Comments on The Samurai

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss the history of the Samurai and the role of their myth in Japanese national identity.

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Comments for this programme are now closed.


  • Response to Nathan on Samurai: Dr. Kanda

    I disagree with the view that Samurai culture is non-European. As a person who grew up in Japan and lived adult life in the West, I have observed that the distinction between Orient and the West is rather superficial. In the Christian faith it says that one has to die to live. This is the essence of Samurai value system too. This point was not understood even in Tom Cruse's film, "The Last Samurai". Meiji emperor asked Tom Cruse how the last Samurai died. Tom Cruise replied, wrong, one should care not how he died but how he "lived". As worriers, Samurai lived with constant fear of death. They knew every earthly thing they gained in life becomes meaningless upon their own death. So, is life doomed to be failure? Are we perpetual losers? Samurai discovered that the way how we accept unbeatable fate of death makes their life meaningful. Christianity teaches the same thing: What we accumulate in our earthly life will not give us meaning of life. Real meaning of life is granted only through giving up all earthly values including our earthly life itself to accept divine message.

  • David - Samurai and Szlachta

    The programme on the Samurai immediately made me think of the Szlachta, not only because there was a strong Oriental element to this aristocratic Polish class-caste. The Szlachta believed themselves to be descended from Sarmatians, a western Asian warrior tribe, and showed a strong interest in all things Oriental. While their weaponry, clothing and even hairstyle were inspired by Tatar and Ottoman influences, the Szlachta were also steeped in European culture, spoke and wrote Latin and studied classical knowledge. These landowners developed a strong sense of identity, were skilled at sabre fencing, lived by a strict code of honour and were ready to fight a duel with anyone who broke the rules. They formed an unusually large section of the society (some estimates put the number at as much as 10% of the population) and actively participated in politics, being able to vote for kings during the so called "free election". More than that, each of them was legally eligible to run for the post of king. It was partly thanks to the Szlachta that in the 16th century Poland was, to quote from Encyclopaedia Britannica, ""the largest state in Europe and perhaps the continent's most powerful nation"", as well as a haven of toleration, to which Jews persecuted in Western Europe migrated en masse. The works of Szlachta political thinkers were influential in Europe; one example is "The Counsellor" by Wawrzyniec Goslicki, which was translated into English as many as three times and helped spread the notion of the so-called "Nobles' democracy". Why the Szlachta diminished in the late 18th century and was finally wiped out in the 20th would, I believe, make for a fascinating programme.

  • Nathan - The Samurai

    I was glad to see a programme about a non-European subject, and one I have heard a lot, but know very little about. It was an interesting programme, however I was dissapointed that the majority of it was focused on the early modern period and the changes it brought to the samurai class. I was at least as interested in the formative period of that class and its relation to the origin of Japanese civilisation. The economic and political roles of medieval samurai was virtually glossed over in this programme. Only a brief mention was made of feudalism, for example. Were the samurai land owners, or strictly armed retainers? Did they have legal duties? How were the warrior families organised: were there kings/lords, city states?

  • Colin Lester: Samurai

    Doesn't Melvyn know that The Magnificent Seven has been shown often on TV? My sons (22 and 20) know it very well -- and also Shogun (book and TV series). Samurai worship is alive and well in the UK!

  • John Bonner, Samurai

    I think you should start a secondary program (or podcast) called In Our "Own" Time, where you simple record the post-program, free-wheeling discussion, that Mr Bragg tells us of in his newsletter. It sound so much more, un-buttoned. And interesting.

  • No native opinions?

    Being half Japanese, I am very interested in views of non-Japanese with regards to our culture, and this program is doing great to give the fact behind the stereotypical myth that samurai has in the west.However, with the horrible pronounsation of Japanese names aside (it makes me cringe so bad), I would have liked to see a Japanese person come in and give our view and opinion on samurai and its history. Because after all, it is one sided - not the fact but the opinion behind it - when it is coming from British people only. Some of the opinions expressed, I find myself disagreeing because I grew up in Japan and know the mentality of Japanese people.

  • Samurai

    Though a dry subject,the end of the samurai in the Edo period with theincursions of Western weaponry and drilling methods, doing away with a lot of the samurai codes,has been welldepicted in Yamada's trilogy of films:Twilight Samurai,The Hidden Blade andLove and Honour,which are beautiful films,perhaps better than The 7Samuraifor the after effects of feudalism withthe incursions of modernity.In place ofthe rigid codes of honour we get the rise in the importance of love tothe individuals,freed from the castesystem.


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