Gallery Ethics

Lessons from the Ancient Samurai

Bushido Was an exemplary code of conduct that guided Japanese culture for centuries. Reflecting on and adopting the original tenets of this age-old Japanese teaching can help us to face our challenges so that we and those we lead can thrive.

Although its origins are unclear, Bushido probably began about 800 years ago during the Kamakura period in Japan as the integration of traditional swordsmanship and the religious teachings of Buddhism, Shintoism, and Confucianism. Evolving over the centuries, Bushido came to be known as ‘The Soul of Japan’ and influenced nearly every aspect of Japanese society.

Hand-colored photograph of a Japanese samurai by Franz von Stillfried-Ratenicz, circa 1881

A tattooed samurai – 1882

To understand the basics of Bushido Spirit is to understand its seven virtues. Let’s walk through them one by one and consider how we might apply them to our everyday lives. I hope that as you contemplate these virtues and reflect on how they may apply to your immediate problems, you will find something that touches your heart and stirs your soul. Please prepare a nice cup of coffee or tea, put on your favorite meditative music, and relax… Let’s begin.

Samurai in armor – 1867

1 | Integrity and Righteousness
Living in integrity means adhering to moral conduct and maintaining an inner “wholeness” that is honest and true. This includes making decisions that are true to your values, no matter how difficult they may be. Your decisions should accord with common sense and help maintain the order of society and community, and also be aligned with justice.

2 | Courage
Sometimes you need courage to do the right thing, take firm action and speak out against injustices. True courage is unshakable under any circumstance.

3 | Respect
Respect is the foundation of communication. To be respectful is to be mannerly, kind, and courteous to others. But it must come from a pure heart; a superficial act of respect is not truthful.

(l) Samurai in armor from Labor and Porcelain in Japan, by the United States Consul-General, Yokohama circa 1882; (r) Hand-colored albumen photograph of samurai, circa 1880.

Samurai warrior in armor NY public library

4 | Compassion
To be compassionate is to be sympathetic, charitable, and understanding, to be warm-hearted and loving towards others.

5 | Honesty and Sincerity
An honest person is truthful with others as well as him or herself. An honest person does not lie, cheat or make excuses, and always keeps his or her promises.

6 | Honor
As a barometer of social standing, honor is bestowed on those who uphold their personal ethos and abide by their society’s code of conduct.

7 | Duty and Loyalty
Duty and loyalty often require selflessness, to put the concerns of others before your own.

I would also like to stress the importance of faith as the backbone of the true Bushido Spirit. Having faith in a higher power and a spiritual life that extends far beyond our worldly existence aligns our mind and heart with “Universal Truth.” Such faith enables us to understand and commit to what is right as seen from a higher perspective and to be more courageous, humble, and caring for others. Faith is the path to inner virtue which we must not forget.

These basic virtues of the ancient Bushido Spirit can serve as guideposts for life today. They are old teachings that stem from eastern traditions, but “Truth” is timeless and universal.  

If you practice these Bushido virtues daily, you will surely burnish your soul and become a lighthouse in this complex world, someone whom people will trust and admire, regardless of whether you are a top executive of a company or a homemaker caring for your family. 

Lastly, I would like to leave you with this line from the new film “The Cherry Bushido.”

“One Day, One Life – Live today with no regrets.”


About the Photos | These rare photos, taken between 1862 and 1900, capture the twilight years of Japan’s samurai. The images were captured in black and white, then hand-painted with colors by artists.

About Yoichi Utebi

Yoichi Utebi is a world lecturer for Happy Science and a producer on “The Cherry Bushido,” a film from Japan about a young Kendo (Japanese swordsmanship) devotee and group of friends who unite to restore the Bushido Spirit  and protect Japan from threat of extinction by its neighboring country. “The Cherry Bushido” will be released in limited theaters in North America.

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