The Budo spirit in Japan

Bujin and the Gentleman

In this first essay I would like to recall how an Englishman, who was brought up 70 years ago in the traditional way, viewed the Budo spirit in Japan in about 1940, and to tell you how he sees the Budo spirit today.

First of all, I should say a few words about the persistence of the ideas. When I was young, there were ideas of being a gentleman; doing one’s duty honourably and keeping calm under all circumstances were the main things in life. Culture was less important. In the romantic novels read by young people then, the plot often centred round some conflict of duty: the hero’s problem was just to discover what his duty was. Then he would do it and marry the heroine. She would never marry anyone who did not carry out his duty.

In my teens, I did not much like these traditional ideas. They seemed to me rather narrow and boring. I was interested in Communism for a short time; it had some ideas that seemed good. But then I perceived that though there were genuine idealists among the lower ranks of Communists, the ones at the top were simply using the ideas as a means to personal power. In Britain at least, they mostly hated each other. This was confirmed when Stalin began killing most of his early associates.