by J. Ramon Palacios
Nikonian in Mexico
a friend about this Bushido article
was a 16 years old high school student, busy in warm hearted
camaraderie and doing much photography, inevitably responding to challenges for street
fist fighting, obtaining good grades just for the self-pride
of it and scheming how to get the girl I deeply, madly, irretrievably
loved, to kiss me.
monumental pink stone building of my local university was
a Jesuit monks monastery and cloister of the St. Ignatius School
in colonial times (1625). It preserved many of their original
books in its dark library, miraculously surviving the expelling
of the Jesuits in 1767, the Mexican War of Independence from Spain
(1810-1821), the War of the Reform (1857-1861), the French
Intervention Wars (1838 and 1862-1867), the Mexican Revolution
(1910-1921), other armed conflicts in between and the later
religious war (1926-1929) when convents and churches were
the subject of savage pillage.
Lacquered war face mask (Mempo) with throat protector (yodare
kake). Samurai armor
was there, at the university library, where I stumbled upon a book with much of
Japanese culture, written in old Portuguese. I was
so intrigued by it that I bought a dictionary and
was set to translate it.
cannot say that I learned Portuguese in those 2 to
3 hours a day for at least a full school year, but understood
enough to figure out it was the incredible account
of the travels of a Portuguese explorer (maybe pirate),
soldier, slave, merchant, trader, St. Francis brother,
farmer and writer. Prominently four times to Japan,
in the opening of a new silk trade route for the Jesuits.
The date of the precious and yet humble edition was
1674, a re-edition of the first published original
sixty years before, in 1614. Fascinating to say the least.
done, I made the mistake of enthusiastically commenting
it with the sinister looking chief librarian and never
saw it again, or any of the many other very old leather bound
books inside that tall back room, with very small windows
at the very top and a tiny door, behind the last shelves
row in that inmense library. That room was from then on locked and years later
found completely empty.
that book captivated and lead me to read many others
on Japanese culture, history and Bu-Shi-Do, pronounced
Boo-shee-doh in English, that literally means
code of moral principles which the Japanese samurai
were required to observe, later translated as "The
Way of the Warrior."
That is how I learned respect for the Japanese culture and my passion for The Code came to be. The way to be better everyday, as a duty to oneself and all others, without the incentive of the promise of a haven and/or the threat of a hell, learning to live a well lived life, with death by our side and honor worthy, intact to the end. My mother -an avid reader herself- found it a remarkably efficient way to reinforce our own family traditions and teachings.
Little I knew that the familiarity with Japanese culture would enable me to initiate and conclude three joint ventures with giant corporations in record time, 25 years later.
Bushido was passed
on generation after generation as an oral tradition of the
military classes for centuries. The Code eventually found
its way into the written form -as shown in an early history
of Japan written in the year 797- and further developed from
the 12th century and on.