William Scott Wilson

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William Scott Wilson at Books and Books in Coral Gables, holding a copy of The Book of Five Rings.
William Scott Wilson at Books and Books in Coral Gables, holding a copy of The Book of Five Rings.

William Scott Wilson (born 1944, Nashville, Tennessee) is known for translating several works of Japanese literature, mostly those relating to the martial tradition of that country. He is recognized by The American Literary Translator's Association (ALTA) as "today’s foremost translator of classic Samurai texts." Wilson is also described as the world's foremost expert on the warrior's philosophy of Bushido. He served as a Consular Specialist for the Consulate General of Japan in Seattle (1980), heading the trade section and advising the Consul on political and economic matters.

According to Florida International University Professor Michael Weissberg, "William Scott Wilson is possibly the most important scholar in the area of Japanese Edo period texts in the last century". Wilson has brought historical Chinese and Japanese thought, philosophy, and tactics to the West in his translations of famous East Asian literature.


On November 3, 2015 Wilson was inducted into the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, for "promoting understanding of Japan through the introduction of Japanese Literature in the United States."[1]

Wilson received Japan’s Foreign Minister’s Commendation from the Consulate General of Japan in Miami, Masakazu Toshikage on November 15, 2005. According to the Consulate Press release: The award is "conferred upon individuals or groups that have rendered especially distinguished service in strengthening the relationship between Japan and other countries. Through his literary works and translations, Mr. Wilson has contributed greatly to increased cultural understanding and friendship between the US and Japan."

"Mr. Wilson is a premier author and translator of samurai literature. He completed his first translation, Hagakure, while living in a farmhouse in Japan....His first original work, The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi, was published in 2004. He has done extensive research on Japanese philosophy and Bushido, the way of the samurai."


  • Bachelor of Arts in Political Science, Dartmouth College
  • Bachelor of Arts, Japanese Language and Literature, Monterey Institute of Foreign Studies, Monterey, California, USA (Now Monterey Institute of International Studies, a graduate school of Middlebury College)
  • Aichi Prefectural University, Nagoya, Japan (1975–1977) extensive Study of Edo period (1603–1868)
  • Master's Degree in Japanese Language and Literature, University of Washington at Seattle. (1979)

Cultural references[edit]

  • The film Ghost Dog (1999) by Jim Jarmusch prominently features excerpts from Wilson's translation of Hagakure.


  • The Lone Samurai: The Life of Miyamoto Musashi, Kodansha International (October, 2004) ISBN 4-7700-2942-X
  • ‘’Walking the Kiso Road’’ Shambhala Publications, 2015 ISBN 9781611801255
  • ‘’The Life and Zen Haiku Poetry of Santoka Taneda Tuttle Publishing, 2021 ISBN 9784805316559



External links[edit]