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Samurai and Bushido


The samurai, members of a powerful military caste in feudal Japan, began as provincial warriors before rising to power in the 12th century with the beginning of the country’s first military dictatorship, known as the shogunate. As servants of the daimyos, or great lords, the samurai backed up the authority of the shogun and gave him power over the mikado (emperor). The samurai would dominate Japanese government and society until the Meiji Restoration of 1868 led to the abolition of the feudal system. Despite being deprived of their traditional privileges, many of the samurai would enter the elite ranks of politics and industry in modern Japan. More importantly, the traditional samurai code of honor, discipline and morality known as bushido–or “the way of the warrior”–was revived and made the basic code of conduct for much of Japanese society.

Early Samurai

During the Heian Period (794-1185), the samurai were the armed supporters of wealthy landowners–many of whom left the imperial court to seek their own fortunes after being shut out of power by the powerful Fujiwara clan. The word “samurai” roughly translates to “those who serve.” (Another, more general word for a warrior is “bushi,” from which bushido is derived; this word lacks the connotations of service to a master.)

Beginning in the mid-12th century, real political power in Japan shifted gradually away from the emperor and his nobles in Kyoto to the heads of the clans on their large estates in the country. The Gempei War (1180-1185) pitted two of these great clans–the dominant Taira and the Minamoto–against each other in a struggle for control of the Japanese state. The war ended when one of the most famous samurai heroes in Japanese history, Minamoto Yoshitsune, led his clan to victory against the Taira near the village of Dan-no-ura.

Rise of the Samurai & Kamakura Period

The triumphant leader Minamoto Yoritomo–half-brother of Yoshitsune, whom he drove into exile–established the center of government at Kamakura. The establishment of the Kamakura Shogunate, a hereditary military dictatorship, shifted all real political power in Japan to the samurai. As Yoritomo’s authority depended on their strength, he went to great lengths to establish and define the samurai’s privileged status; no one could call himself a samurai without Yoritomo’s permission.

Zen Buddhism, introduced into Japan from China around this time, held a great appeal for many samurai. Its austere and simple rituals, as well as the belief that salvation would come from within, provided an ideal philosophical background for the samurai’s own code of behavior. Also during the Kamakura period, the sword came to have a great significance in samurai culture. A man’s honor was said to reside in his sword, and the craftsmanship of swords–including carefully hammered blades, gold and silver inlay and sharkskin handgrips–became an art in itself.

Japan in Chaos: the Ashikaga Shogunate

The strain of defeating two Mongol invasions at the end of the 13th century weakened the Kamakura Shogunate, which fell to a rebellion led by Ashikaga Takauji. The Ashikaga Shogunate, centered in Kyoto, began around 1336. For the next two centuries, Japan was in a near-constant state of conflict between its feuding territorial clans. After the particularly divisive Onin War of 1467-77, the Ashikaga shoguns ceased to be effective, and feudal Japan lacked a strong central authority; local lords and their samurai stepped in to a greater extent to maintain law and order.

Despite the political unrest, this period–known as the Muromachi after the district of that name in Kyoto–saw considerable economic expansion in Japan. It was also a golden age for Japanese art, as the samurai culture came under the growing influence of Zen Buddhism. In addition to such now-famous Japanese art forms as the tea ceremony, rock gardens and flower arranging, theater and painting also flourished during the Muromachi period.

Samurai under the Tokugawa Shogunate

The Sengoku-Jidai, or Period of the Country at War finally ended in 1615 with the unification of Japan under Tokugawa Ieyasu. This period ushered in a 250-year-long stretch of peace and prosperity in Japan, and for the first time the samurai took on the responsibility of governing through civil means rather than through military force. Ieyasu issued the “ordinances for the Military Houses,” by which samurai were told to train equally in arms and “polite” learning according to the principles of Confucianism. This relatively conservative faith, with its emphasis on loyalty and duty, eclipsed Buddhism during the Tokugawa period as the dominant religion of the samurai. It was during this period that the principles of bushido emerged as a general code of conduct for Japanese people in general. Though bushido varied under the influences of Buddhist and Confucian thought, its warrior spirit remained constant, including an emphasis on military skills and fearlessness in the face of an enemy. Bushido also emphasized frugality, kindness, honesty and care for one’s family members, particularly one’s elders.

