Japanese, the word Samurai refers to a both a member of the
warrior class, and the entire class as a whole.
Samurai warriors first came to be in the 12th
century, during the bitter battles between two very powerful
Japanese clans: Taira
and Minamato. At
that time, the military system of rule that was in power was
the shogunate, also known as shogun.
Shogun’s convention stated that the next up in the
hierarchy were the daimyo, who were local rulers, like dukes
and seigneurs in Europe. The duties of the samurai were to
act as military retainers for these daimyo.
This was true except for the ronin.
Ronin are samurai without a master.
Ronin occurred for the first time in the famous story
of Chushingura, when the lord of the 47 ronin was forced to
were famous for their unique ethic code of behavior, called
the bushido. Bushido literally means “the way of the warrior,” and its
heart referred to the absolute loyalty the samurai had for
their lord, the daimyo.
battles between hostile clans were very fierce, and were
usually based on a disagreement over land.
Good land was very valuable in Japan, as only 20% of
the rugged and mountainous terrain was conducive to
a samurai, a man was allowed certain very specific and
special privileges. These
privileges included wearing two swords - a long sword and a
short sword. This
was considered a privilege, as commoners were not allowed to
wear weapons. It
even came to the point when a samurai’s privileges allowed
him to behead a commoner if he felt offended by them.
the social status as samurai, there were different ranks
that held different privileges.
By the 12th century, a system was
established with 3 primary ranks of Samurai.
These ranks were:
- housemen, whose duties were the same as administrators
Samurai - the highest rank of samurai, who were allowed
to fight while on horseback.
the end of the 15th century, the shogunate lost
power and the most influential feudal lords devastated Japan
in a string of civil wars that continued for almost 100
Hideyoshi was the man to finally unify Japan, and with this
unification, he introduced many societal reforms, which
drastically impacted the life of the samurai.
Primarily, the samurai were to live permanently in
that point, they had been farmers of their own land during
times of peace - now they were expected to be professionals.
Of course, this system required financing, so he
introduced a taxation system for rice, which every samurai
warrior had to pay, depending on his samurai rank.
the height of the samurai period, it is estimated that 8% of
the overall population of Japan belonged to the samurai
class. When they were finally abolished, the samurai did not know how
to survive; many became businessmen, though frequently it
meant that the samurai's wives had to sell their services at
brothels in order to support the family.
Though samurai do not have status in an official
sense in Japan today, the descendants of the samurai still
receive high esteem from other members of the Japanese