Fact About The Fearless Japanese Warriors: The Samurai

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The Samurai were fearsome warriors from Japan, with awesome traditions of honour and discipline. They rose to power in the 12th century and were the backbone of the feudal system in Japan. The Meiji Restoration in 1868, abolished the feudal system, and the Samurai were rendered redundant. However they will always hold a place of honour in the hearts of their countrymen and the rest of the world. The disciplines of jujitsu and kendo are rooted in Samurai tradition.

FACT 1: The samurai were provincial warriors who served the ‘daimgo’ or the great lords of Japan. In the 12th century the daimgo united and backed the shogun, giving the shogun power over the Emperor (the Mikado). Thus was born the Shogunate or military dictatorship of Japan, dominated by the Samurai.

FACT 2: Bushido – the way of the warrior – is the samurai code of honour discipline and morality. The code stands today as the basic code of conduct in modern Japanese society. The bushido code varied with the prevailing religious influences. The early Samurai were influenced by Zen Buddhism and during this period Japanese art and culture flourished.

FACT 3: Confucianism was introduced in the 17th century. It was during this period that the Bushido code became clearly defined. This was a period of relative peace and the samurai governed by peaceful means rather than military force. The Bushido code emerged as a code of conduct for society in general.

FACT 4: Military skills were the primary focus of the Bushido code, but emphasis was also placed on fearlessness in the face of the enemy, loyalty and duty. The code stresses frugality, honesty, kindness and family life and care of the elderly.

FACT 5: The sword had especial significance in the life of the Samurai. They carried two swords the katana, the long sword and the wakizashi, the short sword. The swords were curved and sharpened on both edges. They were made of hardened steel and had softened steel cores.

FACT 6: The sword was considered to be the Samurai soul. The crafting of the sword became an art form in itself. They were always hand crafted. The blades were carefully hammered, with gold and silver inlay. The handles had sharkskin handgrips.

FACT 7: The Samurai ware also excellent horsemen and archers. Their bows were made of bamboo, wood and rattan. They were between 7 and 10 feet tall. The arrows were bamboo with a metal tip. They had a range of 330 feet.

FACT 8: Samurai armour was carefully crafted. It took 4-7 months to construct the armour for one warrior. The armour was initially black but soon became brightly lacquered. It was made of iron, brass and leather. The helmet was also a work of art. A single helmet could be made of 100 plates riveted together.

FACT 9: The Samurai assumed political power at the end of the Gempei War (1180-1185). The war was fought between the Taira and Minamoto clans. The Minamoto clan was victorious and established the seat of Japanese government at Kamakura. The Samurai were given privileged status and became the real political power of Japan.

FACT 10: The Samurai were noblemen. Their wealth was measured in koku. One koku was the amount of rice needed to feed one man for a year.

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