Bushido Code: The 7 Virtues Of Bushido

A statue of a samurai on a horse

The feudal samurai of Japan were part of the warrior class that trained their entire lives to be a part of an elite force. While much of their training was physical, there was a spiritual and mental element that was just as critical called the Bushido Code. It was developed around the 11th century, but solidified into a code around the 14th century. Learn more about the 7 virtues of Bushido when you read on here.

What is the Bushido Code?

Bushido, loosely translated as “The Way of the Warrior”, was a series of rules and philosophical principles specifically meant to guide samurai warriors throughout their lives. While initially, samurai were solely meant to protect their lord and his land, over time, the code began to evolve and change to encompass more complex life decisions. During the 13th century, samurai conduct was also heavily influenced by Zen Buddhism, which eventually became part of the 7 virtues of Bushido. Meditation was used to soothe the mind and improve mental focus to gain victory over enemies.

The 7 Virtues of Bushido

Samurai armor on display

There are seven elements that make up this important samurai code. Each is a single word that urges a samurai to explore a larger, guiding principle.

  • Jin | Mercy: With such great power over life, benevolence toward mankind is an important consideration. Samurai must explore universal love and compassion to ensure they are fighting and killing for the right reasons.

  • Makoto | Honesty: Honesty and trust were of utmost important to the honor of a samurai. Utter sincerity and truthfulness helped a samurai prove their loyalty and ensured they were reliable and respected.

  • Chugi | Loyalty: Being loyal and devoted to their lord and his land was of the utmost importance to a samurai. Any samurai who failed in their duty or lost their master was named Ronin, a masterless drifter.

  • Meiyo | Honor: Everything a samurai did considered what these actions would do for his honor. If they acted based on their beliefs in the code, then their actions were honorable and true.

  • Yu | Valor: Courage and valor are about more than just bravery in battle. This principle also refers to the courage a samurai must have in order to do the right thing at all times — to face harsh truths and realities.

  • Rei | Respect: Manners and courtesy were incredibly important in Japanese culture, but the samurai code took this much further and urged samurai to respect alternative opinions, beliefs, and cultures.

  • Gi | Justice: Having the integrity to approach serious decisions with the right mindset was meant to help guarantee that a samurai acted for the right reasons. It ensured samurai avoided indecisiveness and rash action.

Why Samurai Practice Bushido

modern recreation of traditional samurai armor

The 7 virtues of Bushido are meant to lead to better physical performance, increased self-discipline, and a higher code of ethics. Since its formalization during the Tokugawan era of Japanese history, it has played an important role in the evolution of Japanese culture. Today, this guiding philosophy still affects the way many Japanese people conduct themselves and interact with the world.

Curious about other aspects of ancient Japanese culture and the samurai way of life? Explore the Swords of Northshire blog for more!

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