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The astrophysicist Carl Sagan famously called writing “perhaps the greatest of human inventions, binding together people who never knew each other, citizens of distant epochs.” “Books,” he said, “break the shackles of time.” In that sense, reading “Hagakure: The Secret Wisdom of the Samurai” lets the reader escape into Japan’s feudal past for a chat with a warrior.

It’s been 138 years since one of the last symbols of samurai power, the wearing of swords, was outlawed, marking the outward dissolution of the caste itself.

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