In a small book of introduction to Budo entitled Budo shoshin-shu, there is a section called ‘Shukke-shi,’ in which Daidoji Yuzan, the author, says that samurai should travel round and learn while they are young, as do the Zen monks. This book points out that Buddhist monks are in general far more educated than most samurai. It is because the monks ‘leave their homes: they leave their monasteries and make tours to visit other monasteries, where they study various other doctrines and also get to know other regions’.
The author also says that many samurai just stay at home and draw their salary, without learning anything new except the place where they live. He recommends that samurai, like monks, should travel in order to learn and travel alone as the monks do. Really he is recommending something like a musha-shugyo errantry, not to study swordsmanship but to see new things and people with his own eyes. In this way he will get not more book knowledge but judgement and will be able to judge what he reads.
The same idea would be good today. In Daidoji Yuzan’s time, Japanese people could not travel abroad. Today they are wonderfully well informed through books. Even when they travel abroad, they go in groups, so that they are still at home in ‘a little traveling Japan’. They look at the foreign country as if through a pane of glass.
They see us, turn to their friends on their side of the glass and talk about us. They do not talk to us face to face: they are always in a group with a glass plate round them. If they talk, they talk through the glass. They know so much, yet they act as if they knew very little.
© Trevor Leggett