In a peaceful Japan, many samurai were forced to become bureaucrats or take up some type of trade, even as they preserved their conception of themselves as fighting men. In 1588, the right to carry swords was restricted only to samurai, which created an even greater separation between them and the farmer-peasant class. The samurai during this period became the “two-sword man,” wearing both a short and a long sword as a mark of his privilege. The material well-being of many samurai actually declined during the Tokugawa Shogunate, however. Samurai had traditionally made their living on a fixed stipend from landowners; as these stipends declined, many lower-level samurai were frustrated by their inability to improve their situation.

Meiji Restoration & the End of Feudalism

In the mid-19th century, the stability of the Tokugawa regime was undermined by a combination of factors, including peasant unrest due to famine and poverty. The incursion of Western powers into Japan–and especially the arrival in 1853 of Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the U.S. Navy, on a mission to get Japan to open its doors to international trade–proved to be the final straw. In 1858, Japan signed a commercial treaty with the United States, followed by similar ones with Russia, Britain, France and Holland. The controversial decision to open the country to Western commerce and investment helped encourage resistance to the shogunate among conservative forces in Japan, including many samurai, who began calling for a restoration of the power of the emperor.

The powerful clans of Choshu and Satsuma combined efforts to topple the Tokugawa Shogunate and announce an “imperial restoration” named for Emperor Meiji in early 1868. Feudalism was officially abolished in 1871; five years later, the wearing of swords was forbidden to anyone except members of the national armed forces, and all samurai stipends were converted into government bonds, often at significant financial loss. The new Japanese national army quashed several samurai rebellions during the 1870s, while some disgruntled samurai joined secret, ultra-nationalist societies, among them the notorious Black Dragon Society, whose object was to incite trouble in China so that the Japanese army would have an excuse to invade and preserve order.

Ironically–given the loss of their privileged status–the Meiji Restoration was actually engineered by members of the samurai class itself. Three of the most influential leaders of the new Japan–Inoue Kaoru, Ito Hirobumi and Yamagata Aritomo–had studied with the famous samurai Yoshida Shouin, who was executed after a failed attempt to kill a Tokugawa official in 1859. It was former samurai who put Japan on the road to what it would become, and many would become leaders in all areas of modern Japanese society.

Bushido in Modern Japan

In the wake of the Meiji Restoration, Shinto was made the state religion of Japan (unlike Confucianism, Buddhism and Christianity, it was wholly Japanese) and bushido was adopted as its ruling moral code. By 1912, Japan had succeeded in building up its military strength–it signed an alliance with Britain in 1902 and defeated the Russians in Manchuria two years later–as well as its economy. By the end of World War I, the country was recognized as one of the “Big Five” powers alongside Britain, the U.S., France and Italy at the Versailles peace conference.

The liberal, cosmopolitan 1920s gave way to a revival of Japan’s military traditions in the 1930s, leading directly to imperial aggression and Japan’s entrance into World War II. During that conflict, Japanese soldiers brought antique samurai swords into battle and made suicidal “banzai” attacks according to the bushido principle of death before dishonor or defeat. At war’s end, Japan again drew on its strong sense of honor, discipline and devotion to a common cause–not the daimyos or shoguns of the past, but the emperor and the country–in order to rebuild itself and reemerge as one of the world’s greatest economic and industrial powers in the latter 20th century.

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The History of the Samurai

Samurai were a class of highly skilled warriors that arose in Japan after the Taika reforms of A.D. 646, which included land redistribution and heavy new taxes meant to support an elaborate Chinese-style empire. The reforms forced many small farmers to sell their land and work as tenant farmers. Over time, a few large landholders amassed power and wealth, creating a feudal system similar to that of medieval Europe. To defend their riches, Japanese feudal lords hired the first samurai warriors, or "bushi."


Samurai sayings by Miyamoto Musashi

Many samurai sayings invite you to sharpen your senses and make the most of them. This one says, “Observation and perception are two separate things the eye that observes is stronger, the eye that perceives is weaker.”It was written by Miyamoto Musashi and it contrasts the value of looking with the value of seeing.

