Japan Spirit and Sakura 桜と大和魂

新渡戸稲造 Inazo Nitobe『武士道』Bushido
「武士道の感化」The Influence of Bushido

Motoori has put the mute utterance of the nation into words when he sings:


"Isles of blest Japan
 Should your Yamato spirit
 Strangers seek to scan,
 Say, scenting morn's sun-lit air,
 Blows the cherry wild and fair"

敷島の大和心を人 問はば

Yes, the sakura has for ages been the favorite of our people and the emblem of our character.


Mark particularly the terms of definition which the poet uses, the words the wild cherry flower scenting the morning sun.


The Yamato spirit is not a tame, tender plant, but a wild -in the sense of natural- growth;


it is indigenous to the soil;


its accidental qualities it may share with the flowers of other lands, but in its essence it remains the original, spontaneous outgrowth of our clime.


But its nativity is not its sole claim to our affection.


The refinement and grace of its beauty appeal to our aesthetic sense as no other flower can.


We cannot share the admiration of the Europeans for their roses, which lack the simplicity of our flower.


Then, too, the thorns that are hidden beneath the sweetness of the rose, the tenacity with which she clings to life,as though loth or afraid to die rather than drop untimely, preferring to rot on her stem.


Her showy colors and heavy odors -all those are traits so unlike our flower, which carries no dagger or poison under its beauty, which is ever ready to depart life at the call of nature, whose colors are never gorgeous, and whose light fragrance never palls.

又た其色妖冶、其香濃厚なる此等の特質は大いに之を我桜花と其趣を異にす。桜の佳美なるは、毒を蓄へず刃を潜めず、且つ自然の招呼に応じ 欣然として飄落し、又た其姿色太だ華麗ならず。其清香は淡として、遥かに薔薇の人を厭かしむると同じからず。

Beauty of colors and of form is limited in its showing; it is a fixed quality of existence, whereas fragrance is volatile, ethereal as the breathing of life.


So in all religious ceremonies frankincense and myrrh play a prominent part.


There is something spirituelle in redolence.


When the delicious perfume of the sakura quickens the morning air, as the sun in its course rises to illumine first the isles of the Far East, few sensations are more serenely exhilarating than to inhale, as it were, the very breath of beauteous day.


When the Creator himself is pictured as making new resolutions in his heart upon smelling a sweet savor (Gen. Ⅷ, 21), is it any wonder that the sweet-smelling season of the cherry blossom should call forth the whole nation from their little habitations?


Blame them not, if for a time their limbs forget their toil and moil and their hearts their pangs and sorrows.


Their brief pleasure ended, they return to their daily tasks with new strength and new resolutions.


Thus in ways more than one is the sakura the flower of the nation.


Is, then, this flower, so sweet and evanescent, blown whithersoever the wind listeth, and, shedding a puff of perfume, ready to vanish forever.


 Is this flower the type of the Yamato spirit?


Is the Soul of Japan so frailly mortal?


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