The age of the samurai began in 1185 and ended in the year of 1868. The life of a samurai was a life of discipline, honor, and morality. They were allowed to have families and were deeply loyal to their masters. Samurai were also ruthless men who, when it came to protecting their honor, would do anything. During one timeframe of the samurai era, they had absolute power over the people. This essay will explore the relationships and grim life of a samurai and prove why the samurai, though faulted, was an important and defining part of Japan as a country and culture.
The lifestyle of samurai was filled with lifelong training and discipline. Samurai training began at the early and tender age of five. They started learning how to ride horses around this time. Not much later they were given their first weapons to practice with; which were usually wooden swords. They also would, later on, begin wearing traditional samurai clothing that was tailored to their size.
At around 13, they begin their martial art training. Martial arts puts much emphasis on physical fitness, stamina, and one on one combat. Much training was dedicated to making sure the body, spirit, and mind were always ready for a fight. Many times their father or another relative would be their instructor. Samurai studied conflict for much of their training. A samurai’s training taught them to always be on their guard even when he was with their family.
The three main weapon skills taught in training are swordsmanship, archery, and the use of a spear.
The art of sword fighting, or kenjutsu, was a required skill to learn as a samurai. To practice, they used full-sized wooden swords called bokuto before they could use real swords. Students must learn and perfect many complex and specific techniques; sometimes they spent hours repeating basic techniques like drawing their swords. At times they would obtain stab wounds or gashes during practice. The use of a bow and arrow, or jujutsu, was also a crucial asset for the samurai to have. This skill was typically practiced on the back of a horse. Students were expected to remain perfectly still, even while releasing the arrow. They did not just practice on horseback they also practiced on foot. The students would run at top speed while firing arrows. Occasionally they would hunt moving targets, for instance, animals. Learning how to use a spear was also part of training, even though many top-level samurai thought the spear was an unsuitable weapon. Just like the use of a wooden sword for training, they also used weapons formed completely for spear training practice. It was not completely unusual to obtain bruises in spear training.
In the life of a samurai, shame and honor went hand in hand. With the samurai shame meant more than having a concern for one’s social status; it was much deeper and more complex. One time a samurai, named Yoshida Shōin, disobeyed the law of the shogunate. He was trying to board an American ship and discover the secrets that were in the West. He was put in prison for his actions ones. Though many would think he was ashamed, he was not ashamed of his actions. He did not see it as shameful because he was trying to help his country. He thought that samurai should follow their morals, rather than obey the law. It is more shameful to know of a problem and do nothing about it. Samurai lived in a culture of honor and that was a huge part of their lives. Their culture of honor always had a regard for decisive actions. Samurai always had to defend their honor no matter if it was a time of war or peace. The honor was the possession of each samurai individually. Samurai would always answer a call to a challenge of their honor, for fear of a being a coward; which was the most shameful reputation. At the core of every samurai’s identity is an honor. While looking upon blood and death with disgust, it was a samurai’s honor to fight on the battlefield. To protect their honor they would commit suicide, or seppuku, if they thought they were losing; this prevented them from getting captured.
Samurai could only marry other samurai, or sometimes those of nobility. So, women were also samurai. Japanese women likely became samurai leads them a result of a nobility marriage to a Samurai warrior. The samurai women’s main role was to protect their castles or homes when the samurai husband was away in battle, as well as handle administrative duties. Just like in other cultures a samurai’s status was hereditary; this meant that sons of samurai would also become samurai. The fathers usually were the ones tasked with training their sons. Samurai also had other relationships. One of the most important ones is their relationship with their masters of nobility or daimyo. This entire relationship is built on trust and loyalty that was not one-sided. The job of the samurai was to expand and protect their master’s property. If they did their job properly they would be rewarded with many gifts.
The samurai wasforwere one of the main sources of protection of Japan. They protected Japan from being captured or conquered because of their elite skill. They also laid the foundation for modern-day Japanese culture. The samurai paved the lifestyle for all modern-day Japanese; without the samurai, Japan would not have the same views or beliefs about life. The samurai code known as bushido was eventually made the basic code of Japanese society. During the Ashikaga Shogunate, the shoguns became less and less effective; many samurai stepped in to help maintain law and order. Under the Tokugawa Shogunate, the samurai maintained order through more polite terms rather than by military force. They had to learn civil mannerisms along with their arms training. The Bushido also shed much light on kindness, frugality, and care for the family. Many times samurai were known to spare their enemy even if they had every chance to kill him. Samurai were very loyal to their masters. They always did what was expected of them even if it had to be done by force. Samurai were always ready to die for and protect their country, masters, and family.
During the Tokugawa Shogunate, samurai had almost absolute power over the military, economy, and social and political life of Japanese society. They could have abused their power over Japan. Like Shōin said samurai should and do follow their moral code rather than obey the law. This era was considered to be a time of peace, but what it meant was there was no war at the time. Peace was kept because of extreme military dominance and strict laws that were enforced to keep the order. Commoners were afraid of the samurai and their power. Samurai were known to be ruthless people. In the fifteenth and sixteenth century sons were known to kill their fathers, and vice versa, for their gain. Sometimes they would kill commoners because they failed to bow deeply. They were even known to switch sides in a battle if they were losing. Samurai also were known to have acts of deceit, treachery, and cowardice; which were supposed to be very shameful to the samurai, who are all about protecting their honor. Just like others, samurai were easily influenced by their companions.
Samurai were the fierce and loyal protectors of Japan. They cared for their families, countries, and masters. With their samurai code, they helped shape the Japan of today. They helped define Japan. Without the samurai, Japan would not be the same and it might not have become the culture and country we see as Japan today. Samurai had many faults and made grave mistakes, but they were never going to be able to live up to the ideal standards of the Bushido as they were only humans, who were easily influenced by others. They may have done horrible acts because they were told to by their masters; samurai were always told to be severely loyal to their masters. Though many were, not all samurai were bad as many had spared the lives of their captives instead of torturing and then killing them as other samurai did. Everyone has their faults even the samurai, but they were still an important and defining part of Japan.
Samurai are elite warriors that protected Japan and loyally served their masters. The life of a samurai was made up of discipline and rigorous training; though surprising they left a defining and lasting impression on Japan. Many times the strength of the samurai helped to keep Japan free of war. Samurai affected the way people in Japan view things in life. The Bushido, the code of the samurai, was made the official moral code of Japan. The samurai’s code consisted of three religions Confucianism, Buddhism, and Shintoism. Shintoism eventually became the national religion of Japan. After World War II, Japan had a newfound sense of honor, discipline, and devotion to the country and emperor. This leads them on the path to becoming one of the greatest industrial and economic countries.