_SAMURAI_ (侍) were the military nobility and officer caste of
medieval and early-modern
In Japanese, they are usually referred to as _BUSHI_ (武士, ) or _BUKE_ (武家). According to translator William Scott Wilson : "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning "to wait upon", "accompany persons" in the upper ranks of society, and this is also true of the original term in Japanese, saburau. In both countries the terms were nominalized to mean "those who serve in close attendance to the nobility", the pronunciation in Japanese changing to saburai. According to Wilson, an early reference to the word "samurai" appears in the _ Kokin Wakashū _ (905–914), the first imperial anthology of poems, completed in the first part of the 10th century.
By the end of the 12th century, _samurai_ became almost entirely synonymous with _bushi_, and the word was closely associated with the middle and upper echelons of the warrior class. The samurai were usually associated with a clan and their lord , and were trained as officers in military tactics and grand strategy . While the samurai numbered less than 10% of then Japan's population, their teachings can still be found today in both everyday life and in modern Japanese martial arts .
* 1 History
* 1.6 Azuchi–Momoyama period
* 1.6.1 Oda, Toyotomi and Tokugawa
* 1.7 Tokugawa Shogunate * 1.8 Modernization * 1.9 Decline
* 2 Philosophy
* 2.1 Religious influences * 2.2 Doctrine
* 3 Arts
* 4 Culture
* 4.1 Education * 4.2 Names * 4.3 Marriage
* 5 Women * 6 Foreign samurai * 7 Weapons * 8 Armour * 9 Myth and reality * 10 Popular culture * 11 Famous samurai * 12 See also * 13 Bibliography * 14 References * 15 External links
ASUKA AND NARA PERIODS
Following the Battle of Hakusukinoe against Tang
In the early
Heian period , during the late 8th and early 9th
Emperor Kanmu sought to consolidate and expand his rule in
Honshū , and sent military campaigns against the
who resisted the governance of the
Emperor Kanmu disbanded his army. From this time, the
Emperor's power gradually declined. While the Emperor was still the
ruler, powerful clans around
Some clans were originally formed by farmers who had taken up arms to protect themselves from the Imperial magistrates sent to govern their lands and collect taxes. These clans formed alliances to protect themselves against more powerful clans, and by the mid-Heian period, they had adopted characteristic Japanese armor and weapons.
LATE HEIAN PERIOD, KAMAKURA BAKUFU, AND THE RISE OF SAMURAI
Originally, the Emperor and non-warrior nobility employed these
warrior nobles. In time they amassed enough manpower, resources and
political backing, in the form of alliances with one another, to
establish the first samurai-dominated government. As the power of
these regional clans grew, their chief was typically a distant
relative of the Emperor and a lesser member of either the Fujiwara ,
The victor, Taira no Kiyomori , became an imperial advisor and was the first warrior to attain such a position. He eventually seized control of the central government, establishing the first samurai-dominated government and relegating the Emperor to figurehead status. However, the Taira clan was still very conservative when compared to its eventual successor, the Minamoto, and instead of expanding or strengthening its military might, the clan had its women marry Emperors and exercise control through the Emperor.
Taira and the
After the Genpei war, Yoritomo obtained the right to appoint _shugo _ and _jitō _, and was allowed to organize soldiers and police, and to collect a certain amount of tax. Initially, their responsibility was restricted to arresting rebels and collecting needed army provisions and they were forbidden from interfering with _Kokushi _ officials, but their responsibility gradually expanded. Thus, the samurai-class appeared as the political ruling power in Japan.
Various samurai clans struggled for power during the Kamakura and Ashikaga Shogunates . Zen Buddhism spread among the samurai in the 13th century and helped to shape their standards of conduct, particularly overcoming the fear of death and killing, but among the general populace Pure Land Buddhism was favored.
