Yamato Damashii – “Japanese Spirit” / “Fighting Spirit” / “No Surrender”
Literal Translation: “Japanese Spirit” (Yamato = Ancient Japan; Damashii = spirit, soul)
Overview: Yamato Damashii is a word that was often used in World War Two by the Japanese imperial army to mean “fighting spirit (of Japan)” in order to motivate their fighting forces. Today it is used primarily by martial artists and ring fighters (K-1 fighters, pro-wrestlers etc.) as a way to show their fighting spirit, or their identity with the spirit of ancient Japan.
Yamato Damashii simply translated is "Japanese spirit", primarily the spirit of old Japan*. The words conjure up more than just the spirit of Japan, but have taken on meanings such as "fighting spirit", "never give up", or "no surrender". Although used infrequently from ancient times, the phrase was popularized in the 1930’s in the years leading up to World War Two as a propaganda tool to encourage (some might say “control and exploit”) the fighting forces of the Japanese Imperial Army and Navy to give it their all and sacrifice everything necessary for the country and emperor. It is therefore often considered a very nationalistic phrase.
Although not used as often today, Yamato Damashii is now most often associated with martial arts, fighting and other Japanese cultural arts (such as Noh theatre). Fighters, whether it be a martial artist or K-1 fighter, may use the words to express masculine valor, honor, and refusal to be defeated – the “never say die” spirit. Within the cultural arts the words often take on a deeper meaning – Yamato Damashii in this case becomes an aesthetic concept representing the spirit of ancient Japan. Some Japanese believe that one has to be Japanese in order to fully understand what it means to have Yamato Damashii, while others believe that it is an idea or ideal that anyone can aspire to.
* ‘Yamato’ is one of several ancient names for Japan (primarily from 40 BC to 707 AD).
J-Teez has employed calligraphy type to add authenticity to the message. The red circle in the background is of course the symbol of Japan (aka “Hi no Maru”) and can be found on the Japanese flag.