Welcome to our second installment of our series discussing Japanese influence in the world of Star Wars! If you missed our previous post, head on over to our brief discussion on the Japanese design elements with Padmé Amidala.
Today, we'll be discussing, at a high-level, the impact of Japanese culture on the creation of the Jedi, the peacekeepers of the galaxy (depending on which side you're on).
The Name of the Jedi
There aren't any direct quotes from George Lucas on this, but various online sources stated that the name Jedi is derived from the Japanese word jidaigeki (時代劇) which means "period dramas." This could refer to films by the world-renowned Japanese director Akira Kurosawa, most famous for his samurai (侍) films. We'll discuss the impact of Kurosawa on the world of Star Wars in a future blog post - it really needs one all on its own! These films, along with the way of life led by samurai, were clearly a large source of inspiration for the characters we've come to know and love.
Bushido (武士道) - The Way of the Warrior
As just mentioned, samurai were a clear inspiration for the Jedi - however, who were the samurai? Simply put, samurai were members of Japan's warrior class and were highly respected throughout the country. The word "samurai," when translated to English, means "those who serve," and they followed a strict code of conduct known as bushido (sound familiar to the rules applied to Jedi?). Let's quickly detail this code, often broken out into the "8 virtues of bushido" (source):
Rectitude or Justice
Benevolence or Mercy
Honesty and Sincerity
Character and Self-Control
As you can see within the virtues listed above, many of the points come close to the Jedi Code, which we've listed below. Note that there are two version of the Jedi Code.
Emotion, yet Peace.
Ignorance, yet Knowledge.
Passion, yet Serenity.
Chaos, yet Harmony.
Death, yet the Force.
There is no Emotion, there is Peace.
There is no Ignorance, there is Knowledge.
There is no Passion, there is Serenity.
There is no Chaos, there is Harmony.
There is no Death, there is the Force.
Further, we find bushido influence within the Jedi Creed.
The Jedi Creed
I am a Jedi, an instrument of peace;
Where there is hatred I shall bring love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is doubt, faith; Where there is despair, hope; Where there is darkness, light; And where there is sadness, joy.
I am a Jedi.
I shall never seek so much to be consoled as to console; To be understood as to understand; To be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; It is in pardoning that we are pardoned; And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
The Force is with me always, for I am a Jedi.
Along with this strict code of conduct, samurai were supposed to not be afraid of death. Instead, the thing they feared most was dishonor. If a samurai felt they had done something that resulted in the loss of their honor, the only way to regain their standing within the samurai was to commit the act of seppuku (切腹; cutting the belly), or suicide.
The Kamishimo (上下/裃) (Ceremonial Clothing)
Kamishimo (an example is shown to the left, although over time styles did change) were the traditional clothing worn by samurai. It consisted of the following pieces:
Kataguni: short sleeveless garment made of hemp; this had a samurai's family crest on it, placed in 4 spots (back, sides of the chest, and waist)
Hakama: Pleated and divided skirt made in fine strips of fabric
Kosode: Small sleeves
You can see in the shape of the garments shown where there was clear inspiration in the tunics worn by the Jedi. The billowing sleeves of their robes are also clearly influenced by the style of the samurai. One of the best examples of this are the robes worn by Qui-Gon Jinn, which were created that way to accommodate "his wide-reaching, flowing style of mastered sword combat" (source).
We hope this gave you a little taste of Japanese influence within Star Wars! We'll be covering more aspects leading up to the release of "Visions."