In 1274, the Mongol-founded
The Japanese defenders recognized the possibility of a renewed
invasion and began construction of a great stone barrier around Hakata
Bay in 1276. Completed in 1277, this wall stretched for 20 kilometers
around the border of the bay. It would later serve as a strong
defensive point against the Mongols. The Mongols attempted to settle
matters in a diplomatic way from 1275 to 1279, but every envoy sent to
In 1281, a Yuan army of 140,000 men with 5,000 ships was mustered for
another invasion of Japan. Northern Kyūshū was defended by a
Japanese army of 40,000 men. The Mongol army was still on its ships
preparing for the landing operation when a typhoon hit north Kyūshū
island. The casualties and damage inflicted by the typhoon, followed
by the Japanese defense of the
Hakata Bay barrier, resulted in the
Mongols again recalling their armies.
The thunderstorms of 1274 and the typhoon of 1281 helped the samurai
In the 14th century, a blacksmith called
Masamune developed a
two-layer structure of soft and hard steel for use in swords. This
structure gave much-improved cutting power and endurance, and the
production technique led to Japanese swords (katana ) being recognized
as some of the most potent hand weapons of pre-industrial
Issues of inheritance caused family strife as primogeniture became common, in contrast to the division of succession designated by law before the 14th century. Invasions of neighboring samurai territories became common to avoid infighting, and bickering among samurai was a constant problem for the Kamakura and Ashikaga shogunates .
The _Sengoku jidai _ ("warring states period") was marked by the loosening of samurai culture, with people born into other social strata sometimes making a name for themselves as warriors and thus becoming _de facto _ samurai.
Japanese war tactics and technologies improved rapidly in the 15th and 16th centuries. Use of large numbers of infantry called ashigaru ("light-foot", due to their light armor), formed of humble warriors or ordinary people with _naga yari_ (a long lance ) or _naginata _, was introduced and combined with cavalry in maneuvers. The number of people mobilized in warfare ranged from thousands to hundreds of thousands. Nanban (Western)-style samurai cuirass , 16th century
The arquebus , a matchlock gun, was introduced by the Portuguese via a Chinese pirate ship in 1543 and the Japanese succeeded in assimilating it within a decade. Groups of mercenaries with mass-produced arquebuses began playing a critical role. By the end of the Sengoku period, several hundred thousand firearms existed in Japan and massive armies numbering over 100,000 clashed in battles.
In 1592, and again in 1597,
Toyotomi Hideyoshi , aiming to invade
Many samurai forces that were active throughout this period were not
deployed to Korea; most importantly, the _daimyōs _ Tokugawa Ieyasu
carefully kept forces under his command out of the Korean campaigns,
and other samurai commanders who were opposed to Hideyoshi's
Social mobility was high, as the ancient regime collapsed and
emerging samurai needed to maintain a large military and
administrative organizations in their areas of influence. Most of the
samurai families that survived to the 19th century originated in this
era, declaring themselves to be the blood of one of the four ancient
Oda, Toyotomi And Tokugawa
Oda Nobunaga was the well-known lord of the
Oda Nobunaga made innovations in the fields of organization and war
tactics, heavily used arquebuses, developed commerce and industry and
treasured innovation. Consecutive victories enabled him to realize the
termination of the Ashikaga
Importantly, Toyotomi Hideyoshi (see below) and Tokugawa Ieyasu , who founded the Tokugawa Shogunate, were loyal followers of Nobunaga. Hideyoshi began as a peasant and became one of Nobunaga's top generals, and Ieyasu had shared his childhood with Nobunaga. Hideyoshi defeated Mitsuhide within a month, and was regarded as the rightful successor of Nobunaga by avenging the treachery of Mitsuhide.
These two were able to use Nobunaga's previous achievements on which
build a unified
Toyotomi Hideyoshi , who became a grand minister in 1586, himself the
son of a poor peasant family, created a law that the samurai caste
became codified as permanent and hereditary, and that non-samurai were
forbidden to carry weapons, thereby ending the social mobility of
It is important to note that the distinction between samurai and non-samurai was so obscure that during the 16th century, most male adults in any social class (even small farmers) belonged to at least one military organization of their own and served in wars before and during Hideyoshi's rule. It can be said that an "all against all" situation continued for a century.
The authorized samurai families after the 17th century were those that chose to follow Nobunaga, Hideyoshi and Ieyasu. Large battles occurred during the change between regimes, and a number of defeated samurai were destroyed, went _rōnin _ or were absorbed into the general populace.
