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  • The Samurai

  • In the Heian period, the imperial court relied on agriculture, produced in distant estates.

  • The wealthy landowners of these estates hired warriors to defend themselves from raids by local chieftains.

  • By the 12th century, political power had shifted significantly away from the Emperor.

  • The Genpei War of 1180 to 1185, pitted the Taira clan with sworn loyalty to the emperor,

  • against the Minamoto clan.

  • And the Minamoto's victory established the Kamakura Shogunate, a hereditarian military dictatorship.

  • The samurai warrior trained by serving under his master,

  • and following a strict code called Bushido,

  • the way of the warrior.

  • In battle, the warrior would decapitate his defeated enemy and mount the head on a spike.

  • For a samurai who was facing defeat or dishonor,

  • Seppuku or Harakiri was performed.

  • This involved the warrior committing suicide by cutting his belly with a dagger.

  • As part of Bushido,

  • samurai who had lost their master were also expected to commit Harakiri.

  • Those who did not Ronin or difters,

  • often there was a stigma attached to being masterless Ronin,

  • and many found other ways to make a living with their swords,

  • becoming mercenaries or turning to crime.

  • Samurais were experts in fighting both on horseback and on the ground

  • They used a variety of weapons:

  • bows & arrows, spears and eventually guns.

  • However, their main and most symbolic weapon was the sword.

  • In the late 13th century,

  • Masamune Okazaki invented the unique dual of soft and hard steel,

  • that is one of the key characteristics of the katana

  • The sword came to have great significance

  • and eventually samurai would carry two types:

  • the katana, a long sword

  • and the wakizashi, a short sword.

  • In the 15th century, the Shogun's power was waning,

  • and a century long period of fighting for dominance,

  • between (the daimyōs) local lords began,

  • Warring States period.

  • Oda Nobunaga succeeded in uniting half of the clans in the late 16th century.

  • But he was betrayed by one of his vessels

  • and committed Seppuku

  • before the national unification was completed.

  • Stability was finally brought in the 17th century,

  • with the beginning of the Tokugawa Shogunate

  • headed by Tokugawa Ieyasu.

  • At this point, the social order was also frozen with the samurai at the top of the social hierarchy.

  • However, despite their high social position,

  • the material well-being of many samurai began to decline.

  • With relatively stable peace,

  • the importance of martial skills declined.

  • And many samurai took on careers as bureaucrats or teachers.

The Samurai

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B2 US samurai century warrior sword ronin katana

The Samurai

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    Shinichiro posted on 2019/11/07
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