Facts of Japan - Samurai

Samurai is a term of pre-industrial Japan that refers a great military nobility. The original term for Samurai in Japan is Saburau. It actually meant those who closely serve the Noble people. The pronunciation changed to Saburai in Japan.

And at the end of the twelfth Century this word was closely associated with Bushi which means middle and also the upper echelons of the great warriors with their code of conduct being referred to as Bushido.

In 663 AD the Japanese retreated from the Korean affairs after the great battle of Hakusukinoe that was fought against tang China and also Silla. After this, Japan went into widespread reform. Out of all the reforms, the Taika reform was the most important one. By this the aristocracy has ordered the population to report themselves often for census. Only here one in 3 to 4 males were drafted straightly into the Military. The Taiho code of the Tang Dynasty divided the Imperials into twelve ranks and those that are below the sixth rank were called Samurai. These Samurai dealt with the affairs of day to day.

Samurai with full armor.
Samurai with full armor.
Samurais with different weapons.
Samurais with different weapons.
Samurai swords: left to right: katana, wakizashi and tanto
Samurai swords: left to right: katana, wakizashi and tanto
Samurai also used bows and arrows.
Samurai also used bows and arrows.
Himeji Castle, called the "white heron", owing to its shape and brilliant white exterior.
Himeji Castle, called the "white heron", owing to its shape and brilliant white exterior.
Kumamoto Castle, one of three famous samurai castles in Japan.
Kumamoto Castle, one of three famous samurai castles in Japan.
Chokuto
Chokuto
Gunpai
Gunpai
Samurai practising with Gunpai.
Samurai practising with Gunpai.
Hakama
Hakama
Adepts of Naginata-jutsu.
Adepts of Naginata-jutsu.

It was during the Heian period that stretched from 8th and the early 9th centuries, that Emperor Kammu formed powerful clans of warrior class with the title Shogun to fight the Emishi. Those warriors were skilled in the mounted combat and the Archery. But Emperor Kammu disbanded this powerful army at some point of time. But these powerful clans gradually positioned themselves as Ministers and let their relatives be Magistrates. They started collecting tax from farmers.

This action called for a change with the farmers, who originally formed these local clans of power, who then formed their own clan by resorting to arms and in turn these clans formed alliances with other clans as well. And by the mid- Heian period they laid the code of conduct and Bushido was established.

And the power of this warrior class increased slowly as well. It peaked to a state where the Taira clans through its clever moves attained the status or advisor to the Emperor and then they started wielding their power so as to make the Emperor a figurehead of the state only. Not only this but also they married their relatives to the Emperors and aristocrats and established their power strongly. It was in the Kamakura period, that is from 1192 to 1333 that the warrior class Minamoto defeated the other warrior class Taira and assumed power as Shogun, which means the highest military Officer, and started ruling Japan.

The Muromachi period was the chaotic one in which those independent states of Japan fought each other constantly and so, the demand for Samurai went so high. And in between those war periods, the Samurai started working on the farms as well.

As time pass by the Samurai clans started engaging the Imperial pastimes like poetry, calligraphy and music. It was again in these period the Buddhism spread in Japan and it actually helped Samurai clans to shape their conduct and realize the importance of self sacrifice etc.

The Mongol invasion was also thwarted with the help of the great Typhoon where the bravery shown by Samurais was unmatched.

It was during the Tokugawa Shogunate, that the Samurai became bureaucrats, administrators and courtiers rather than warriors. As such, there happened no warfare and so by the early 17th Century the Samurai almost lost their warrior function. It was the Edo period, in fact.

Thus Samurai became the aristocratic bureaucrats for the Daimyo by the end of the Togukawa era. They became almost a symbolic power only. The teachings of Mencius and Confucius embodied the Samurai. With time Samurai became the role model for all other social classes in Japan.

The terms of samurai:

Batto-jutsu
Art of drawing the sword, with the cutting.

Bo-jutsu
Martial Arts of using a staff weapon.

Budo
Determination of the Martial Arts.

Bushido
Road of a Warrior.

Chokuto
A simple sword from the early era of the History of Japan.

Daimyo
Seigneur.

Daisho
Two Samurai Sword - Long and Short.

Edo
1600 - 1867 Powered by rule of the Tokugawa.

Giri
Determination of the duty of the Samurai.

Gunpai
Army fan.

Hakama
Divided military skirt.

Heian
782 - 1184 period when the capital was in Kyoto.

Iai-jutsu
Art of drawing the sword.

Kamakura
1185 - 1332 in the capital of Kamakura. The golden age of Japanese sword.

Kampaku
Successor.

Katana
Long Sword.

Ken
Word of the Japanese sword, refers to the swords used by the end of the nineteenth century.

Ken-jutsu
Swordsmanship.

Koto
Swords forged from the Edo period.

Kyo-jutsu
Martial art of wielding a bow.

Kyuba no michi
Horse and Bow Road.

Momoyana
1573 - 1599 Samurai Daisho began to wear. The initial period of Shinto era.

Mon
Family crest worn on montsuki.

Montsuki
The upper part of kimono, worn on special occasions.

Muramasa
Sword smith.

Muromachi
1392 - 1572 ongoing internal struggle (Sengoku).

Musha-shugyo
Pilgrimage of a Warrior.

Naginata
A long spear with a sharp blade on one side.

Naginata-jutsu
Martial arts of Niaginata.

Ronin
Samurai without a master.

Ryu
Determination of the martial arts school.

Samurai
A member of the warrior class.

Sensei
Teacher (now also a doctor)

Seppuku
Ritual Suicide

Shin Shinto
"New New Sword"- any sword forged after the Meiji Restoration (1870).

Shinto
"New Sword" - any sword forged between 1596 - 1870.

Shogun
Commander of the troops destined for the conquest of the barbarians.

So-jutsu
Fighting with the spears.

Sohei
Monks Warriors.

Tachi
Long sword, which used the ancient Japanese cavalry.

Uchigatana
"Internal sword" - the term for a sword longer than Daisho sword.

Wakizashi
Short Sword.

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