During the Tokugawa shogunate , samurai increasingly became courtiers, bureaucrats, and administrators rather than warriors. With no warfare since the early 17th century, samurai gradually lost their military function during the Tokugawa era (also called the Edo period ). By the end of the Tokugawa era, samurai were aristocratic bureaucrats for the _daimyōs _, with their _daishō _, the paired long and short swords of the samurai (cf. katana and wakizashi ) becoming more of a symbolic emblem of power rather than a weapon used in daily life. They still had the legal right to cut down any commoner who did not show proper respect _kiri-sute gomen _ (斬り捨て御免), but to what extent this right was used is unknown. When the central government forced _daimyōs_ to cut the size of their armies, unemployed rōnin became a social problem.
Theoretical obligations between a samurai and his lord (usually a
_daimyō_) increased from the Genpei era to the Edo era. They were
strongly emphasized by the teachings of
Confucius (551-479 BC) and
Mencius (372 – 289 BC), which were required reading for the educated
samurai class. The leading figures who introduced confucianism in
The conduct of samurai served as role model behavior for the other social classes. With time on their hands, samurai spent more time in pursuit of other interests such as becoming scholars.
The relative peace of the Tokugawa era was shattered with the arrival
of Commodore Matthew Perry\'s massive U.S. Navy steamships in 1853.
Perry used his superior firepower to force
From 1854, the samurai army and the navy were modernized. A Naval
training school was established in Nagasaki in 1855. Naval students
were sent to study in Western naval schools for several years,
starting a tradition of foreign-educated future leaders, such as
Admiral Enomoto . French naval engineers were hired to build naval
arsenals, such as
The last showing of the original samurai was in 1867 when samurai
from Chōshū and Satsuma provinces defeated the Shogunate forces in
favor of the rule of the Emperor in the
Matsudaira Katamori (1836–93), photographed on the day of a
Emperor Meiji abolished the samurai's right to be the only armed
force in favor of a more modern, western-style, conscripted army in
The last samurai conflict was arguably in 1877, during the Satsuma Rebellion in the Battle of Shiroyama . This conflict had its genesis in the previous uprising to defeat the Tokugawa Shogunate, leading to the Meiji Restoration. The newly formed government instituted radical changes, aimed at reducing the power of the feudal domains, including Satsuma, and the dissolution of samurai status. This led to the ultimately premature uprising, led by Saigō Takamori .
The philosophies of
After the Japanese defeat of
The philosophies of
In an account of
In the first place, the nation with which we have had to do here surpasses in goodness any of the nations lately discovered. I really think that among barbarous nations there can be none that has more natural goodness than the Japanese. They are of a kindly disposition, not at all given to cheating, wonderfully desirous of honour and rank. Honour with them is placed above everything else. There are a great many poor among them, but poverty is not a disgrace to any one. There is one thing among them of which I hardly know whether it is practised anywhere among Christians. The nobles, however poor they may be, receive the same honour from the rest as if they were rich.
In the 13th century, Hōjō Shigetoki (1198–1261 AD) wrote: "When one is serving officially or in the master's court, he should not think of a hundred or a thousand people, but should consider only the importance of the master." Carl Steenstrup noted that 13th and 14th century warrior writings (_gunki _) "portrayed the bushi in their natural element, war, eulogizing such virtues as reckless bravery, fierce family pride, and selfless, at times senseless devotion of master and man". Feudal lords such as Shiba Yoshimasa (1350–1410) stated that a warrior looked forward to a glorious death in the service of a military leader or the Emperor: "It is a matter of regret to let the moment when one should die pass by ... First, a man whose profession is the use of arms should think and then act upon not only his own fame, but also that of his descendants. He should not scandalize his name forever by holding his one and only life too dear ... One's main purpose in throwing away his life is to do so either for the sake of the Emperor or in some great undertaking of a military general. It is that exactly that will be the great fame of one's descendants." General Akashi Gidayu preparing to commit Seppuku after losing a battle for his master in 1582. He had just written his death poem .
