In feudal Japan, the warrior was the ruling class. During the 270 years of order and peace of the Edo Period, their code of conduct developed and was refined into characteristics such as loyalty, morality, respect, and honor. Though they lived off of the fruits of labor of the agricultural and merchant class, talking about money-making was seen as a despicable act.
With the Meiji Restoration, this class put their swords to rest, yet their pride lingered. Around the turn of the 20th century, scholar-diplomat, Inazo Nitobe created the word, “Bushido” (The way of the warrior) in order to appeal to the West that “the soul” of this emerging power shared some common traits of chivalry and knighthood in Western societies.
However, perhaps inadvertently, “Bushido” further engrained the notion that money-making was something that should not be considered as a part of the soul of Japan. This thinking still exists even in the 21st century Japan. Yet, Eiichi Shibusawa, who was Nitobe’s contemporary and acquaintance knew better. He strongly believed that “shikon” (the spirit of the warrior) also needed a dose of “shosai” (business sense), if Japan were to truly emerge as a global power in the 20th century.
Eiichi originated from the agricultural-merchant class, but was trained in the discipline of the warrior class. As a teenager, Eiichi was infuriated by the local lord demanding higher taxes even though he did not lift a finger to produce the goods. Later, as a young man in the new Meiji government, he was despondent that bureaucrats of the former warrior class just sat around drinking tea all day long, without being productive.
He probably saw many instances where the warrior class had clung on to their status in form, but in substance, the “soul” was indeed empty. The world during Eiichi’s time was a dangerous place, and if this condition in the society were to persist, then Japan as a country was at risk.