The swordsmith was not a mere artisan

but an inspired artist and his workshop a sanctuary. Daily he commenced his craft with prayer and purification, or, as the phrase was, “he committed his soul and spirit into the forging and tempering of the steel.” Every swing of the sledge, every plunge into water, every friction on the grindstone, was a religious act of no slight import. Was it the spirit of the master or of his tutelary god that cast a formidable spell over our sword? Perfect as a work of art, setting at defiance its Toledo and Damascus rivals, there was more than art could impart. Its cold blade, collecting on its surface the moment it is drawn the vapour of the atmosphere; its immaculate texture, flashing light of bluish hue; its matchless edge, upon which histories and possibilities hang; the curve of its back, uniting exquisite grace with utmost strength;–all these thrill us with mixed feelings of power and beauty, of awe and terror.

– Bushido: The Soul of Japan, Chapter XIII,
Inazo Nitobe

Tea Ceremony

The late Nakano Kazuma said that the original purpose of the Tea Ceremony is the cleanse the six senses. For the eyes there are the hanging scroll and flower arrangement. For the nose there is the incense. For the ears there is the sound of the hot water. For the mouth there is the taste of the tea. And for the hands and feet there is the correctness of form. When the five senses have thus been cleansed, the mind will of itself be purified.

In the poem,

Under the deep snows in the last village
Last night numerous branches of plum blossomed

the opulence of the phrase “numerous branches” was changed to “a single branch.” It is said that this “single branch” contained true tranquility.


– Hagakure, second chapter,
Yamamoto Tsunetomo