In 1412 AD, Imagawa Sadayo wrote a letter of admonishment to his brother stressing the importance of duty to one's master. Imagawa was admired for his balance of military and administrative skills during his lifetime, and his writings became widespread. The letters became central to Tokugawa-era laws and became required study material for traditional Japanese until World War II:
"First of all, a samurai who dislikes battle and has not put his heart in the right place even though he has been born in the house of the warrior, should not be reckoned among one's retainers ... It is forbidden to forget the great debt of kindness one owes to his master and ancestors and thereby make light of the virtues of loyalty and filial piety ... It is forbidden that one should ... attach little importance to his duties to his master ... There is a primary need to distinguish loyalty from disloyalty and to establish rewards and punishments."
Similarly, the feudal lord Takeda Nobushige (1525–1561) stated: "In matters both great and small, one should not turn his back on his master's commands ... One should not ask for gifts or enfiefments from the master ... No matter how unreasonably the master may treat a man, he should not feel disgruntled ... An underling does not pass judgments on a superior."
The feudal lord Asakura Yoshikage (1428–1481) wrote: "In the fief of the Asakura, one should not determine hereditary chief retainers. A man should be assigned according to his ability and loyalty." Asakura also observed that the successes of his father were obtained by the kind treatment of the warriors and common people living in domain. By his civility, "all were willing to sacrifice their lives for him and become his allies."
Katō Kiyomasa was one of the most powerful and well-known lords of
the Sengoku period. He commanded most of Japan\'s major clans during
the invasion of
Torii Mototada (1539–1600) was a feudal lord in the service of Tokugawa Ieyasu. On the eve of the battle of Sekigahara , he volunteered to remain behind in the doomed Fushimi Castle while his lord advanced to the east. Torii and Tokugawa both agreed that the castle was indefensible. In an act of loyalty to his lord, Torii chose to remain behind, pledging that he and his men would fight to the finish. As was custom, Torii vowed that he would not be taken alive. In a dramatic last stand, the garrison of 2,000 men held out against overwhelming odds for ten days against the massive army of Ishida Mitsunari's 40,000 warriors. In a moving last statement to his son Tadamasa, he wrote:
"It is not the Way of the Warrior to be shamed and avoid death even under circumstances that are not particularly important. It goes without saying that to sacrifice one's life for the sake of his master is an unchanging principle. That I should be able to go ahead of all the other warriors of this country and lay down my life for the sake of my master's benevolence is an honor to my family and has been my most fervent desire for many years."
It is said that both men cried when they parted ways, because they knew they would never see each other again. Torii's father and grandfather had served the Tokugawa before him and his own brother had already been killed in battle. Torii's actions changed the course of Japanese history. Ieyasu Tokugawa would successfully raise an army and win at Sekigahara .
The translator of _Hagakure_, William Scott Wilson observed examples of warrior emphasis on death in clans other than Yamamoto's: "he (Takeda Shingen) was a strict disciplinarian as a warrior, and there is an exemplary story in the _Hagakure_ relating his execution of two brawlers, not because they had fought, but because they had not fought to the death".
The rival of
Families such as the Imagawa were influential in the development of warrior ethics and were widely quoted by other lords during their lifetime. The writings of Imagawa Sadayo were highly respected and sought out by Tokugawa Ieyasu as the source of Japanese Feudal Law. These writings were a required study among traditional Japanese until World War II. Edo-period screen depicting the Battle of Sekigahara . It began on 21 October 1600 with a total of 160,000 men facing each other.
Historian H. Paul Varley notes the description of
In December 1547, Francis was in Malacca (Malaysia) waiting to return
to Goa (India) when he met a low-ranked samurai named Anjiro (possibly
spelled "Yajiro"). Anjiro was not an intellectual, but he impressed
Xavier because he took careful notes of everything he said in church.
Xavier made the decision to go to
By the 12th century, upper-class samurai were highly literate due to
the general introduction of
Examples such as Taira Tadanori (a samurai who appears in the _Heike Monogatari _) demonstrate that warriors idealized the arts and aspired to become skilled in them.
Tadanori was famous for his skill with the pen and the sword or the
"bun and the bu", the harmony of fighting and learning.
