A combination moral guidebook and Japanese history resource illustrates the code of samurai warriors, explaining its importance and how it can be incorporated into everyday life.
Third-generation Japanese-American Whaley shares elements of her heritage with the aim of enlightening and inspiring readers to adopt some samurai practices. The debut book highlights the historical significance of the Bushido code among Japanese warriors and, consequently, its effect on Japanese society as a whole. The Bushido code emphasizes the following principles: courage, integrity, benevolence, respect, honesty, honor, loyalty, and ganbaru (a Japanese word meaning “to persist”). The book is separated into eight chapters: one dedicated to each concept. Each chapter begins with a thorough description of what the principle meant to Japanese warriors, what it conveys today, and how it can be successfully applied to everyday life. This is followed by stories of Japanese or Japanese-American figures who embodied the principle discussed in that chapter (“Integrity” features the Asian-American politician Daniel K. Inouye, who enlisted in the Army during World War II—receiving several accolades, including the Bronze Star and the Medal of Honor—and served as a U.S. senator from Hawaii). In addition, well-known quotations are inserted throughout the book, when relevant to the particular chapter (for example, “Courage” offers the Japanese proverb “Even a hunter cannot kill a bird that comes to him for refuge”). Whaley’s passion for Japanese culture and heritage is evident in each page, as she includes patient explanations and well-researched details. The stories included in each chapter are the heart of the book. They effectively provide historical background, as well as a reference of how each principle can be upheld to the highest degree. These tales would be just as powerful—or perhaps more so—if presented separate from the motivational aspect of the work. In attempting to accomplish too much, the volume becomes scattered and distracting at times. The introduction of each chapter is reasonable, but is followed by a forceful encouragement for readers to adopt each principle in order to find success in their own lives, which eventually becomes repetitive. Additionally, the inspirational quotations break the flow of the writing, which serves as inspiration enough.
A thorough exploration of samurai culture and values and their impact on Japanese history— informative and invigorating, though laden with heavy-handed motivational mantras.