Japanese culture is rich in tradition and heritage. We have all seen many on-screen depictions of the ancient tradition of samurai warriors. However, how much do you really know about this fascinating military class Something about samurai seems to encapsulate every successive generation’s creativity.
Such warriors served as part of the military elite that, for centuries, ruled feudal Japan. In the 12th century, with the start of the country’s first military dictatorship, the samurai grew to the height of their power. Ultimately, the samurai would rule the Japanese government and society until the 1868 Meiji Restoration ended the feudal system.
The history of the samurai might surprise you. From the code of honor to the traditional dress, here are some facts you need to know.
Female Warriors Exist
Occasionally touched on in modern samurai depictions, it’s a fact that women fought alongside male warriors throughout history.
These fierce women, known as Onna-Bugeisha, passed through the same rigorous rituals and training as their male counterparts and were samurai through and through. They were often educated in wartime to defend their home, relatives, and reputation.
The Culture Dates Back Centuries
The samurai trace their roots back to campaigns of the Heian Period aimed at subduing the indigenous Emishi in the Tohoku region. At about the same time, more and more warriors were hired by wealthy landowners. They grew independently from the central government and built armies for their own protection.
The two most powerful of these landowning clans, the Minamoto and Taira, ultimately challenged the central government. They battled for supremacy over the entire country. However, only Minamoto Yoritomo emerged victoriously. In 1192 he established a new military government, headed by the supreme commander. Therefore, for the majority of the next 700 years, the samurai reigned over Japan.
They Lived By A Code
They practiced a code called Bushido, which translates as “the warrior’s way” in English. Basically, it was (and is) similar in its ethics to the notion of chivalry in European culture.
Interestingly, while Samurai had arguably observed the tenets of a bushido lifestyle as an order from its very beginnings, the crystallized concept only developed between the 16th and 20th centuries. During this period, scholars debated the exact parameters of the term. However, they also noted its roots in the already ancient cultural practices of Samurai for centuries.
Their Clothing Completes Their Aesthetics
Samurai were style-makers that inspired the era’s fashion. While their clothing was simple, every element of it fit their needs as warriors.
Their daily outfit consisted of large hakama pants and a long-sleeved shirt, collectively known as a hitatare. Such robes supported a broad spectrum of movement. Therefore, the sensation of samurai fashion was as sharp as their swords.
They Use Scary Helmets To Frighten Enemies
The kabuto helmet is, perhaps, the most complicated part of armor for a samurai. Its bowl use riveted metal plates. Additionally, the face and brow use a shield tied behind the head and under the helmet. Further, most samurai helmets contain ornaments and parts that can be added. These parts include masks with demonic features that both shield the face and scare the enemy.
Overall, samurais have high levels of literacy and mathematical skills, especially compared to Europeans of the same period. If you want to know more facts about Japan’s Samurai culture, visiting Japan and learning their history first-hand is a great way to discover more.
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