The number of men who actually achieved the ideal and lived their lives by it was high. An early term for warrior, "uruwashii", was written with a kanji that combined the characters for literary study ("bun" 文) and military arts ("bu" 武), and is mentioned in the Heike Monogatari (late 12th century). The Heike Monogatari makes reference to the educated poet-swordsman ideal in its mention of Taira no Tadanori's death:
Friends and foes alike wet their sleeves with tears and said,
What a pity! Tadanori was a great general, pre-eminent in the arts of both sword and poetry.
In his book "Ideals of the
Plenty of warrior writings document this ideal from the 13th century onward. Most warriors aspired to or followed this ideal otherwise there would have been no cohesion in the samurai armies.
As aristocrats for centuries, samurai developed their own cultures
that influenced Japanese culture as a whole. The culture associated
with the samurai such as the tea ceremony , monochrome ink painting,
rock gardens and poetry was adopted by warrior patrons throughout the
centuries 1200–1600. These practices were adapted from the Chinese
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_ A 10-volume set of books with wood block prints by Osaka artist Matsukawa Hanzan_ (1820–1882?) dated 1863
In general, samurai, aristocrats, and priests had a very high literacy rate in kanji . Recent studies have shown that literacy in kanji among other groups in society was somewhat higher than previously understood. For example, court documents, birth and death records and marriage records from the Kamakura period, submitted by farmers, were prepared in Kanji. Both the kanji literacy rate and skills in math improved toward the end of Kamakura period.
Some samurai had _buke bunko_, or "warrior library", a personal library that held texts on strategy, the science of warfare, and other documents that would have proved useful during the warring era of feudal Japan. One such library held 20,000 volumes. The upper class had _ Kuge bunko_, or "family libraries", that held classics, Buddhist sacred texts, and family histories, as well as genealogical records.
Literacy was generally high among the warriors and the common classes as well. The feudal lord Asakura Norikage (1474–1555 AD) noted the great loyalty given to his father, due to his polite letters, not just to fellow samurai, but also to the farmers and townspeople:
There were to Lord Eirin's character many high points difficult to measure, but according to the elders the foremost of these was the way he governed the province by his civility. It goes without saying that he acted this way toward those in the samurai class, but he was also polite in writing letters to the farmers and townspeople, and even in addressing these letters he was gracious beyond normal practice. In this way, all were willing to sacrifice their lives for him and become his allies.
There are two kinds of writing in Japan, one used by men and the other by women; and for the most part both men and women, especially of the nobility and the commercial class, have a literary education. The bonzes, or bonzesses, in their monasteries teach letters to the girls and boys, though rich and noble persons entrust the education of their children to private tutors. Most of them can read, and this is a great help to them for the easy understanding of our usual prayers and the chief points of our holy religion.
The Nobles send their sons to monasteries to be educated as soon as they are 8 years old, and they remain there until they are 19 or 20, learning reading, writing and religion; as soon as they come out, they marry and apply themselves to politics. They are discreet, magnanimous and lovers of virtue and letters, honouring learned men very much.
In a letter dated 11 November 1549, Xavier described a multi-tiered
educational system in
But now we must give you an account of our stay at Cagoxima . We put
into that port because the wind was adverse to our sailing to Meaco,
which is the largest city in Japan, and most famous as the residence
of the King and the Princes. It is said that after four months are
passed the favourable season for a voyage to Meaco will return, and
then with the good help of God we shall sail thither. The distance
from Cagoxima is three hundred leagues. We hear wonderful stories
about the size of Meaco: they say that it consists of more than ninety
thousand dwellings. There is a very famous University there, as well
as five chief colleges of students, and more than two hundred
monasteries of bonzes, and of others who are like coenobites, called
Legioxi, as well as of women of the same kind, who are called
Hamacutis. Besides this of Meaco, there are in
A samurai was usually named by combining one kanji from his father or
grandfather and one new kanji.
For example, the full name of Oda Nobunaga would be "Oda Kazusanosuke Saburo Nobunaga" (織田上総介三郎信長), in which "Oda" is a clan or family name, "Kazusanosuke" is a title of vice-governor of Kazusa province, "Saburo" is a formal nickname (_yobina_), and "Nobunaga" is an adult name (_nanori_) given at genpuku , the coming of age ceremony. A man was addressed by his family name and his title, or by his _yobina_ if he did not have a title. However, the _nanori_ was a private name that could be used by only a very few, including the Emperor.