This saying emphasizes one of the focal points of eastern thought – don’t focus on yourself. Another saying is, “Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.”In other words, don’t spend too much time on thoughts about yourself. Instead, use that energy to think about the reality you live in.

Combat is also a common theme in samurai sayings. This one states, “Today is victory over yourself of yesterday tomorrow is your victory over lesser men.”This means that each time you defeat some weakness or fault in yourself, you are prepared to defeat others who have these same defects.


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Bushido, the code of conduct of the samurai of premodern japan.

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Bushido — AnimEigo from static1.squarespace.com Bushido, the code of conduct of the samurai of premodern japan. Delving into ancient myths about the japanese and the emperor in particular being directly descended from the sun goddess. Bushido (武士道 bushidō), meaning way of the warrior, is a japanese code of conduct and a way of life, associated with the samurai, and loosely analogous to the western concept of chivalry. It is loosely analogous to the european concept of chivalry. As early as the eighth century, military men were writing books about the use and the perfection of the sword. Kempo is an ancient chinese art of self defence that can trace its origins back to india of five thousand years ago. Posts about bushido written by dirkdeklein. The bushido originates from the samurai moral code stressing frugality , loyalty, martial arts mastery, and honor unto death.

Bushido is a twentieth century view of how samurai ought to have behaved during the feudal period.

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Information and article of bushido history. The code of conduct of the samurai, or bushi (warrior), class of premodern japan. Actually i think the chinese might do it too, but i'm not sure on that one. Bushido (武士道 bushidō), meaning way of the warrior, is a japanese code of conduct and a way of life, associated with the samurai, and loosely analogous to the western concept of chivalry. The bushido code of conduct, closely tied to samurai culture, played an important role in the expansion of asian art and japanese values.

samurai-armor - Samurai and Bushido Pictures - Samurai and . from cdn.history.com Bushido, the code of conduct of the samurai of premodern japan. A medieval historian's perspective on the imperial army and the japanese skoss, diane bushido. new dictionary of the history of ideas. Bushido (武士道 bushidō), meaning way of the warrior, is a japanese code of conduct and a way of life, associated with the samurai, and loosely analogous to the western concept of chivalry. The bushido code of conduct, closely tied to samurai culture, played an important role in the expansion of asian art and japanese values. Most serious historians i've read, and history enthusiasts i've met tell me its mostly or entirely a myth. The code of conduct of the samurai, or bushi (warrior), class of premodern japan. Bushidō (武士道) , literally the way of the warrior, is a japanese word for the way of the samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry. /r/history is a place for discussions about history.

Bushidō (武士道, the way of the warrior) is a moral code concerning samurai attitudes, behavior and lifestyle.

The bushido originates from the samurai moral code stressing frugality , loyalty, martial arts mastery, and honor unto death. This one hour lecture comes back to the history of the bushido culture in the aizu clan and the role of this clan in the events that led to the meiji revolution. Most serious historians i've read, and history enthusiasts i've met tell me its mostly or entirely a myth. Bushido is a twentieth century view of how samurai ought to have behaved during the feudal period. The code varied due to influences such as zen buddhism, shinto, confucianism as well as changes in society and on the battlefield. Popular culture tells us that bushido was the 'way of the warrior' for the japanese samurai Bushido (武士道 bushidō), meaning way of the warrior, is a japanese code of conduct and a way of life, associated with the samurai, and loosely analogous to the western concept of chivalry. Multiple bushido types have existed through history. It is also known as the samurai code and was influenced by the teachings of zen buddhism as well as. The code of conduct of the samurai, or bushi (warrior), class of premodern japan. It is presented as a widely accepted code of behavior to which people of the social class 'samurai' were. Bushido man a teaching primarily intended for the manly sex, the virtues it prized in woman were customaryly far from head distinctly. A tactical skirmish tabletop miniatures game by gct studios.

It is presented as a widely accepted code of behavior to which people of the social class 'samurai' were. It is loosely analogous to the european concept of chivalry. How did this rather extraordinary system arise? Multiple bushido types have existed through history. Bushidō (武士道) , literally the way of the warrior, is a japanese word for the way of the samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry.

