Who is the Samurai? - Jellyfish Education Consultancy Philippines Inc.

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Who is the Samurai?

January 24, 2017 2:11 am | Jellyfish Education Consultancy

Who is the Samurai

The samurai (or bushi) were the warriors of pre-modern Japan. They later made up the ruling military class that eventually became the highest ranking social caste of the Edo Period (1603-1867). Samurai employed a range of weapons such as bows and arrows, spears and guns, but their main weapon and symbol was the sword.

“Bushido” means “Way of the Warrior.” It was at the heart of the beliefs and conduct of the Samurai. The philosophy of Bushido is “freedom from fear.” It meant that the Samurai transcended his fear of death. That gave him the peace and power to serve his master faithfully and loyally and die well if necessary. “Duty” is a primary philosophy of the Samurai.

Strongly Confucian in nature, bushido stressed concepts such as loyalty to one’s master, self-discipline and respectful, ethical behaviour. Many samurai’s were also drawn to the teachings and practices of Zen Buddhism.

War played a central part in the history of Japan. Warring clans controlled much of the country. A chief headed each clan; made up of related families. The chiefs were the ancestors of Japan’s imperial family. The wars were usually about “land.” Only 20% of the land was fit for farming. The struggle for control of that land eventually gave rise to the Samurai.

One of the important dates in the history of the Japanese warring class is 660 B.C. According to legend, Jimmu Tenno became head of a confederation of warlike clans. Tenno was known as “The Divine Warrior.” He led his people from Kyushu to the Kinki region and conquered the people there. Tenno settled in the area of Yamato. This eventually gave rise to the Yamato dynasty and state. The leaders of Yamato believed themselves to be of divine origin.

The Yamato clans conducted many military campaigns on the Asian mainland. The targets included Korea and China. These campaigns led to the importation of Korean and Chinese culture, technology and martial arts.

Legend says that Emperor Keiko was the first person with the title of “Shogun.” The word meant “Barbarian-subduing General.” Legend continues that Keiko had a son named “Prince Yamato.” He was cunning, fearless, strong and a great martial artist. Many believe that Yamato was a role model for future Samurai.

The Samurai wore two swords (daisho). One was long; the other short. The long sword (daito – katana) was more than 24 inches. The short sword (shoto – wakizashi) was between 12 and 24 inches. The Samurai often gave names to their swords and believed it was the “soul” of their warriorship. The oldest swords were straight and had their early design in Korea and China.

The Samurai’s desire for tougher, sharper swords for battle gave rise to the curved blade we still have today. The sword had its beginning as iron combined with carbon. The sword smith used fire, water, anvil and hammer to shape the world’s best swords. After forging the blade, the sword polisher did his work to prepare the blade for the “furniture” that surrounded it.

Next, the sword tester took the new blade and cut through the bodies of corpses or condemned criminals. They started by cutting through the small bones of the body and moved up to the large bones. Test results were often recorded on the nakago (the metal piece attaching the sword blade to the handle).

Written by: Dee Llenos