A samurai could take concubines but their backgrounds were checked by higher-ranked samurai. In many cases, taking a concubine was akin to a marriage. Kidnapping a concubine, although common in fiction, would have been shameful, if not criminal. If the concubine was a commoner, a messenger was sent with betrothal money or a note for exemption of tax to ask for her parents' acceptance. Even though the woman would not be a legal wife, a situation normally considered a demotion, many wealthy merchants believed that being the concubine of a samurai was superior to being the legal wife of a commoner. When a merchant's daughter married a samurai, her family's money erased the samurai's debts, and the samurai's social status improved the standing of the merchant family. If a samurai's commoner concubine gave birth to a son, the son could inherit his father's social status.
A samurai could divorce his wife for a variety of reasons with approval from a superior, but divorce was, while not entirely nonexistent, a rare event. A wife's failure to produce a son was cause for divorce, but adoption of a male heir was considered an acceptable alternative to divorce. A samurai could divorce for personal reasons, even if he simply did not like his wife, but this was generally avoided as it would embarrass the person who had arranged the marriage. A woman could also arrange a divorce, although it would generally take the form of the samurai divorcing her. After a divorce samurai had to return the betrothal money, which often prevented divorces.
Main article: Onna-bugeisha _ Japanese woman preparing for jigai _ (female version of _seppuku_) to follow her husband in death.
Maintaining the household was the main duty of samurai women. This was especially crucial during early feudal Japan, when warrior husbands were often traveling abroad or engaged in clan battles. The wife, or _okugatasama_ (meaning: one who remains in the home), was left to manage all household affairs, care for the children, and perhaps even defend the home forcibly. For this reason, many women of the samurai class were trained in wielding a polearm called a naginata or a special knife called the _kaiken _ in an art called _tantojutsu _ (lit. the skill of the knife), which they could use to protect their household, family, and honor if the need arose.
Traits valued in women of the samurai class were humility, obedience, self-control, strength, and loyalty. Ideally, a samurai wife would be skilled at managing property, keeping records, dealing with financial matters, educating the children (and perhaps servants, too), and caring for elderly parents or in-laws that may be living under her roof. Confucian law, which helped define personal relationships and the code of ethics of the warrior class required that a woman show subservience to her husband, filial piety to her parents, and care to the children. Too much love and affection was also said to indulge and spoil the youngsters. Thus, a woman was also to exercise discipline.
Though women of wealthier samurai families enjoyed perks of their elevated position in society, such as avoiding the physical labor that those of lower classes often engaged in, they were still viewed as far beneath men. Women were prohibited from engaging in any political affairs and were usually not the heads of their household.
This does not mean that samurai women were always powerless. Powerful women both wisely and unwisely wielded power at various occasions. After Ashikaga Yoshimasa , 8th shogun of the Muromachi shogunate, lost interest in politics, his wife Hino Tomiko largely ruled in his place. Nene , wife of Toyotomi Hideyoshi, was known to overrule her husband's decisions at times and Yodo-dono , his concubine, became the de facto master of Osaka castle and the Toyotomi clan after Hideyoshi's death. Tachibana Ginchiyo was chosen to lead the Tachibana clan after her father's death. Chiyo, wife of Yamauchi Kazutoyo, has long been considered the ideal samurai wife. According to legend, she made her kimono out of a quilted patchwork of bits of old cloth and saved pennies to buy her husband a magnificent horse, on which he rode to many victories. The fact that Chiyo (though she is better known as "Wife of Yamauchi Kazutoyo") is held in such high esteem for her economic sense is illuminating in the light of the fact that she never produced an heir and the Yamauchi clan was succeeded by Kazutoyo's younger brother. The source of power for women may have been that samurai left their finances to their wives.
