Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles ("What is most important to the heart of a warrior? To desire with one's very soul every second of every day to accomplish one's aim." - Yamamoto Tsunetomo, "Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai") It's just after sunrise, and 16-year-old Mori Banshirô is already hard at work, practicing drills with his long sword. Banshirô is an ambitious samurai in training, and today, he must impress his teachers more than ever. Today, he'll make his request to travel to the capital city of Edo for a year of martial and scholarly studies, and he needs their support, along with his father's. The year is 1800, in the castle town of Kôchi, capital of the Tosa domain in Japan. The daimyo rules the domain, and about 1,500 samurai retainers serve him. For 200 years, Japan has been at peace, and the samurai, once primarily warriors, now play a much wider range of roles. They are also government officials, scholars, teachers, and even masters of the tea ceremony or artists. To prepare for these diverse responsibilities, young samurai like Banshirô study the "twin paths" of literary learning and the martial arts. At 15, he went through the rites of adulthood and received the daishô, a pair of swords. The long sword is for training and combat, while the short sword has a sole, solemn purpose⏤ to commit ritual suicide, or seppuku, if he dishonors himself, his family, or the daimyo. Banshirô idolizes the legendary samurai Miyamoto Musashi, a renowned swordsman who lived 150 years earlier. But Banshirô doesn't admire his swordsmanship alone. Miyamoto Musashi was also a master calligrapher and painter. That's the real reason Banshirô wants to go to Edo⏤he secretly wants to be a painter, too. After finishing his practice at home, he bids his father goodbye and walks to school. His father is preparing to accompany the daimyo to the capital. The Tokugawa shogun, head of the Japanese military government, requires all the regional rulers to alternate years between their castle town in the home domain and the capital city. The costly treks back and forth keep the daimyo subordinate and prevent them from building up their own military forces to challenge the shogunate. The daimyo's wife and children live in the capital full-time, where they serve as hostages to ensure his loyalty. But the practice doesn't just affect the daimyo⏤it determines much of the rhythm of life in Japan. Samurai must accompany the daimyo to Edo. This year, it's Banshirô's father's turn to go, and Banshirô is desperate to go with him. But given that he's still in training, he'll need permission from both his father and the domain. At school, Banshirô's first lesson is in swordfighting. Under his teacher's stern eye, he pairs up with his classmates and goes through the routines he's been practicing. At the end of the lesson, he reminds the instructor of his request to go to Edo. The instructor cracks his first smile of the day, and Banshirô feels confident he will gain his support. Next, Banshirô practices archery, horsemanship, and swimming before his academic courses in the afternoon. Courses cover Confucian philosophy, morality, and history. When the instructor calls on him, he has the response on the tip of his tongue, ensuring another supporter for his campaign. By the end of the day, Banshirô feels confident that his formal request will be approved, but the greatest challenge is still ahead of him. Convincing his father. His father believes the martial arts are more important than the literary arts, so Banshirô doesn't mention his artistic ambitions. Instead, he talks about renowned sword instructors he can train with and teaching certifications he can earn to improve his professional prospects back in Kôchi. Then, he makes his final, strongest argument. If he goes this time and succeeds, his father can retire and send him instead in the future. It's his last point that finally sells him⏤Banshirô's father agrees to take him on his tour of duty. In the bustle of the capital city, Banshirô will finally have the opportunity to pursue his secret ambition to become a painter. Travel 150 years further back in time and join forces with another group of elite and formidable warriors, the Cossacks. Or, expand your knowledge of Japanese culture with this video on Kabuki dance drama.