History and Sources

Was Shinto associated with the Samurai code?

Japan’s fabled tradition of Samurai warriors did have important connections with Shinto, but it did not arise out of Shinto alone or even primarily. Some credit a seventeenth-century Japanese Confucian scholar and military theorist named Yamaga Soko (1622-85) as the originator of the “way of the warrior” (bushi-do). Yamaga emphasized the importance of sincerity and utter devotion to the ancestral kami as a sure road to experiencing the divine presence. Along with other thinkers of his time, he focused on the concept of Amaterasu as the ancestral kami of the imperial family. Total devotion to the ancestral kami therefore implied perfect allegiance to the person of the emperor, the shogun, and the territorial feudal lords called daimyo. Feudal society depended on the loyalty of its samurai, the knightly or military class. Even after the shogunate and the feudal system gave way to a rejuvenated imperial government under the Meiji Restoration (1868), military supporters of the emperor turned the code of unquestioning dedication to good effect by underscoring the necessity of unstinting affection for the royal person and his household.


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