The code of conduct of the samurai, or bushi (warrior), class of premodern japan. The bushido originates from the samurai moral code stressing frugality , loyalty, martial arts mastery, and honor unto death. This one hour lecture comes back to the history of the bushido culture in the aizu clan and the role of this clan in the events that led to the meiji revolution. Bushido (武士道 bushidō), meaning way of the warrior, is a japanese code of conduct and a way of life, associated with the samurai, and loosely analogous to the western concept of chivalry. As early as the eighth century, military men were writing books about the use and the perfection of the sword.

The code varied due to influences such as zen buddhism, shinto, confucianism as well as changes in society and on the battlefield. Bushido is a twentieth century view of how samurai ought to have behaved during the feudal period. We strive for accuracy and fairness. How did this rather extraordinary system arise? Bushido, the code of conduct of the samurai of premodern japan.

A medieval historian's perspective on the imperial army and the japanese skoss, diane bushido. new dictionary of the history of ideas. The code varied due to influences such as zen buddhism, shinto, confucianism as well as changes in society and on the battlefield. It is presented as a widely accepted code of behavior to which people of the social class 'samurai' were. We strive for accuracy and fairness. Feel free to submit interesting articles, tell games have come out of japan playing on the way of the samurai or bushido and have had pretty good.

The code of conduct of the samurai, or bushi (warrior), class of premodern japan. Nationalists and militarists alike looked to the past for inspiration. A medieval historian's perspective on the imperial army and the japanese skoss, diane bushido. new dictionary of the history of ideas. Feel free to submit interesting articles, tell games have come out of japan playing on the way of the samurai or bushido and have had pretty good. Popular culture tells us that bushido was the 'way of the warrior' for the japanese samurai

How did this rather extraordinary system arise? A medieval historian's perspective on the imperial army and the japanese skoss, diane bushido. new dictionary of the history of ideas. It is presented as a widely accepted code of behavior to which people of the social class 'samurai' were. The bushido code of conduct, closely tied to samurai culture, played an important role in the expansion of asian art and japanese values. Bushido (武士道 bushidō), meaning way of the warrior, is a japanese code of conduct and a way of life, associated with the samurai, and loosely analogous to the western concept of chivalry.

We strive for accuracy and fairness. This one hour lecture comes back to the history of the bushido culture in the aizu clan and the role of this clan in the events that led to the meiji revolution. Delving into ancient myths about the japanese and the emperor in particular being directly descended from the sun goddess. It is also known as the samurai code and was influenced by the teachings of zen buddhism as well as. Most serious historians i've read, and history enthusiasts i've met tell me its mostly or entirely a myth.

Most serious historians i've read, and history enthusiasts i've met tell me its mostly or entirely a myth. Bushido man a teaching primarily intended for the manly sex, the virtues it prized in woman were customaryly far from head distinctly. As early as the eighth century, military men were writing books about the use and the perfection of the sword. This one hour lecture comes back to the history of the bushido culture in the aizu clan and the role of this clan in the events that led to the meiji revolution. Delving into ancient myths about the japanese and the emperor in particular being directly descended from the sun goddess.

How did this rather extraordinary system arise? Bushido is a twentieth century view of how samurai ought to have behaved during the feudal period. Bushido (武士道 bushidō), meaning way of the warrior, is a japanese code of conduct and a way of life, associated with the samurai, and loosely analogous to the western concept of chivalry. The bushido originates from the samurai moral code stressing frugality , loyalty, martial arts mastery, and honor unto death. Posts about bushido written by dirkdeklein.

Source: i5.walmartimages.com

Nationalists and militarists alike looked to the past for inspiration.

Bushido, the code of conduct of the samurai of premodern japan.

We strive for accuracy and fairness.

Posts about bushido written by dirkdeklein.

Source: ecx.images-amazon.com

Bushidō (武士道) , literally the way of the warrior, is a japanese word for the way of the samurai life, loosely analogous to the concept of chivalry.

Bushido, the code of conduct of the samurai of premodern japan.

Nationalists and militarists alike looked to the past for inspiration.

Posts about bushido written by dirkdeklein.

Bushido (武士道 bushidō), meaning way of the warrior, is a japanese code of conduct and a way of life, associated with the samurai, and loosely analogous to the western concept of chivalry.

