Shibumi

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade April 2001

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What is Shibumi? In the book Shibumi, the author creates a scene of entertainment and confusion. The term Shibumi is introduced, and explained many different ways. None of which clearly define what it is. The author does this on purpose though. In the book, Nicholai sees Shibumi as power in his understanding, while Gen. Kishikawa-san seen it as a submission. Each person has an ultimate ideal that they are striving for, and Shibumi encompasses this idea. Which allows for it to appear to each individual differently. The General says only a few men of infinite refinement ever achieve it, but most of the main characters of the book achieve it in accepting death.

Otake-san is the first and only character in the book that is said to have achieved Shibumi. His life revolves around the game of Go, which seems like a childish thing, but it is his ideal.

He is able to incorporate everything around him into the game, which for him is a simple type of perfection. He isn't worried about the problems and troubles of life, because he has a way to work it out.

The next character in the book that appears to achieve Shibumi is General Kishikawa. Throughout the book, he is the leader. When he first appears, he places such a hard workload on himself that his health began to suffer. He is also Nicholai's mentor. He guides and protects Nicholai, until he is forced to move away. He then sends Nicholai to Otake-san's house. In his definition of Shibumi though, he thought of it as a kind of submission, and he doesn't let anybody do anything for him until Nicholai's assassination. Where he says, "Guide me, then." He finally submits himself. He no longer has to be in control, and he has nothing more to worry about.

After the general came the gnome, monsieur de Landes. He knew he wasn't gifted with great physical prowess, and used his mind to achieve what he wanted to do. His ideal was completed by the fact, that no one ever caught him, but everyone wanted to. What's even more impressive though is that he wasn't worried about being caught by his past deeds, but relishes in the fact that he knows the governments will never figure it out.

The final character to discuss is Nicholai. He is the main character of the story, and his whole life is based upon trying to achieve Shibumi. I believe the idea of it changes for him though. He first sees Shibumi as a type of power, which would ultimately entangle him with other people, and keep him at a constant state of conflict. In the end though, he realizes there is no need for a power struggle, and chooses to let life go one without any struggles. His mystic transport at the end is an example that he has achieved Shibumi. He has stopped worrying about the outside influences of the world, and has become calm.

Presented this way it might seem as if Shibumi is something easily accomplished, but the reader has to realized that all these characters were themselves the elite. They are each the best of what they did. They each had a clear idea of what they wanted to accomplish in life and did it. That is why it can be said that they each achieved Shibumi. It isn't one clear cut thing, but an ideal for each person to try and achieve.