The Courage of a Samurai is a Japanese American's journey into bushido, the samurai's code of ethics. Each chapter features a timeless message about Japanese and Japanese Americans who applied the principles of courage, integrity, benevolence, respect, honesty, honor, and loyalty to overcome life's challenges, and emerge stronger individuals. The Courage of a Samurai provides the reader a look ‘inside’ this ancient code through the lives of inspiring individuals.
Why did Chiune Sugihara, aka the Japanese Schindler, save the lives of Polish and Lithuanian Jews during World War II against the orders of the Japanese and Lithuanian governments? Understand the meaning of Honor in Saigo Takamori’s, aka The Last Samurai, determination to preserve the samurai’s way of life. Learn why “Go for Broke!” was the motto of the famous World War II all-Nisei 100th/442nd RCT, and discover why this simple motto reflects the essence of the way of the warrior.
The Code of Bushido can guide us through the challenges we all face, and inspire us to live a life of honor, courage, and integrity in today’s fast-paced and changing world. Sharpen your sword, and let the journey begin!
I was born shortly after World War II in a primarily rural Caucasian community disconnected from my Japanese heritage. In fact, I did not realize that I was different until my grade school classmates teased me about it; this was my frst encounter with prejudice. I was blamed for the bombing of Pearl Harbor and World War II — a heavy burden on young shoulders, but there was something inside that would not allow the pain I felt to defeat me.
After graduating from college in 1978 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree, I had the fortunate opportunity to work at the Tacoma Art Museum in Tacoma, Washington. I was the assistant to the curator, international designer Sara Little Turnbull, who became my frst mentor. At only four feet 11 inches, she has been described as a giant in design and the mother of invention. Sara had spent time researching in Japan and loved Japanese culture, so she encouraged me to explore my Japanese heritage. My assignment was to research and catalog the artifacts in the “Sara Little Center for Design Research,” many of which came from Japan. I became fascinated with the beauty, ingenuity, and simplicity of the Japanese artifacts, and the research consumed me. She always said that I was more Japanese than I realized and suggested that I travel to Japan. Sara referred to herself as my Jewish mother. It was God’s plan for me to connect with and appreciate my Japanese heritage.
In 1994, I attended an exhibit at the Wing Luke Museum in Seattle, Washington, featuring Chiune Sugihara, also known as the Japanese Schindler. The exhibit described Sugihara’s work in saving the lives of the Jewish refugees in Lithuania just before World War II. His courage deeply moved me and another seed was planted regarding my Japanese heritage.
Later in 2003, I watched the movie, The Last Samurai, and I felt a connection to the emotional strength of the Japanese characters. My study on the subject of the samurai and the bushido code commenced. These two events caused me to turn pain into gain and embrace that which I once scorned. They also served as the impetus for this book. I am a sansei (third-generation Japanese American) and a descendant of the samurai warrior on the paternal side of my family.
Since my initial trip to Japan in 1982, I have returned numerous times to study, visit, and have a deeper connection to my Japanese heritage. I have been reading, writing, interviewing, and studying relentlessly to search for answers; this is my passion and purpose in life. This book represents a step of discovery and my journey home.
This search also has given me the opportunity to understand the qualities of leadership. Although these are not principles unique to Japan, this study has helped me to embrace my Japanese heritage with pride. It has also opened my eyes to how far from these principles we as a society have moved.
Not long ago, there was a time when your word was your bond, and it was safe to leave your doors unlocked because you knew your neighbors. In our modern society, it would seem that the distinction between right and wrong gave way to situational ethics. The term honest business dealing is almost considered an oxymoron. Have we succumbed to mediocrity? Are there leaders today worth following?
Are you concerned about the direction our society seems to be taking? Do you feel concern not only for yourself, but also for younger generations such as your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren? Is it your desire to leave this earth a better place because of you and your contributions?
Life is full of challenges. Tests and trials can allow a stronger you to emerge. In order to survive and grow in these difcult times, do you know how to weather the storm? Do you have a strategy in place to overcome the challenges that you face?
This determination to survive challenges was ingrained in the Japanese immigrants who settled in America through the bushido code. This feudal code provided moral and ethical structure that allowed them to survive and prosper in a country often hostile to their very presence. The issei (first-generation Japanese immigrants to the United States) taught the bushido code of honor, loyalty to family and country, and to always do one’s best to their children. The niseis (second-generation Japanese Americans) were the generation who weathered life behind barbed wire during World War II. They also volunteered to serve their country in both Europe and Asia.
Throughout this book, you will learn the principles of the samurai and be inspired by how these principles infuenced their descendants. You will also discover why these principles became the basis for great leadership. Bushido literally means the way of the warrior; it is the code of chivalry developed by the warriors of ancient Japan known as the samurai. This code formed the basis of their conduct. It emphasized courage, loyalty, and the idea of death before dishonor. Over the centuries, it infuenced not only the samurai warriors, but also all of Japanese society.
The bushido code includes the following principles:
The samurai, or warrior class, evolved from powerful clans banded together as a means of resistance to the encroachment of imperial power. Their principles embraced a sense of order, honor, selfessness, and moral integrity. They understood those imbued with power were required to wield it for the good of the many, not for the selfshness of the few. The samurai dedicated his life to uphold these principles, and such dedication was not optional. He also served and protected his lord, and those in his care. Bushido code principles were not only for the samurai warriors but were a code of ethics that can be utilized and practiced in our everyday life both personally and professionally. In this book, each principle is discussed with examples of people who embody these principles.
At the end of the book, a chapter discusses the Japanese word ganbaru, loosely translated as do your best, try your hardest, never give up, and go for broke! Tere are several translations for this one word ganbaru because as it so often happens in the Japanese language, there are words describing more of a feeling and state of mind. I believe that ganbaru summarizes the bushido code. Samurai are known to Westerners as having the ability to possess many diferent characteristics of the bushido code. These may include serving people, striving for honor, and doing one’s best.
A colleague and author, Bruce Brummond, wrote a befitting and timeless acronym for the word samurai below:
I wrote this book to bring honor to the courageous men and women who dedicated their lives by adhering to the bushido code whether they knew it or not. They determined to do the right thing all the time. Their decisions sometimes cost them dearly, but our lives are forever enriched because of their sacrifices.
My goal is to inspire, educate, and empower you, the reader, to take action in your personal and business lives. I believe that you were born to live a life of courage, honor, and integrity, and I would love to be your coach, mentor, and accountability partner on this journey. If you are just beginning, welcome! If you are well on your way, I hope you will be inspired to continue and achieve your highest goals, dreams, and visions. Regardless of where you are, let us link arms, and travel this journey together! You can live a life of honor in today’s society. Let the principles of the ancient samurai code guide you along that path.
Are you ready to embark on an incredible journey? Are you open to an honorable way of living in your personal and business lives? Do you want to learn what the ancient principles of the samurai teach about overcoming your challenges? If you are ready, then sharpen your sword, and let’s begin!