Japanese Warfare Ethics

Authored by: Admiral Fumio Ota

Routledge Handbook of Military Ethics

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  May  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415743686
eBook ISBN: 9781315813516
Adobe ISBN: 9781317801771


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In his book The Soldier and the State, Samuel Huntington stated: “To a larger extent, the officer’s code is expressed in custom, tradition, and the continuing spirit of the profession.” 1 When looking at Japanese warfare ethics, we should search accordingly for the origins of military customs and traditions in the Kojiki, written in the sixth century, which is Japan’s oldest publication. In the Kojiki, we find the statement of the ideal warrior, named Itsu-no-ohabari, “Reverently I will obey and serve,” as typical of the ethics that symbolized bravery and loyalty during a state of national emergency. This spirit of utter loyalty is also found in Prince Shotoku’s 17-article constitution as “absolute submission to imperial commands,” 2 and in Sakimori, the frontier guards’ poetry of Japan’s first known poet, Manyoshu, as “reverence for the majesty of the great lord” during the seventh century. Warfare ethics during ancient history in Japan are symbolized in loyalty with propriety.

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