and bravery rather than an impulse to self-destruction.
Of course, this spirit can also be used to explain the suicide attacks by Japanese defenders on all the Pacific islands during World War II.

The cruel side

The reference to the family of Yamamoto Tsunetomo, the author of "Ye Yin," is also repugnant.
The original meaning of Bushido, as taught in the Imperial Rescript on Education of Japan before the war, takes "bravely serving the public" as the highest principle, which is the samurai's mental preparation for "serving the public," which is very cruel and inhuman. For example, the fourth-generation Yoshimoto of the Saga Kushima clan was very rough in his youth. Some of his retainers did not like him, so he wrote bad words about his wife on a fan and gave it to a close associate, saying, "Show him this fan and then report on his reaction. After looking at the fan, the attendant didn't know who wrote it, so he tore it up. The attendant is about to report this. Duke Ji Mao said, "It's rude to tear up the master's writing. It will make him cut his belly." In the world of Bushido, "cutting one's belly is the most loyal expression of Bushido. Yamamoto Tsunetomo also said that martyrdom is the highest loyalty for a warrior.
Bushido is also said to pay attention to righteousness, benevolence, bravery, courtesy, honesty, reputation, loyalty and other virtues, but in fact it is cruel and merciless.
At the end of the Heian period in the Middle Ages, the brothers of the Genji family (Minamoto no Yoritomo, Minamoto no Yoshitsune) were fratricidal. The Hōjō clan also cut off the lifelines of meritorious officials because of the Hōjō clan's plan.
Such cruelty and inhumanity are everywhere. From then on, we can see another true aspect of the Bushido spirit.

The placement etiquette of a samurai sword, with the blade facing upwards and the handle on the left

Etiquette related to sword

katana display etiquette 

Tachi has a special mounting frame that is arranged so that the tip of the knife is up, the blade is down, and the wing is inward.
Katana and wakizashi, sometimes together with tanto, are often mounted on the same stand. The blade is up and the handle is to the left, as a courtesy to visitors and to indicate invincibility. If the hilt is to the right, it means hostility, because it is convenient to draw the sword with the right hand. The katana is placed on the lower level and the wakizashi on the upper level, because traditionally, before going out, the samurai put the wakizashi in his belt, then lift the katana with his right hand, and put on his shoes when he goes to the door, and then put the katana in his belt.

Also, when visiting someone's house, take the katana off your belt with your right hand at the entryway and just carry it into the house. When going up the stairs if it's crowded saya will bump into someone else and that can't be helped. Once in the living room, place the katana on the right side of your body with the hilt forward and the blade toward you and the tsuba about parallel to your knees. One, there's no hostility, and two, it's also a good idea to keep the katana as close to you as possible for defense. In case of an emergency, one would press the tsuba with the knee, draw the saya off the back of the body, and then quickly rotate the body to the right test, holding the katana in one's hand to respond to the battle.
During the Tokugawa Shogunate, the samurai were ruled quite strictly. The scenes you see on TV of samurai wearing long, back-hemmed skirts and pants when they went to Edo Castle to meet the shogun were to prevent the samurai from being able to run quickly.


Except for the tanto, samurai carry their swords only on their left side, (The exception was the right hand finger in the Kamakura period - samurai at that time generally fought in a one-horse combat style, that is, one man on a horse against another man on a horse. At that time, samurai often kept their feet firmly in the stirrups and stood up on their horses to shoot arrows or stab their enemies with their long swords. When two horses met, sometimes the enemy's armor had to be lifted to find a gap to thrust the sword through, and if the tanto was inserted in the left waist, then to draw the sword one would have to crouch down close to the horse's neck, which was inconvenient and dangerous. The waist sword described above solves this problem. This type of sword was worn specifically with the hilt inserted diagonally backward and hooked to the belt with the kaeritsuno. (Drawing the sword was as easy with the right hand as drawing from a pants pocket today, or the hilt was inserted downward at the waist so that a backhanded draw could be more comfortably directed toward the opponent's neck to slice off his head).

Contraindications to katana

With katana in your hand and chatter in your mouth, spit may fly onto the blade - a cause of rusting. In historical dramas, there are samurai who held katana in their hands with kai paper in their mouths (in ancient times, a piece of soft, tough paper was folded three times horizontally and four times vertically and stuffed into their arms to be used as a letter writer or for the current purpose of toilet paper), and although this is considered impractical, there are some who developed the habit of holding katana in their mouths, which gave it real significance in this regard, and who kept kai paper with them when appreciating katana. The third thing to do is to turn the kiri toward the person.
Turn the kissaki toward the person - never do this even in jest! When handing a katana to someone, stand up straight, turn the katana around with the handle forward, hand it to the other person so that they can hold the handle themselves, and then let go of the hand when they do hold the katana tightly. It is also absolutely forbidden to touch the blade with your hands, not only because it is basic common sense and courtesy that you must observe, but also because touching the blade with your fingers is very difficult to remove with human fat, and also creates rust.



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