The Samurai are members of a mighty military caste in Japan that started as provincial warriors before they rose to power in the 12th century. Their success marked the country’s first military dictatorship government. The Samurai were servants of the great lords known as the daimyos. They dominated Japanese society until the Meiji restoration of 1868 fronted the abolition of the feudal system.
Development and Status of the Samurai
The conscription government system in Japan came to an end in 792 CE. The Heian period followed shortly after that. The two most influential clans of the time were Taira and Minamoto. They challenged the Japanese central government and fought against each other to control Japan.
Private armies were formed to guard the interests of the nobles, who spent a lot of time at the imperial court. This marked the development of the Samurai, which meant ‘attendant.’ Therefore, the origin of their name had more to do with their class than their military profession. Although there were other classes of warriors, Samurai were the only ones that served the imperial court. They lived in castles, and they were the only ones who were allowed to carry swords. In return, the Samurai were paid with rice by the feudal lords.
The Culture of the Samurai
Their lifestyle was centered on the concept of Bushido, which referred to the way of the warrior. Its central tenets were honor and freedom from fear of death. A Samurai warrior was allowed to cut down anyone who didn’t honor him or her. A warrior with Bushido spirit was expected to fight without fear and never to surrender.
Samurai Armor and Equipment
The Samurai armor featured five elements: wood, fire, water, metal, and earth. The color of laces, the helmet type, and the bamboo banner pole should have been in unison with the ‘cycle of creation.’ The color that represented water shouldn’t have been matched with that which represents fire.
The Samurai believed that anyone who matched the elements correctly would attract the power of the fundamental building blocks of the universe and attract divine supremacy in war.
The End of the Samurai Class
During these 250 years, Japan was peaceful, which led to the decline of martial art skills and reduced the need for Samurai warriors.
Eventually, they became teachers and artists. The feudal era ended in 1868, and the Samurai class was abolished shortly after that. Although they are no longer needed, the Samurai culture remains an ideal example of courage and how to achieve order amidst the chaos.