The code varied due to influences such as zen buddhism, shinto, confucianism as well as changes in society and on the battlefield.

/r/history is a place for discussions about history.

Source: upload.wikimedia.org

The code of conduct of the samurai, or bushi (warrior), class of premodern japan.

A medieval historian's perspective on the imperial army and the japanese skoss, diane bushido. new dictionary of the history of ideas.

Bushido man a teaching primarily intended for the manly sex, the virtues it prized in woman were customaryly far from head distinctly.

Feel free to submit interesting articles, tell games have come out of japan playing on the way of the samurai or bushido and have had pretty good.

Source: imgc.allpostersimages.com

Popular culture tells us that bushido was the 'way of the warrior' for the japanese samurai

Source: upload.wikimedia.org

Bushido (武士道 bushidō), meaning way of the warrior, is a japanese code of conduct and a way of life, associated with the samurai, and loosely analogous to the western concept of chivalry.

Source: upload.wikimedia.org

Kempo is an ancient chinese art of self defence that can trace its origins back to india of five thousand years ago.

Source: covers2.booksamillion.com

As early as the eighth century, military men were writing books about the use and the perfection of the sword.

The bushido originates from the samurai moral code stressing frugality , loyalty, martial arts mastery, and honor unto death.

As early as the eighth century, military men were writing books about the use and the perfection of the sword.

The bushido originates from the samurai moral code stressing frugality , loyalty, martial arts mastery, and honor unto death.

A tactical skirmish tabletop miniatures game by gct studios.

The code of conduct of the samurai, or bushi (warrior), class of premodern japan.


Bushidō and the Samurai

1. How does our perception of bushidō shape our perception of Japan today?

2. What does the study of bushidō tell us about memory and history?

3. What was your image of samurai before you read this article? After?

4. Can you think of a comparable idea from another country?

Friday, Karl. “Bushidō or Bull? A Medieval Historian’s Perspective on the Imperial Army and the Japanese Warrior Perspective.” The History Teacher 27, No. 3 (May, 1994), 339–349.

Hurst, G. Cameron. “Death, Honor and Loyalty: The Bushidō Ideal.” Philosophy East and West 40, No. 4, Understanding Japanese Values (Oct., 1990), pp. 511–527

Nitobe Inazō. Bushidō: The Soul of Japan. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company. 1969.

Satō Hiroaki. Legends of the Samurai. Woodstock, N.Y.: Overlook Press. 1995

Yamamoto Tsunetomo, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai. Tokyo: Kodansha. 2000.


Code Of The Samurai is straight to the point guidelines on Bushido. The book has been in existence for over 400 years. Due to the difficulty of translating from Japanese to English, Code Of The Samurai took its time to reach the West.

It is not based on one man.

Code Of The Samurai is straight to the point:

  1. How must a samurai live?
  2. What is Bushido?
  3. What are my guidelines and constitution for existence?
  4. Honor.

If you want a book that is straight to the kill, here it is.


Genuine Bushido Spirit

Portrait of Nogi Maresuke (乃木希典, 1849 – 1912) (Wikipedia)

When we talk about the Bushido, we have to mention Count Nogi Maresuke, who was a general in the Imperial Japanese Army and a governor of Taiwan.

“Meeting of Stoessel and General Nogi upon the Surrender of Port Arthur” (https://ocw.mit.edu)

There is a picture which shows General Nogi seated in the center next to Russian general Anatoly Stessel after Russian forces surrendered at Port Arthur on 2 January 1905. Notice Russian general Stessel wore a sword.

General Nogi ordered his men not to treat Stessel as the defeated. Also, he prohibited journalists to take photos at first.

General Nogi allowed Stessel to wear the sword, which is a life of the soldier. This honorable action was praised by numerous countries as “Bushido at its best”.


Samurai

The samurai (or bushi) were the warriors of premodern Japan. They later made up the ruling military class that eventually became the highest ranking social caste of the Edo Period (1603-1867). Samurai employed a range of weapons such as bows and arrows, spears and guns, but their main weapon and symbol was the sword.

