Disclaimer: Everything stated below is my opinion and is based on all of the information I have obtained and can remember at the time of writing. If you find any inaccuracies, or if you have any disagreements, please comment them. I want to learn.
Alright, so in my last post, I noted how I had read Hagakure and what I made of it. I tried to stick within what I felt was the core message of the book. There are a lot of cultural things that I left out. For example, it was not uncommon for the older samurai to take a younger samurai under his wing for uh… completely wholesome purposes. There are some rather fascinating vignettes that I rather appreciated because they took me for a turn. And there were some lines that were just W O K E. But instead of polluting the prior post and getting derailed in what was already a fairly length post, I decided to split the post into one, fairly concise (I hope) that is focused on the core message and another post which has all of the silly stuff for which I make no reservations about length. If this post winds up having more than nine thousand words, so be it. You have been warned.
The sheer disregard that is shown for women in this work is just priceless. Which is made all the more remarkable when you consider that traditionally, the state of the sexes in Japan has actually been a bit more, shall we say… progressive by modern terms.
It has been pointed out by more than one writer on Greece “that in the former and ruder period women had undoubtedly the higher place, and their type exhibited the highest perfection.” This is certainly the case in Japan. The women of the early centuries were, according to Japanese history, possessed of more intellectual and physical vigor, filling the offices of state, religion, and household honors, and approaching more nearly the ideal cherished in those countries in which the relation of the sexes is that of professed or real equality.
Griffis, William Elliot. History of Japan, 660 BC to 1872 AD (Kindle Locations 878-882). Lecturable. Kindle Edition.
I am currently reading the book cited above. I have no idea what ‘Locations’ is but I really have no good way to otherwise cite it so eh. Griffis writes this in regards to the second century. Honestly, for the feminists in the audience (does an egalitarian like me even have feminist readers?) you might even take some kind of a victory in one of the myths regarding Izanami and Izanagi.
The first manifestation of the male essence was Izanagi; of the female, Izanami. Standing together on the floating bridge of heaven, the male plunged his jeweled falchion, or spear, into the unstable waters beneath them, and withdrawing it, the trickling drops formed an island, upon which they descended. The creative pair, or divine man and woman, designing to make this island a pillar for a continent, separated – the male to the left, the female to the right – to make a journey round the island. At their meeting, the female spirit spoke first, “How joyful to meet a lovely man!” The male spirit, offended that the first use of the tongue had been by a woman, required the circuit to be repeated. On their second meeting, the man cried out, “How joyful to meet a lovely woman!” They were the first couple; and this was the beginning of the art of love, and of the human race.
Griffis, William Elliot. History of Japan, 660 BC to 1872 AD (Kindle Locations 414-421). Lecturable. Kindle Edition.
Make of that what you will. I personally think that it’s rather funny and cute story and I’ll leave it at that. Anyway, getting back on topic about women in Hagakure…
Moreover, the relationship between father and son can break down if the mother is foolish. If the mother pampers the boy, and sticks up for him when he is admonished by his father, the paternal relationship will deteriorate. Women have a shallow tendency to side with their children as they foresee that they will have only them to depend on in the future. – Hagakure: Book 1 – 85
I actually can nicely cite stuff in Hagakure because it’s set up by book and… story number. Kind of like the Bible. So I’ll do that for Hagakure and quite frankly the rest of the post will be cited from Hagakure so whatever. So anyway, here we see Tsunetomo’s view of women. I don’t think of this as a condemnation, but rather just an observation. It may even be valid today. The mother needs to curry the favor of the children because when the father inevitably dies before her (women have longer lifespans than men throughout history I guess) someone will have to make sure that she’s fed.
Or maybe both she and her husband are both in their golden years and just need help. Then we see a difference in attitude. The father may feel entitled to care due to the fact that he cared for the children when they were young. Maybe he’d feel that it is their obligation to care for the father. Or maybe the father doesn’t care at all, and accepts his condition as a sign that it’s time to move on. Women, being the more attached sex, want to maintain their existence on this Earth just a few moments longer.
Once, a certain man said, “I know the shape of ‘reason’ (ri) and ‘women.’ ” When somebody asked what shape these things were, he replied: “Reason is a square, and will not budge at all. Women are round. Women do not discriminate between good or evil, wrong or right, and will roll into any position. – Hagakure: Book 10 – 2
I lost my shit while I read this. Although it took a few moments for me to puzzle out what was being said. First, I think the joke is based on the kanji for reason (理) and women (女). Kanji in general contain many “sharp edges” so the closest thing to round that they have will probably be these angles like we see in ‘女’. At least, I haven’t come across many ’round’ kanji in my studies. Though it makes me wonder; hiragana is said to be based on some number of kanji and we see some very clearly rounded characters such as お、め、ね、and so on. The only reconciliation I might make is that hiragana was once called ‘woman’s hand’, so the curves may be deliberate changes to the kanji.
