Perhaps more than any other term, Bushido is most commonly recognized by Americans when it comes to Japanese culture. Bushido or ‘way of the warrior’ has been dramatized by anime, manga, samurai movies, and war history. But what exactly is Bushido characterized as in modern Japan? First, some background:
From Japanese history during the Edo period a combination of Zen Buddhism and Confucianism created a moral and ethical system to govern the samurai class. Much like the feudal chivalry system known to the Western world, Bushido was a code that really dictated all aspects of life to its adherents. Among the concepts involved were those dictating interactions between people, property management, and governmental relations. For instance, great loyalty to one’s local ruler or overall government was essential in this teaching. Also, a system of honor to manage every day interactions was essential to the degree that it became more important than life itself. So then, when something deemed dishonorable occurred, rather than to dishonor oneself or family it was seen as more noble to take one’s own life through ritual suicide than to live through the great shame of being dishonored. How have these concepts passed into modern times?
In modern Japan Bushido has greatly contributed to the overall unique Japanese national character. This has both positive and negative connotations. Unquestioning loyalty to one’s leaders, honorable interactions with others, and avoiding shame at all costs have become essential elements of Japanese culture where it is said that a system needs to be maintained to ensure cooperation on a small island with a dense population. This has led to a mindset that values maintaining the system above the individual need which is seen as a lesser priority. Even in modern times suicide can still be glorified as an acceptable way to escape pain! Perhaps this is part of the reason why suicide rates in Japan are still highest among the modern world.
How can Bushido impact missionary work? Not only the issues from obvious romanticized views of suicide in culture, but also extreme unquestioning loyalty can be a hindrance to spiritual growth as it tends to close down clear communication in favor of maintaining harmony. Also, Bushido elements may sound good from a non-spiritual prospective, however they promote self-reliance upon the flesh to produce outward character change rather than inward reliance upon the spirit to produce outward change by yielding to God. Is a person trained by society to act a certain way genuine or acting to avoid shame of others? As in our own culture self-reliance must be countered with Christ-centered spirit reliance! Please pray for spiritual breakthroughs to occur as the Gospel reaches Japan!