Samurai were supposed to lead their lives according to the ethic code of bushido ("the way of the warrior"). Strongly Confucian in nature, bushido stressed concepts such as loyalty to one's master, self discipline and respectful, ethical behavior. Many samurai were also drawn to the teachings and practices of Zen Buddhism.

Samurai Experiences
Kyoto Samurai & Ninja Museum with Experience
Interactive samurai history museum with experiences. Samurai armors, katana displays, samurai costume trial, samurai lessons, sword cutting and guided tours. Service hours: 10:30

History

The samurai trace their origins to the Heian Period campaigns to subdue the native Emishi people in the Tohoku Region. Around the same time, warriors were increasingly hired by wealthy landowners that had grown independent of the central government and built armies for their own protection.

The two most powerful of these landowning clans, the Minamoto and Taira, eventually challenged the central government and battled each other for supremacy over the entire country. Minamoto Yoritomo emerged victorious and set up a new military government in 1192, led by the shogun or supreme military commander. The samurai would rule over Japan for most of the next 700 years.

During the chaotic era of warring states in the 15th and 16th centuries, Japan splintered into dozens of independent states constantly at war with one another. Consequently, warriors were in high demand. It was also the era when ninja, warriors specialized in unconventional warfare, were most active. Many of the famous samurai movies by Kurosawa are set during this time.

The country was eventually reunited in the late 1500s, and a rigid social caste system was established during the Edo Period that placed the samurai at the top, followed by the farmers, artisans and merchants respectively. During this time, the samurai were forced to live in castle towns, were the only ones allowed to own and carry swords and were paid in rice by their daimyo or feudal lords. Masterless samurai were called ronin and caused minor troubles during the 1600s.

Relative peace prevailed during the roughly 250 years of the Edo Period. As a result, the importance of martial skills declined, and many samurai became bureaucrats, teachers or artists. Japan's feudal era eventually came to an end in 1868, and the samurai class was abolished a few years afterwards.

How to appreciate the samurai today

Samurai related attractions can be found across Japan in form of castles, historic residences, museums, historically themed amusement parks and dress up tours. The following are some of the many ways tourists can learn about and experience samurai culture and lifestyle today:

Castles

Castles developed over the centuries from small defensive forts built high up on mountains into massive complexes at the heart of cities, where they served as the status symbol, administrative center and residence of the local lord. The lord's samurai vassals resided in the town surrounding the castle: the higher their rank, the closer they were allowed to reside to the castle.

Over a hundred castles exist in Japan today, including twelve original castles (that survived the post-feudal years intact) and many modern reconstructions. Most of the castles contain exhibits or entire museums that display samurai artifacts and lifestyle. See our castle page for more information.

Samurai Districts and Mansions

In order to separate the social castes, samurai were forced to reside in designated districts of the castle towns during the Edo Period. Today, a few of these samurai districts remain preserved with their historic atmosphere of narrow lanes, earthen walls, entrance gates and residences, and allow tourists to get a glimpse into the samurai lifestyle. In other cases, single samurai mansions have been preserved and opened to the public. Below is a list of some of the better of these districts and residences:


1.What are Samurai?

Samurai, also known as Bushi, are Japanese aristocratic warriors. They first appeared in Japanese history around the 10th century, and held significant power as the highest social caste until the end of the Edo period in 1868.

During the Heian Period (794-1185), Imperial nobles and wealthy landowners started to hire samurai as their armed supporters for the purpose of their own protection. After the Kamakura Shogunate, the first feudal military government in Japan was established by Minamotono Yoritomo in 1192, samurai started to be treated as a loyal retainer who officially served Shogun, the military commander of the Shogunate.

During the Sengoku Period (1467-1590), Japan entered a chaotic period which is often characterized by a series of civil wars and provincial battles among powerful samurai warriors. They are called Daimyo (also known as feudal lords), and fought one another to secure their territory with an ambition to unite the entire country. It was eventually accomplished by Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a famous samurai warrior in 1590.

After the establishment of the Tokugawa Shogunate in 1603, Samurai were ranked at the top of the new social caste system. This hierarchy consists of four distinctive social classes including samurai, farmers, artisans, and merchants. Samurai were exclusively allowed to own their swords and family name, and served feudal lords who ruled independent domains called Han (藩), which is similar to prefectures today.

