Bushi , swords & the spirit
Bushi – the warrior class started back in 12th century in Japan. Their duty changed along the period. So did the style of swards. For example, swards in 1100s were curvy shaped to enable Bushi fight well on the horse. Later, they became more straight as they fought on ground.
Regardless the era, sward making craftsman ship kept developing to be as practical as possible.
In 1603, Shogun Ieyasu Tokugawa started to govern Japan and moved capital to Edo, where it is called Tokyo now.
He closed the country from overseas, and that was beginning of the longest peaceful period known in modern history of Japan lasted for nearly 300 years without war.
Swords were no longer weapons and given the new meaning, which is “Bushi’s Spirit”.
While functionality was kept by the craft-masters, the sublime art became more appreciated.
Bushi knew their duty -had to kill someone if they needed to- as well as how heavy their responsibility was.
That made them carry two swords.
The long one for killing someone for justice, and the short one for killing himself.
Whatever the reason, if Bushi ended someone’s life, he would show his responsibility by committing Seppuku (harakiri – cut his own gut).
In other words, it was an expression for the respect to someone’s life.
When Bushi, Daimyo (worrier class people) visited Edo Castle, they had to leave their long sword and only took short one with them.
Because they don’t have to kill someone in the castle, but still showed their commitment for responsibility -that is – I am ready anytime if I need to do seppuku.
It shows how seriously the politicians (governors) treated their power. They didn’t use it to dominate but to look after their people who were treated as the emperor’s treasures.
Therefore, Sword itself wasn’t a spirit, it was a metaphor for Bushi’s responsibility for governance.
This mentalism was alive until recently.
Japanese military officers at war always took their swards. In their last moment, they would commit seppuku, or took badges of rank off the uniform, and charged to enemy with sward in their hands.
Because they only fought for the country, but once finale was getting close, they wished to return to be a human with full of sympathy and mercy.
No more badge. No more fighting like a robot. Just wanted to end their lives with aesthetic.
Is the power being used correctly in modern world ? Are we treating lives like treasures ?
Bushi’s spirit and 2 swords story question us.
Ref. https://nezu3344.com, https://www.touken-world.jp/