The Soul of Japan and Fascism [...]

It may come as an even greater surprise that bushido once received more recognition abroad than in Japan. In 1900 writer Inazo Nitobe’s published Bushido: The Soul of Japan in English, for the Western audience. Nitobe subverted fact for an idealized imagining of Japan’s culture and past, infusing Japan’s samurai class with Christian values in hopes of shaping Western interpretations of his country.

Though initially rejected in Japan, Nitobe’s ideology would be embraced by a government driven war machine. Thanks to its empowering vision of the past, the extreme nationalist movement embraced bushido, exploiting The Soul of Japan to pave Japan’s way to fascism in the buildup to World War II.

And so too The Last Samurai exploits Inazo Nitobe’s depiction of bushido, renewing movie-going audiences’ admiration for a venerable concept and glorified past that never truly existed. But as bushido’s precarious history proves, the truth often takes a back seat to more fashionable depictions, whether it be to change Western perceptions, fuel a fascist war agenda, or sell movie tickets. (Source)

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