As the Tokugawa period progressed more value became placed on education, and the education of females beginning at a young age became important to families and society as a whole. Marriage criteria began to weigh intelligence and education as desirable attributes in a wife, right along with physical attractiveness. Though many of the texts written for women during the Tokugawa period only pertained to how a woman could become a successful wife and household manager, there were those that undertook the challenge of learning to read, and also tackled philosophical and literary classics. Nearly all women of the samurai class were literate by the end of the Tokugawa period.
Main article: List of foreign-born samurai in
Several people born in foreign countries were granted the title of samurai.
Yasuke was a retainer of black African origin who served under the
Japanese hegemon and warlord
Oda Nobunaga in 1581 and 1582. He arrived
After Bunroku and Keichō no eki , many people born in the Joseon
dynasty were brought to
The English sailor and adventurer William Adams (1564–1620) was,
along with Joosten, among the first Westerners to receive the dignity
of samurai. The
Tokugawa Ieyasu presented him with two swords
representing the authority of a samurai, and decreed that William
Adams the sailor was dead and that Anjin Miura (三浦按針), a
samurai, was born. Adams also received the title of _hatamoto _
(bannerman), a high-prestige position as a direct retainer in the
Shogun's court. He was provided with generous revenues: "For the
services that I have done and do daily, being employed in the
Emperor's service, the Emperor has given me a living". (Letters) He
was granted a fief in Hemi (逸見) within the boundaries of
Jan Joosten van Lodensteijn (1556?–1623?), a Dutch colleague of
Adams' on their ill-fated voyage to
In the same war, the Prussian Edward Schnell served the Aizu domain as a military instructor and procurer of weapons. He was granted the Japanese name Hiramatsu Buhei (平松武兵衛), which inverted the characters of the _daimyō_'s name Matsudaira . Hiramatsu (Schnell) was given the right to wear swords, as well as a residence in the castle town of Wakamatsu , a Japanese wife, and retainers. In many contemporary references, he is portrayed wearing a Japanese kimono, overcoat, and swords, with Western riding trousers and boots.
_ 1890s photo showing a variety of armor and weapons typically used by samurai Photo from the 1860s showing the wearing of the daisho _. Ikeda Nagaoki in 1864
* JAPANESE SWORDS (samurai sword) are the weapons that have come to
be synonymous with the samurai. Ancient Japanese swords from the Nara
Chokutō ) featured a straight blade, by the late 900s curved
tachi appeared, followed by the uchigatana and ultimately the katana .
Smaller commonly known companion swords are the wakizashi and the
tantō . Wearing a long sword _(katana )_ or _(tachi )_ together with
a smaller sword such as a wakizashi or tantō became the symbol of the
samurai, this combination of swords is referred to as a _daishō _
(literally "big and small"). During the
Edo period only samurai were
allowed to wear a _daisho_. A longer blade known as the nodachi was
also used in the fourteenth century, though primarily used by samurai
on the ground.
* THE YUMI (longbow), reflected in the art of _kyūjutsu _ (lit.
the skill of the bow) was a major weapon of the Japanese military. Its
usage declined with the introduction of the tanegashima (Japanese
matchlock) during the
_ Various Japanese (samurai) Tanegashima_ matchlock firearms.
* TANEGASHIMA (JAPANESE MATCHLOCK) were introduced to
_ The ōzutsu_ (大筒), a swivel breech-loading cannon, 16th century
* CANNONS became a common part of the samurai's armory in the 1570s.
They often were mounted in castles or on ships, being used more as
anti-personnel weapons than against castle walls or the like, though
in the siege of Nagashino castle (1575) a cannon was used to good
effect against an enemy siegetower. The first popular cannon in Japan
were swivel-breech loaders nicknamed _kunikuzushi_ or "province
destroyers". _Kunikuzushi_ weighed 264 lb (120 kg). and used 40 lb (18
kg). chambers, firing a small shot of 10 oz (280 g). The
Arima clan of
As far back as the seventh century Japanese warriors wore a form of _lamellar armor _, this armor eventually evolved into the armor worn by the samurai. The first types of Japanese armors identified as samurai armor were known as _yoroi_. These early samurai armors were made from small individual scales known as _kozane_. The kozane were made from either iron or leather and were bound together into small strips, the strips were coated with lacquer to protect the kozane from water. A series of strips of kozane were then laced together with silk or leather lace and formed into a complete chest armor (_dou or dō_) . A complete set of the yoroi weighed 66 lbs.
