Are you studying about Japan and Japanese culture because you already staying in Japan now, or possibly for a trip you are planning? Are you maybe gathering information for a class in school, or possibly even just because you love Japan and its culture so much that you just have to know as much as possible about The Land of the Rising Sun? Regardless of the reasons for your interest in this wonderful country, you are likely already familiar with and at least a little curious about a certain aspect of Japanese culture known as the Samurai.
Samurai In Popular Culture
Samurai are a popular Japanese icon in both Western movies and Japanese media also. While the Ninja are occasionally more popular, depending on the Hollywood movie that is most recently popular, Samurai still maintain strong popularity among boys and enthusiasts regardless of how the winds of media may be blowing.
Over the last decade or so, Tom Cruise did his part to revive the interest in Samurai and it is likely a rather short time before yet another Samurai movie appears on screens around the world. You may be surprised to find that many of the ideas for the famous Jedi and other such characters and aspects of the popular Star Wars movies were also actually inspired by Samurai.
There are likely many more Samurai movies than you have ever realized, and you may have recently watched one without even noticing its connection to its inspirational origin.
Who Were The Samurai?
So who and what were the Samurai? The Samurai were essentially the warrior class nobility of pre-industrial Japan and were originally incepted to act as protectors of the monetarily wealthy.
The wealthy may have either been of an imperial lineage or sometimes a gathering of farmers and land owners wishing to protect themselves from corrupt government officials looking to overtax and occasionally even take their land. Samurai eventually formed their own clans through alliances with other Samurai and so began to have political control in various areas of Japan.
This eventually led to conflicts between clans and also led to an overthrow of the imperial government by Samurai clans.
Bushido – The Way Of The Warrior
The Samurai traditionally followed a guideline of conduct known today as “Bushido” (The Way of the Warrior). It is unclear if it was truly a written set of rules for most of the history of the Samurai, as it was likely an unspoken understanding inherent in Samurai society.
This noble code stressed frugality, loyalty, martial arts mastery, and honor unto death. Evidence of this strong self-discipline is obvious upon an understanding of “Seppuku” which is the Japanese word for the Samurai style of self-immolation. It involved a person cutting themselves in the stomach, and is reportedly so painful that Samurai sometimes asked a loyal friend to sever their head from their body to more quickly end the experience!
The Samurai class was eventually disallowed from continuing as they had for hundreds of years. The class itself was absorbed into other areas of the military, aristocracy, and other areas of society so no need to worry about any during your stay in Japan.