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Life of a Samurai
Transcript of Life of a Samurai
What is a Samurai?
Bushido is the samurai code of ethics
The word bushi, means "warrior”.
The Japanese word do means "the way."
Although Bushido is referred to as a code, it was not a formal set of rules that all samurai followed.
We don't know who the first samurai was.
In the 5th, 6th, and 7th centuries, A.D., there were rivalries
in Japan between clans, as well as wars for control when an emperor died.
However, most of the fighting was done against those people who were native to islands of Japan, which imperial Japanese referred to as emishi, or barbarians
History of Samurai
In the early 1200's, a powerful clan served the emperor of Japan: the Minamoto clan.
The emperor declared Minamoto Yoritomo shogun, the head of the military.
But, Yoritomo used his new power to strip the emperor of all political power, make his position as shogun permanent, and set up a military dictatorship known as bakufu.
So, the samurai went from being servants to the land-owning daimyos to being the rulers of Japan under the shogun.
This feudal period lasted until Tokugawa Ieyaso united Japan.
During Tokugawa's enforced peace, samurai were seldom used in combat.
It was during this period that the samurai took on other roles, escorting their lords back and forth from the capital, working as bureaucrats in the bakufu, and collecting tribute in the form of rice payments from the daimyo's subjects
Start of the Tokugawa/Edo Period
The amount and form of a samurai's training depended on the wealth of his family.
Most think of a samarai as a sword master wielding his curved katana.
However, for the first few centuries of their existence, samurai were better known as horse-riding archers.
Swordsmanship was also extremely important in training.
In addition to warrior skills, samurai were expected to be well-educated in other areas, such as literature and history.
During the Tokugawa period, a peaceful era, the samurai were not needed much as warriors, so these academic skills were especially useful.
What about school?
What did they look like?
A samurai is instantly recognizable due to his distinctive armor and helmet.
Lamellar armor is made by binding together metal scales into a small plate, which is then covered with lacquer to make it waterproof. These small, light plates are fastened together with cords of leather, each plate slightly overlapping the other.
The native religion of Japan was Shintoism, until Buddhism replaced it in the 5th century, A.D.
Zen Buddhism, encouraged followers to reach enlightenment through intense meditation. This was popular with samurai, who understood the need to train and practice until their combat skills became like breathing
What religion were they?
Tokugawa and his descendents ruled over a peaceful Japan for two and half centuries.
The role of the samurai in peacetime declined gradually over this period, but two factors led to the end of samurai: the urbanization of Japan, and the end of isolationism.
The end of the Samarai
As more and more Japanese moved to the cities, there were fewer farmers producing the rice needed to feed the growing population.
Many Japanese, including lower class samurai, grew dissatisfied with the shogunate because of the poor economy.
Then, in 1853, U.S. ships sailed into Edo Bay. Commodore Matthew Perry had arrived to deliver a message from the President to the emperor (who still existed as a figurehead, even though the shogun really ruled the country).
The U.S. wanted to open trade relations with Japan, wanted shipwrecked U.S. sailors to be treated well by the Japanese, and wanted to open Japan as a resupply port for American ships.
Perry delivered his message, told the Japanese he would return after a few months, and left.
End of Isolation
A split grew in Japan.
Some wanted to deny the American offer, maintain isolated, and stay with their ancient traditions.
The emperor refused to agree to the treaty. But because he was just a figurehead, the bakufu went ahead with the treaty anyway.
Finally, in 1876, the emperor banned samurai from wearing their swords.
Though there were some rebellions as samurai in outlying provinces resisted, all the samurai eventually adopted new roles in Japanese society, as their nation moved into the Industrial Age.
Although the samurai no longer exist, their spirit of honor and discipline has found a home in modern times.
From the kamikaze pilots of Japan in World War II, to martial artists and even modern businessman who look to Bushido as a guide to living an honorable life, samurai continue to influence Japan today.
The Samurai Spirit Lives On
The samurai served many functions in Japan but
were best known as warriors.
There are four factors that define a samurai:
1. The samurai is a well-trained, highly skilled warrior.
2. The samurai serves his daimyo with absolute loyalty, even to the death. In fact, the word samurai means, "those who serve.“
3. The samurai is a member of an elite class, considered superior to common citizens and ordinary foot soldiers.
4. The samurai's life is ruled by Bushido, a strict warrior code emphasizing honour
Loyalty to his lord
Duty of Vengeance
Bushido changed greatly throughout Japanese history and even from one clan to the next.
Bushido wasn't even written down at all until the 17th century, after samurai had been in existence for centuries.
Lords expected obedience from their subjects, who in turn received economic and military protection.
This sense of
loyalty and honour was often carried to extremes by the Japanese, who would fight to the death in a hopeless battle to protect their master's castle, or commit suicide if they felt they had disgraced their lord.
If the honour of his master was tarnished, or his master killed, a samurai was required to seek out and kill those responsible.
Higher-ranking samurai added clan symbols and other decorative touches to their helmets.
Some helmets included metal masks bearing intimidating devil faces, sometimes with mustaches and beards made from horsehair.
During peaceful periods, these helmet ornaments grew very elaborate, and today are considered works of art.
Note: This is still done today as a form of protest or to restore honour.
Honour was so important to the samurai that they would
frequently take their own lives in the face of failure, or
if they had violated Bushido.
You Think Your Teachers Are Bad?
One story tells of a samurai master who would hit his students with a wooden sword at random times throughout the day and night, until the students learned to never relax their guard.
The most famous weapon of the samurai throughout history was the katana, a curved sword.
A katana was never worn without its companion sword -- the wakizashi, a shorter weapon with a broader blade.
Pole arms were also used (bladed weapons attached to long poles).
One of the more common Japanese pole arms was the naginata, which consisted of a sharp blade two to four feet in length mounted on a wooden shaft that was four to five feet long.
The smiths who created katana for the samurai are considered the finest sword makers in history
One of the biggest problems in making a sword is keeping it sharp. A weapon made with a hard metal will keep its edge, but will be brittle and break easily.
Japanese smiths solved this problem by making the core of the sword with a soft metal that wouldn't break. This core was then covered with layers of harder metals that were repeatedly folded and hammered until there were literally millions of layers of metal laminated together.
The edge was so sharp that a skilled swordsman could slice a human in half with one blow.
The extra reach of pole arms afforded by these weapons allowed them to hold attackers at bay, or make a first strike before an attacker with a sword could reach them. They were also very effective against opponents on horses.
The first four weapons are Viking
1. On your own, make a list of three virtues that you would include in a code for students at your school.
2. Get together with 2-3 other students and compare your choices. Try to come to an agreement on what the code would be and make a list of the 5-6 virtues that are most important to you.
3. Using your code, give specific examples of when students or staff members who have demonstrated each skill
Several groups of rebellious samurai, who wanted Japan to stay the same, supported the emperor and began a civil war against the bakufu.
Surprisingly, they overthrew the shogun, ending the Tokugawa period and restoring the emperor to power.
Lower class samurai took leadership positions, controlling the government from behind the new emperor, a young boy who was called Emperor Meiji.
This event is known as the Meiji Restoration.