Most Western readers will have encountered the term bushidō (“way of the samurai”), whether in a historical account of the Japanese samurai, a Pacific War memoir, a story on Japanese baseball, a magazine article on the Japanese economic miracle of the 1970s–1980s, or in any number of video games, to name just a few of the many possibilities. Popularly understood as a martial ethic that first guided the samurai, it has been used, and misused, repeatedly as an explanatory device for a Japanese national character exemplified as an idealized samurai-like attribute of self-sacrifice, most recently perhaps in the case of cleanup workers at the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. A study in English of this rather amorphous ideological concept is long overdue.

In this monograph, Oleg Benesch presents a historical survey of the development of the ideology of bushidō ....

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