Anyway, the point here is that women will change their mind, lie, whatever it takes to position themselves into what they find most advantageous.
Disclaimer: It may be worth noting that kanji have changed throughout the years and I am merely using the ones that I know from today. If this is a joke based on the kanji used for reason and woman, it is entirely possible that the kanji I’ve used above are not the ones being referenced.
Jin’uemon [Tsunetomo’s father] used to say “One should not bother bringing up daughters. They may stain the family name, and disgrace the parents [after they are married off]. The oldest daughter is special, but any others should be discarded.” – Hagakure: Book 2-117
What a hot take, dang. This isn’t terribly surprising to me. Daughters were to be used as political pawns, and it seems that being a political pawn was part of the problem. “They main stain the family name and disgrace the parents after being married off”. Honestly, I’m not too sure why this is singled out so. Surely there were more opportunities for men to stain the family name and disgrace the parents, as they were the face of society. But there ya go, I put this in because woweee that take so hot I need a glass of milk.
Whatever Tsunetomo said about women, it’s actually not that bad in my opinion. I’d never profess it as good character today, but I can see his plan. He seems to see society as structured in a certain way and women are to behave this way while men are to behave this way. Which is why the insults he hurls at men are (in my view) worse than the things he said about women. Let’s revisit that first quote from above and actually borrow the full ‘story’.
There is a special way for rearing children in warrior families. From an early age, children must be taught to be brave, and not for a moment be threatened as a joke, or tricked in any way. Cowardly behavior learnt during boyhood will remain ingrained as a lifelong flaw. It is unwise for parents to make their children afraid of the sound of thunder, or of the dark, or to say things to frighten them. A boy is likely to become timid if scolded too severely when he is small. The parent must take care that the child does not develop any bad habits. A habit cannot be easily rectified once it has sunk in. Gradually make the boy aware of the proper way of communicating, etiquette and so on, and ensure he doesn’t develop greedy tendencies. A normal boy will mature into a decent man if you nurture him properly with these and other points in mind.
Furthermore, if parents are not on good terms with each other, it is natural for the child to grow up deficient in a sense of filial devotion. Even birds and wild animals are affected by what they see and hear in their formative years. Moreover, the relationship between father and son can break down if the mother is foolish. If the mother pampers the boy, and sticks up for him when he is admonished by his father, the paternal relationship will deteriorate. Women have a shallow tendency to side with their children as they foresee that they will have only them to depend on in the future. – Hagakure: Book 1-85
The first paragraph is about teaching your children to be strong men, and I’ll be later posting several quotes which emphasise this. I exceptionally like the advice to never teach your children to be afraid. If you spend your life telling your kid that the lightning is out to get them (even when it isn’t), don’t be surprised when they believe that the lightning is out to get them when they are an adult. Looking at you, United States universities.
But let’s focus on the second paragraph because that’s the part we used above in the section regarding women. When observed as a lesson regarding women, it’s a lesson about the nature of women. When observed as a lesson regarding men, it’s a prescription for parenting. Mothers should not pamper their sons. I guess it was a foregone conclusion that fathers would ever pamper their sons. The son needs to become strong, like the father. If the mother pampers the son, he will grow up effeminate. The mother needs to (and I wonder the effectiveness of this advice today) stay out of the father-son moments so father can teach son how to be a man. If the mother undermines the father, you’ll create a fractured home and fractured relationships. The son will not respect his father, the mother may not respect the father and the father may not respect the mother. Everyone needs to operate as a unit, for the betterment of the family and of the son’s future.
I guess the short version is, mothers should trust that the father knows what he is doing when he is… applying a correction to the son’s behavior.
It is a crime to have no serious purpose, living idly and giving little consideration to what a warrior should be, even in your dreams. – Hagakure: Book 2-49
This is something that I’ve heard from Dr. Jordan B. Peterson. The sentiment is summed up above. You need to have a purpose at all times, even while sleeping. Your purpose needs to be so ingrained in you that when you do something that you think “How does this further my purpose”. However, in modern society, I do not believe such is always the norm. Or at least, it’s not always well-thought out.
There isn’t too much more regarding “Men” as a class. The book is geared towards samurai, so I figure my Reflections: Hagakure post probably covers the prescription for men.
Feminization of Men
I do not entirely buy the fish that men are becoming feminine in today’s society. Rather, I see that western society may be becoming more agreeable and this is a trait that is broadly found in women more prevalently than in men. As such, an increase in agreeableness across society could be a symptom of men in society becoming more feminine.
[A doctor speaking] The pulse of a man is different to that of a woman. Still, in the past five decades or so, the variance between the pulses between the sexes has become indistinguishable. Since noticing this, I have modified my treatment of eye ailments in men to comply with how I treat women. Male patients show little response to traditional male treatments. I have come to the realization that manly essence is absent in many of them, and they have become very feminine as a sign of the worsening times. This is an observation gleaned from medical treatment that I keep secretly to myself.”
