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Samurai: The Feudal Warriors of Japan

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The samurai were the feudal warriors of ancient Japan. For thousands of years they upheld the code of bushido, the way of the warrior. Samurai were around for thousands of years, but when did they disappear? Does the code of bushido still exist to this day? Exploring the history of the samurai will give an explanation to what has happened to these formidable warriors.

The samurai, or bushi (warrior), are well-trained cavalrymen that serve a particular lord. The first recorded history of the samurai was about the 9th century A.D. At that time the capitol of Japan was Kamakura, a military installation. Japan was ruled by an emperor who controlled his empire through the use of shoguns. Shoguns were generals that ruled over provinces and enforced the emperor's laws. The shoguns used soldiers that swore undying loyalty to them as means for an army. The elite soldiers are called samurai.

A samurai practices budo (the Way of combat), ken-jutsu (the warrior art of the sword), and kendo (the Way of the sword). A samurai could only come from a wealthy family. The amount to raise the child and give him proper training and equipment was quite expensive. After the bushi had reached a certain age, he was released from training and sent to a lord or shogun. Samurai are intensely loyal and would sacrifice their life for the lord. If their lord died they would commit seppuku (hara-kiri is the vulgar term in the West). Seppuku is the ritual act of suicide performed by cutting the abdomen. Another samurai stands next to the one committing seppuku with his sword drawn. This is in case the man committing suicide makes any sound. If the man cries out the other lopes off his head in order to preserve the deceased's honor...

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...gun the samurai became obsolete. Peasants soon replaced the samurai in the Daimyo's armies. The samurai became a ceremonial soldier not to be used in battles. With the departure of the samurai the code of bushido soon vanished. The last true samurai died in 1845. With his death the last vestiges of ancient Japan died. The samurai only lives on through stories and legends.

Bibliography

Shigotoki, Hojo. Ideals of the Samurai. (1198-1261), (pg. 40, 43)

Origins of the Samurai. www.rain.org/-ssa/samuria.htm

Sugimoto, Yoshio. An Introduction to Japanese Society. New York: Cambridge, 1997.

Perez, Loius G. The History of Japan. Connecticut: Westport, 1998.

Beasley, W. G. The Japanese experience: a short history of Japan. Los Angeles: Berkeley, 1999.

Turnbull, Stephen. Samurai Warrior. New York: Blandford Press, 1987.