The Story Behind the Japanese Holdouts of World War II

The samurai warriors ceased to exist when Japan opened itself to modernization. But their legacy went on, with the beliefs and philosophies being adopted and practiced in modern Japan. But during the Second World War, the code of Bushido took on a rather brutal incarnation. Originally formulated in the early 18th century as a code of conduct for the samurai, this way of the warrior demanded respect, loyalty, bravery and self-sacrifice. Nevertheless, a form of Bushido was adopted by the Imperial Japanese Army, and when combined with military trainings and indoctrinated reverence to the emperor, it resulted to soldiers’ willingness to fight to the death and refusal to give up. So much so, that there are reports of fanaticism and abuses within the soldier’s ranks. Up in the air, Japanese pilots put on the ultimate sacrifice when they partook in Kamikaze suicide missions.

A soldier’s lack of regards to self-preservation made him more dangerous indeed. Noticeably, the form of Bushido being practiced in World War II Japan were more demanding than its feudal counterpart. Nevertheless, it also pushed some soldiers to continue fighting, even after the war ended. And such feat inspired a mix of respect, astonishments, fascinations and shock to observers anywhere.

The Code of the Warrior
One of the surviving photos of samurai warriors.

To the western world, the code of Bushido is steeped with mysticism, and oftentimes it is compared with knightly chivalry of the west. Though various ethical codes were formulated in the end of the Heian, and the start of the shogunate period of the Kamakura (1185–1333), it wasn’t until the Tokugawa period when it was formally defined. As a whole, Bushido is a set of moral codes dictating a samurai lifestyle and behavior. And as defined by Nitobe Inazo in the Meiji Period, it emphasized righteousness, heroic courage, honesty, compassion, respect, honesty, respect, honor, loyalty and self-control.

With the loss of the samurai as a social clas

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