In 1868, the Tokugawa Shogunate was finally overthrown and Japan entered the new period known as the Meiji period. While a series of new policies were implemented by the new government which encouraged westernization in the whole country, the previous social caste system was officially abolished and samurai lost their privileges.


History of Samurai and the Virtues of Bushido

The origins of this fierce warrior class, the samurai, are to be found at the very beginning of Japanese history. These mounted warriors galloped into history during the reign of emperor Tenmu, whose army of peasants, armed with crossbows, was failing to subdue the mobile cavalry of the unruly tribes of the north. Tribes which may have included Ainu, the indigenous peoples of Japan. And so, emperor Tenmu made a fateful decision. He dissolved his ineffective national army. Instead, he ordered local chieftains to create bands of elite mounted warriors to enforce his authority in rural areas and to challenge the northern tribes. These were the first samurai.

The word samurai means to serve, and this is how they began, as warriors serving the emperor. While the imperial court prayed to the gods for their success, the mounted warriors rode out to hunt down the proud barbarians of the north once and for all. But the tribesman were crafty fighters, adept at ambush. The warriors often had to forsake their bows and fight with their straight swords, swords which in the heat of battle when chopping downward from horseback, snapped in two. The samurai needed better swords. According to legend, a swordsmith named Amakuni rose to the challenge.

Kamikaze - Divine wind during the Mongol invasion of Japan

The samurai learned a great deal from their battles with the Mongols. On the beaches, the blade, not the spur, had saved the day. And so the stress on mounted archery lessened, and over the next century the samurai became a swordsman who fought on foot. Because the deep curve of the long tachi sword made it difficult to draw, it was replaced by the shorter infantry katana which was worn edge upright so the samurai could draw and slash in a single stroke.

The battles with the Mongols taught the samurai something else. The tempered edges of their supposedly perfect swords often chipped. Correcting this defect was the triumph of one of the greatest swordsmiths who ever lived, Masamune. With his new forging techniques, he achieved a perfect balance between hardness of the blade and flexibility. Masamune heated his blades over the critical temperature of 750 degrees celsius. Next he welded three pieces of steel of different carbon content together into a single blade. The samurai sword had at last been perfected. Japanese swordsmiths all began to copy Masamune’s methods. The swords he made were legendary for the sharpness of their cutting edge. So sharp were these swords that they apparently made the bearer go mad with bloodlust, almost as if the very effectiveness of the blade forced it to be used to kill. Armed with these perfect swords, the samurai could almost magically cut through their enemy in a single fluid stroke.

The culmination of a samurai’s rigorous training became the ability without conscious thought to execute this perfect attacking stroke. This stroke could only be perfectly executed if it were done with an empty mind. The no mind of Zen Buddhism. Practicing this stroke became a kind of meditation, a way to develop discipline and character. Some say you can see a pale residual image of this perfect no mind stroke at Japanese driving ranges. In the swings of countless golfers who spend endless hours trying to perfect their stroke, even though they rarely if ever play on the golf course.

One samurai in particular was held up as the ultimate example of the virtue of loyalty to one’s master, Kusunoki Masashige. So total was his loyalty that the emperor was able to return from exile, defeat the shogun in Kamakura, and reassume power. But this legendary samurai loyalty usually had it’s limits. The temptation of power was too strong. In the century after the Mongol invasion, proud samurai warlords, many with imperial blood in their veins, aspired to be shogun. The prize was there for the taking for any warlord who could seize and hold it.

This led to the age of the country at war, the inevitable result of the previous 1,000 years of Japanese feudalism. A war of all against all engulfed Japan. The name of the samurai became synonymous with the most flagrant examples of brutality. New and more formidable castles were raised. Treachery and cowardice were widespread and there was a great reliance on espionage. Samurai, with their code of honor, could not be expected to undertake these covert tasks. To fill this niche, there flourished in the small mountain village of Iga, a group of secret warriors. The powers of the ninja have been shrouded in a mystique of incredible proportions. For protection against these covert mercenaries, many samurai castles and houses built nightingale floors, specially constructed to loudly squeak when trod upon, a security system designed to defend against the ninja.