In the 1500s a new type of armor started to become popular due to the
advent of firearms, new fighting tactics and the need for additional
protection. The _kozane dou_ made from individual scales was replaced
by _plate armor _. This new armor, which used iron plated _dou (dō)_
, was referred to as _Tosei-gusoku_, or modern armor. The newer
armor added features and pieces of armor for the face, thigh, and
back. The back piece had multiple uses, such as for a flag bearing.
Various other components of armor protected the samurai's body. The
helmet _kabuto _ was an important part of the samurai's armor. It was
paired with a shikoro and fukigaeshi for protection of the head and
neck. The garment worn under all of the armor and clothing was called
the Fundoshi, also known as a loincloth.
MYTH AND REALITY
Most samurai were bound by a code of honor and were expected to set an example for those below them. A notable part of their code is seppuku (切腹, _seppuku_) or _hara kiri_, which allowed a disgraced samurai to regain his honor by passing into death, where samurai were still beholden to social rules. Whilst there are many romanticized characterizations of samurai behavior such as the writing of Bushido (武士道, _Bushidō_) in 1905, studies of Kobudo and traditional Budō indicate that the samurai were as practical on the battlefield as were any other warrior.
Despite the rampant romanticism of the 20th century, samurai could be
disloyal and treacherous (e.g.,
Akechi Mitsuhide ), cowardly, brave,
or overly loyal (e.g.,
Kusunoki Masashige ).
Jidaigeki (literally historical drama ) has always been a staple
program on Japanese movies and television. The programs typically
feature a samurai.
As well as influence from American Westerns Kurosawa's also adapted two of Shakespeare's plays as sources for samurai movies; "Throne of Blood" was based on "MacBeth" and "Ran" was based on "King Lear".
Most common are historical works where the protagonist is either a
samurai or former samurai (or another rank or position) who possesses
considerable martial skill.
Eiji Yoshikawa is one of the most famous
Japanese historical novelists. His retellings of popular works,
Taiko , Musashi and Heike Tale , are popular among readers
for their epic narratives and rich realism in depicting samurai and
warrior culture. The samurai have also appeared frequently in Japanese
comics (manga) and animation (anime). Samurai-like characters are not
just restricted to historical settings and a number of works set in
the modern age, and even the future, include characters who live,
train and fight like samurai. Examples are
Samurai Champloo , Shigurui
Requiem from the Darkness , Muramasa: The Demon Blade , and Afro
Just in the last two decades, samurai have become more popular in America. "Hyperbolizing the samurai in such a way that they appear as a whole to be a loyal body of master warriors provides international interest in certain characters due to admirable traits." (Moscardi, N. D.) Through various media, producers and writers have been capitalizing on the notion that Americans admire the samurai lifestyle. The animated series, Afro Samurai, became well-liked in American popular culture due to its blend of hack-and-slash animation and gritty urban music.
Takashi Okazaki , _Afro Samurai_ was initially a dōjinshi
, or manga series, which was then made into an animated series by
Studio Gonzo . In 2007 the animated series debuted on American cable
television on the
Spike TV channel. (Denison, 2010) The series was
produced for American viewers which “embodies the trend... comparing
hip-hop artists to samurai warriors, an image some rappers claim for
themselves". (Solomon, 2009) The storyline keeps in tone with the
perception of a samurais finding vengeance against someone who has
wronged him. Starring the voice of well known American actor Samuel L.
Jackson , "Afro is the second-strongest fighter in a futuristic, yet,
American comic books have adopted the character type for stories of
their own like the mutant-villain
Silver Samurai of
Marvel Comics .
The design of this character preserves the samurai appearance; the
villain is "Clad in traditional gleaming samurai armor and wielding an
energy charged katana". (Buxton, 2013) Not only does the Silver
The television series _
Power Rangers Samurai
* Anderson, Patricia E. "Roles of
* ^ Wilson, p. 17
* ^ "
_ Look up 侍 _ in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
_ Look up SAMURAI _ in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
* _ Media related to