Musui's Story Essay

1433 words - 6 pages

Before a coherent analysis of Musui's Story can be presented it is essential that the role of the samurai in Japanese society is understood. It is also imperative to understand that the samurai, as a class of warriors, emerged from a Japan that was in a state of constant civil war. Their sole purpose was to Afind a way to die, . . . to make a conscious effort to think of death and resolve to pursue it, and if [they were] ready to discard life at a moment=s notice, [they] and the bushido (the way of the samurai) [would] become one. In this way throughout [their] life, [they could] perform [their] duties for [their] masters without fail.@ Hence, they were fiercely loyal to their immediate commanders who were in theory completely loyal to the Emperor. If they failed their master in any way they could only regain face and secure an afterlife through a gruesome-ritual-suicide known as seppuku, and this could only occur upon avenging those who had wronged their master. When they were not engaged in combat they enforced order in society which could entail swift and sometimes fatal punishment of any peasant, artisan, or merchant whose only crime may have been an improper display of respect for a samurai. All the while they were to live frugal lives. They despised money and the people who handled it. Their way was a way of the heart and spirit, and not of the intellect or of material things. This bushido code worked well while Japan was constantly at war, but in 1603 Tokugawa Ieyasu was named shogun and peace reigned for two hundred and fifty years thereafter. During the Tokugawa Shogunate the samurai=s role changed dramatically for many reasons, but essentially he became a warrior without a war. The long period of peace eroded the meaning of bushido and the samurai legacy faded. It is in the last fifty years of the Tokugawa Shogunate that Musui lived and epitomized the dreadful state of samurai at that time - especially of those around the capital city of Edo. Though there may have been any number of samurai who continued to live the bushido, Musui=s Story paints a grim picture of a lower level samurai who grew up in a country without wars, and yet retained a class of people whose sole purpose had been war. Therefore it is relatively simple to prove that Musui=s lifestyle contradicted nearly every code of ethics associated with the samurai class, and yet it is even more significant that we can glean enough information from his autobiography to show that his life actually reflected the decay that became prevalent during the last half-century of the Tokugawa Shogunate.

Musui=s transgressions are obvious and begin early in his life. Claiming he was tricked into visiting the Yoshiwara (a Japanese style red light district), Musui admits enjoying it so much that he returned every night. This act alone violates the Buke Shohatto, or Laws of Military Households, which state that Aexisting codes strictly forbid . . . licentious sex.@ Even if we do not assume...

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