With a decline in the warrior ethic came a decline in sword quality. Mass-production resulted in many inferior blades. It was during this period of intense warfare that a new weapon arrived on the battlefield, a weapon that would end forever the dominance of the classical warrior. In 1542, a ship arrived on the shores of Japan. On board were three Portuguese who became the first westerners to land on Japanese soil. They were strange and exotic but what really caught the attention of the Japanese were the guns that they carried. The samurai understood immediately that guns threatened their very existence. Their ancestors always had known who they killed and who defeated them. With guns, how could they prove their valor to their lord? How could he reward courage? Even lowly merchants and peasants could fight with these cowardly weapons.

Faced with the threat of western domination, the Japanese knew that they had to discard the old ways and adopt the new as quickly as possible. The samurai were ordered to cut off their top knots, their swords were confiscated, and their traditions and privileges were revoked. But the samurai had ruled Japan for more than a millennium. Bushido would be far from forgotten. After the samurai had disappeared, Japan’s new leaders designed their education system and social codes to preserve the values on which their warrior ancestors had prided themselves. They turned Masashige’s loyalty to the emperor into an ideal.

Today the brighter and nobler aspects of Bushido, the virtues of loyalty, honor, and perseverance live on. Part of the legacy of Bushido is the universal politeness and mutual respect so characteristic of Japanese society. Time and again the Japanese have turned to their samurai past in defining their national identity. In schools, sports clubs, and in the work place, group identities continue to hold sway, reflecting the loyalty of the samurai to his clan. Many modern Japanese are taught that the three great unifying generals together possess the ideal qualities of today’s business warrior. Nobunaga’s innovation, Hideyoshi’s diplomacy, and Tokugawa’s patience. These are all qualities which are embodied in an artifact that represents the feudal age of Japan.

The value of a sword is far greater than it’s material worth. It is a repository of history, it’s owner a temporary guardian of the spirits of past owners. He is thus obligated to cherish, respect, and maintain it for future generations, so that it can pass on to them the spirit it embodies. Just as the sword is the soul of the samurai, Bushido is still in many ways the soul of Japan.


Summary:

Samurai of the Satsuma clan, during the Boshin War period, circa 1867. Hand-colored Photograph by Felice Beato

Heian period (794. – 1185.)

Until this period samurai’s were not such an important part and had little influence. They were usually hired by landlords for protection. At the end of the period, two most powerful clans, Taira and Minamoto fought each other in order to take over the country.

Kamakura period (1192. – 1333.)

In 1192. a new military government was established by Minamoto clan after they defeated Taira. Minamoto Yoritomo became a shogun and ruled Japan.

Muromachi Period (1333. – 1573.)

During this period there were many clans fighting, and the demand for samurai was at its highest. Some samurai were working also on rice fields and farms.

Azuchi-Momoyama Period (1573. – 1603.)

After the clans united, a social caste system was introduced and later completed by Tokugawa Ieyasu, which required samurai to decide whether they want to work on farms, or be warriors working in towns. Only samurai were allowed to wear swords.

Edo Period (1603. – 1868.)

Samurai had the most influence in Edo period. They lived in towns and received payment in form of rice. After the defeat of Tokugawa’s last enemy in 1615. relative peace prevailed for almost 250 years, thus samurai’s services were less and less in demand. Most of them became poets, politicians or artists.

In 1852 a fleet of U.S. ships arrived with an ultimatum: either Japan will be forced to open their borders for trade, or else. Considering the power of the fleet and what little Japan had to their disposal at that time, the choice was an easy one. With the opening of the country’s borders and following the massive western influence Japan had modernized in many ways: by building a naval fleet, an army, and sending its citizens to study abroad and more.

Meiji Restoration

In 1873 under the Emperor Meiji the right to wear weapons was given to the newly founded modern army, a privilege that only the samurai had up until then. In late 19th century the samurai class was completely abolished. Their last noted appearance is during the Satsuma Rebellion, which was the last and the most serious armed uprising against the new government. The Last Samurai movie was inspired by the Satsuma Rebellion.


Watch the video: Bushido - Rap Freestyle Beat. Japanese Underground Boom Bap Beat. Hip Hop Instrumental. Nxnja (January 2022).