Instructor name: Mr. Knight
School Name: Knapp Family School
Window into The Samurai Warrior
Who were the Samurai? The Samurai were the elite warrior group of Japan. The time of the samurai was the Edo or feudal Japan period, from 1603 to 1867 in Japan. Back then Tokyo was Edo. Edo was not capital Kyoto was. A samurai wasn’t just warriors but, they were also shoguns. Shoguns were commander-in-chief in feudal Japan, the highest rank.
What was the life of a samurai? When a boy in a samurai family is born, they give him a sword. It’s not a real sword, but it is a symbol of his future. A sword is more important than anything except for Bushido and his training.
Samurai followed a special code, called Bushido or “The Way of the Warrior”. The Bushido states that samurai must be honorable and loyal to their master. According to the Bushido samurai cannot carry out secret tasks. This left a niche for Ninja who from the 1300s to the 1600s ninjas did secret tasks. If a samurai disrespects Bushido would be dishonored everywhere. The dishonored samurai then would commit seppuku, a type of suicide where you cut open your stomach. Sometimes the pain is too much, and the disgraced samurai would ask a friend to cut their neck. By committing seppuku, the samurai restored honor to him and his family.
What did samurai training look like? When a samurai boy becomes 13, he receives a proper sword, armor, and a warrior name. The warrior name was half his father’s name and half of his. For example, if you were in the Minamoto clan it would be Minamoto then your name. The 13-year-old samurai may be a samurai, but they still have to go school. There they learned how to be loyal, how to fight, how to honorable and Bushido.
Weapons, armor, and war was what the samurai most known for. “A samurai should live and die with his sword in his hand” (Harpur, 2007). This is a traditional Japanese saying. During the Heian period 794 to 1185, there were two powerful family groupings in Japan they were the Taira and the Minamoto clans these families fought in the Gempei War. The Taira won at first but then the Minamoto clan returned and won the first battle. Samurai had a helmet, shoulder guard, arm guard, war apron, and animal skin boots. Weapons used by samurai were bows, arrows, a long pole topped by a curved blade, a dagger, long sword, and a short sword. The long sword was a katana and the short sword was wakizashi together these swords are the daisho which means “big and small.”
The Samurai brought their own downfall through politics and policy. The Shogun had banned trade with European countries Japan only began trade with Europe again in the 1800s. Samurai did not like this change and wanted to remove the Tokugawa shogun who allowed it. Samurai wanted to remove Tokugawa Yoshinobu. They succeeded in 1868. At the end of the Edo period Emperor Meiji became ruler, stripped shogun power. He thought the samurai system was bad and wanted a more European army.
Emperor Meiji encouraged trade this annoyed The Samurai who made him ruler. By the 1600s guns became more prevalent in Japan. The Samurai were obsolete and lost power. On top of this they suffered during the Satsuma Rebellion. Samurai clans still existed they were never as powerful as much as they once were.
The Samurai are still popular in movies, tv shows, books, warriors, and still inspire many. The Samurai looked up to as examples of good behaviorThey are still a great role models to warriors and Japanese people. The Bushido code is still seen as a good way of life. Statues, monuments, and museums are dedicated to the Samurai. Samurai warriors even inspired Star Wars. Jedi in the Star Wars films trained similarly to that of a samurai and other characters wore samurai inspired armor. Even with the Samurai gone their way of life lives on.
Murrell, D. (2009). A Hero’s Guide to Warriors. New York, NY: QEB.
Harpur, J. (2007). Warriors. London: Carlton.
Lay, D. (1998, October 26). Origins of the Samurai. Retrieved November 24, 2018, from https://judoinfo.com/samurai/
Guide, J. (2018). Samurai. Retrieved November 24, 2018, from https://www.japan-guide.com/e/e2127.html
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