Yoritomo-Tashi and ancient Japanese philosophy: Common Sense

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Yoritomo-Tashi and ancient Japanese philosophy: Common Sense

Thomas Clark – Special Contribution

Modern Tokyo Times

Countless poets and writers have addressed common sense thus:

“If common sense has not the brilliancy of the sun, it has the fixity of the stars” – Francisco Caballero

“Common sense is, of all kinds, the most uncommon. It implies good judgment, sound discretion, and true and practical wisdom applied to common life” – Tryon Edwards

“Common sense is the knack of seeing things as they are and doing things as they ought to be done” – C.E. Stone

However all the collected aphorisms and clever sayings pale in comparison to the book written on the topic by the 12th century shogun, Yoritomo-Tashi.

Three Philosophical Pillars

Yoritomo-Tashi was a philosopher, well known and admired by his people and one of the greatest statesmen that Japan has ever had. Yoritomo-Tashi worked as a senior official for the state and wrote extensively on philopsophical subjects. The three great pillars of his teachings were reflected in his trio of books:

Common Sense: How to Exercise it

Influence – How to Exert it

Timidity – How to Overcome it

To understand common sense he lists the elements in order of importance:


Moderation – that which restrains our impatience

The Faculty of Penetration – the understanding cause and effect


Wisdom – that gained by the lessons of experience

Tashi summarizes it succinctly:

“(Common sense) is a central sense, toward which all impressions converge and unite in one sentiment–the desire for the truth. Everything is summed up in one unique perception: the love of directness and simplicity.”

He argues that those living by common sense have no problems and can resolve any situation they encounter.  He adds possessing it is the key to success and to achieving the positive influence on others.

This latter exercise of influence he discusses in his book on the subject.

Two faces of Persuasion

In his book Influence-How to Exert It, Yoritomo-Tashi provides an assessment of rhetoric that resonates especially today:

“Persuasion clothes itself into two different forms.”

“The first is like a soothing balm poured from a kindly hand (that) gently infiltrates itself throughout our systems communicating to us its virtues.”

“The other may be compared to the terrible winds of an African desert. This evil persuasion is all the more dangerous because it knows how to clothe itself with the most attractive external attributes. With earnest words and sympathetic smiles these persons who almost always have nothing to do with life try to spoil the lives of others without having suspicion of their unconscious crime. Usually these are the kinds of people that talk in apparent good faith about the freedom to live one’s own life. They are those who see the agreeable sensation of the moment, without giving a thought to the possible bitterness of tomorrow.”


Unexpectedly on this subject he chooses to attack it and treat it as a malady.

“Many educators make a great mistake of extolling modesty and condoning timidity. This mistaken virtue, even when accompanied by substantial qualities will always be an obstacle in the path leading to the Best, the goal for which we should all aim.”

“Mistrust of ourselves, the source of timidity, always springs from lack of confidence in our own strength, and must weaken us by hindering us from giving to our thoughts in their realization the inspiration necessary to exalt them.”

“There is a form of timidity called awkwardness, which is usually caused by a person having an exaggerated idea of their own importance, causing him to imagine that every eye is fixed upon him.”

Yoritomo-Tashi then goes on to provide a real how-to discussion on building self-confidence and removing timidity from one’s character.

Accessing Tashi today

Fortunately for us Yoritomo-Tashi’s wisdom is readily available today at our electronic fingertips and free for the clicking (no e-reader needed):

Common Sense

Influence-How to Exert it

Timidity-How to Overcome it

These are relatively quick reads addressing many of the same issues facing us in our contemporary world.  Yoritomo-Tashi has a knack for distilling human behavior into its most elemental forms, showing that many of the challenges we encounter personally and collectively have been around for centuries.  At the same time he offers pragmatic advice.

And no matter one’s personal philosophy, current and former students will certainly agree with his maxim:

“Long lectures have only a repressing effect on the spirit.”

About the writer

Thomas Clark is a U.S. based historian successfully bringing well written articles to the international community. Please contact him at thomasclark1234@gmail.com for more information.


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