After hearing this, I [Tsunetomo] realized how true it was; so many men now seem to have the pulse of a woman. There are few who can be thought of as a real man. This means that one man can surpass others by making just a small effort.
That manly courage has faded is evident when few men show enough nerve to behead a criminal with his hands bound behind his back. In the case of performing kaishaku for a man who is to commit seppuku, it’s considered prudent or solicitous these days to decline the request. – Hagakure: Book 1-36
I told my adopted son, Gon’nojō, “Young men today are inclined to be effeminate. It is an age in which warriors who are approachable, sociable, non-confrontational, and gentle are glorified as being virtuous men. This proclivity means samurai are limited in their potential, and are unassertive. Above all, as men are absorbed with protecting their station and stipend, I think they are just wasting away. – Hagakure: Book 2-111
Regarding Edo period society, I know very little. I cannot really form an opinion on what Tsunetomo means as he says what I’ve posted above. My guess, based on what I’ve read here, is that he glorified the Sengoku Period. Which is ironic, considering what he said about glorifying the past:
[…] Thus, any longing for the “good old days” of a hundred years ago is futile. It is more judicious to adapt and improve the ways of the present. Men who hold a nostalgic view of the past are misguided in their outlook because they are blind to the reality of the present. Conversely, those who revel in the present, but loathe the customs and traditions of yesteryear, can’t differentiate between core principles and insignificant details. – Hagakure: Book 2-18
I think Tsunetomo, being unable to fill these warrior roles within the Sengoku period, idolizes them as being the epitome of manliness. And I believe the documentation he has made he kind of sets the bar as a way of trying to preserve the “manliness” of the Sengoku Period. He may have seen this move away from the Sengoku Period as the loss of manliness.
What Is This I Don’t Even
This section is for stuff that I really didn’t get. I literally can’t even so if anyone can even, please let me know. I’m just lost here
51. Master Genshin was asked, “I have heard that if you are attacked by someone in the [shogun’s] palace, it will work in your favor to keep calm and simply report the incident to the inspector (o-metsuke) without retaliating, even if you are at fault. I wonder if it’s worth enduring the shame, thinking that you may be better off for it later on.” The master responded: “This is where skill with words is indispensable. You can take the other fellow to the inspector, or you could go on your own and explain the situation. Say ‘Although the humiliation is difficult to bear, as the incident took place at my master’s palace, I prioritized his feelings, and chose to endure the shame [through not taking immediate action], and hope for your understanding as I explain the details of the affair.’ If nothing happens, you can kill the other man because you are already dead.” – Hagakure: Book 2-51
How are you already dead? What does that mean?
If you concur with everything brought up at a formal discussion or when chit-chatting, and just dally in the conversation, you will be unable to see higher reason. When somebody describes an object as black, think to yourself, “It can’t be black, but could be white. There must be a reason for it to be white.” Endeavoring to attach a reason to something will help you deduce a higher logic. You will be incapable of exceeding others without making efforts like this.
If it is something that can be said on the spot, do so in a way that won’t cause offense. If he cannot be told, keep conversing without causing ire, and craft a logical response in your mind. This is how to develop sounder logic than others. Points concerning a man who severed ties with another (relayed verbally). This approach is different to “conjecturing,” “forestalling,” or “holding reservations.” – Hagakure: Book 2-10
What is this “higher logic”? Why is it “higher” than regular logic?
This is the final section, which will just cover things that I particularly liked from Hagakure. Just gonna post them here rapid-fire.
If you focus only on the good points of a man, then everybody can be a good model to learn from.” – Hagakure: Book 1-64
You may seek to borrow items from others every now and again. But, it is akin to begging if you ask too often. If you can make do without asking people for favors, then it is better not to ask. –Hagakure: Book 1-78
In the Kingdom of Tang (China), there was a man who adored pictures of dragons. He had dragon motifs on his clothes, utensils, and other things. His profound love of dragons was felt by the dragon god, who sent a real dragon to appear before the man’s window. The man was so surprised that he fainted. Some people like to talk big, but act in a way that doesn’t match their words. – Hagakure: Book 1-81
It is preposterous to feel crestfallen when dismissed from duty. It was customarily said at the time of Lord Katsushige: “You won’t make a true man of service unless you have experienced being a rōnin seven times. Fall down seven times, and get up eight (nanakorobi-yaoki).” – Hagakure: Book 1-126
If one is insensitive when sympathizing with a man who is plagued by misery by blurting lame comments like “How sorry I feel for you,” he will become even more despondent and unable to see reason. Instead, it is better to cheer him up by nonchalantly implying it is not serious at all. Say, “Actually, this is quite propitious old chap. It could have been much worse!” With such reassurance, the unfortunate man will see things differently. As we live in an ephemeral world, feelings of sorrow or joy need not be embraced for long. – Hagakure: Book 2-57
On that note, I thank you for sharing in this experience with me. I do hope to hear your thoughts and as always, thank you for reading.