The Intangible Warrior Culture of Japan: Bodily Practices, Mental Attitudes, and Values of the Two-sworded men from the Fifteenth to the Twenty-first Centuries

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Copyright: Anshin, Anatoliy
This is the first work to consider the Japanese warriors from the “intangible culture” perspective. The critical analysis of this intangible culture is applied primarily to the hereditary warrior houses of the pre-Tokugawa ages and to those of the Tokugawa era (1600-1868). Particular attention is paid to the forms of organization and styles of curriculum in warrior training entities and schools of military arts. In addition, a swordsman, Yamaoka Tesshū (1836-1888), is used as a case study to show that in the Bakumatsu period, there were men who strove to resurrect pre-Tokugawa practices and values in response to what they saw as a warrior culture that no longer had any utility in real-life combat and, instead, had been degraded into a form of sport or empty display. The study of Tenshinshō-den Katori Shintō-ryū, the oldest school of military arts in Japan, along with a detailed analysis of the life and thought of Yamaoka (especially in terms of his hitherto unrecognized but pivotal role in the bloodless surrender of Edo castle during the Boshin war of 1868-69) allows us to see warriors committed to intense physical and mental training in the art of killing but whose primary goal was to preserve human life and avoid unnecessary violence (a concept known as “the life-giving sword”). By this, the thesis attempts to overturn the domination in Japanese history and popular culture of the image of “the bellicose warrior” represented by such figures as Miyamoto Musashi. It also looks closely at several groups of commoners such as Rōshigumi who in the 1860s were sanctioned by the Bakufu to wear weapons and participate in armed conflicts; the thesis argues that the co-existence of the two-sworded warriors and the two-sworded commoners late in the Tokugawa era is directly responsible for our distorted historical understanding of the bushi and its exaggerated link with violence. The thesis also explores the present-day use of what Japanese government, businesses, and educators claim to be the values and practices of the traditional bushi and demonstrates that these only continue to distort an understanding of the warrior's intangible culture.
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Anshin, Anatoliy
Lone, Stewart
Wilson, Sandra
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PhD Doctorate
UNSW Faculty
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