Summary: Twelve Unique Old Translated Writings on Bushido
Comment: Translator William Scott Wilson offers us something unique with this book, first published in 1982 by Ohara. I can't recall any other source which includes this many specific writings on bushido (the warrior-gentleman's path)--there are 12 documents in this book, all written by different members of the warrior classes, dating from the 13th century (Hojo Shigetoki's "Message of Master Gokurakuji") to the 17th century (Kuroda Nagamasa's "Notes on Regulations").
These writings aren't what many of us 21st century martial artists have been conditioned to expect. I found more homespun advice and common sense relative to the era these men lived in than the stereotypical talk of honor and giri (duty). Much of this advice is still sound today. An example taken from the 700+ year old "Message of Master Gokurakuji" by Hojo Shigatoki:
"One should not talk about the faults of others, even as a joke. For even though one may think of it as a joke, to others it may be embarrassing, and this is a bad mistake. If one would joke, he should joke about things that are pleasurable to others. One should have restraint and deep sympathy in all things" (page 42-43)
Throughout the course of Wilson's translation, it is clear to see that the Samurai (serving warriors) were a people to whom consideration of others, polite manners and conduct were important. This volume offers a nice change from the linear austerity of the "Hagakure", which for many years along with Musashi's "Book of Five Spheres" has been one of the only widely available books which set the tone for how we modern day folks think of Samurai. In "Ideals of the Samurai", not only are many of the writings centuries apart, but they are from different families and different geographical areas of Japan. If you're curious about how the "old heads" ~really~ lived and what they thought about, this work is a must.
Summary: Read the translations and make your own interpretations
Comment: Unlike the many books on bushido I have bought, this is a collection of short writings translated with no interpretation, other than an introduction. There are no great descriptions of great battles fought. The passages tend toward the more mundane business of being a feudal lord. Several are 'last statements' which gives you insight as to what the Samurai really wanted to be remembered for. And you will remember the quotable word bites. There are several B&W; reproductions of paintings of the authors.
Summary: A living Samurai spirit
Comment: This wonderful book is a prove that spirit has its reserved place on world history and in the mind of whose want to live a honrable live code. Not a mere historical report but a sensive demonstration of respect by a life-style