The Samurai: Warrior and Ruler of Ancient Japan Few countries have a warrior tradition as long and exciting as Japan. It is a tradition found in the Samurai, the loyal and self-sacrificing knight of ancient Japan. The Samurai is a valiant warrior who can both appreciate the beauty of nature in that of a rose blossom but will also kill or die for his master in an instant. This well-rounded warrior was the ruling class of Japan for almost seven hundred years. He fought for control of his country and to keep Japan free from outside influences.
Bushido became firmly established during the reign of the Tokugawa Shogunate and it was during this time that seppuku became the most honorable sentence of death to those who had violated Tokugawa law. However, seppuku was not only practiced as a death sentence but also as a way to demonstrate intense loyalty. Therefore, for the Japanese warrior, seppuku became the keynote of discipline in way of the warrior.
The samurai and the daimyo were a part of the warrior class along with the shogun (Military leader who ruled japan). The Warrior Code If you were a samurai you would have to follow the warrior code of bushido. A samurai would have to be loyal to his daimyo lord and fight to the death in honour of his family and daimyo. He would have to follow the the eight virtues of Bushido which tells the samurai how they should act in their professional and personal lives. Rectitude or Justice Courage Benevolence or Mercy Politeness Honesty and Sincerity Honour Loyalty Character and Self-Control Samurai vs Ninja The Samurai is often confused with the ninja but they are not the same thing.
In the play Chushingura, retainers have the highest respect for their masters. Retainers in this play will fight to the death to honor their masters. Loyalty is expected of each retainer even if the samurai must disturb public order to honor their master’s name. Enya’s retainers stay loyal to him even after his death. Forty-seven men swore to revenge their master’s death, risking their lives and disturbing public order.
Heroes in epics typically exemplify the values of a particular culture, and the eponymous protagonist of Beowulf is no different. Because Beowulf represents the ideal Anglo-Saxon warrior and king, readers can infer that his personality traits are those that were held in high esteem by members of Anglo-Saxon society. As depicted in Seamus Haney’s translation of Beowulf, Beowulf’s strength, loyalty, and acceptance of fate are traits that were admired by his society. The time of the Anglo-Saxons was rife with tribal warfare. This meant that men were expected to be strong fighters capable of protecting and avenging their people.
Bushido was one of their beliefs and it was the conduct of the Samurai. Their main saying was "freedom from fear." A Samurai was expected to overcome his fear of death. This gave him the peace and power to serve his master faithfully and loyally and to die if necessary. Duty was his primary obligation.
These warriors fought for their leader and tribe in return for treasure and protection. This relationship between the lord and his men was the basis of the Anglo-Saxon society. The epic poem "Beowulf" is a perfect example of how this system worked in these trying times. The warrior in the Anglo-Saxon civilization had many duties to fulfill. He was obligated to respect and protect his lord as well as defend his lord's honor.
One of the most fundamental philosophies of the samurai is that of detachment from the self. This detachment allows for a freedom from fear, which is essential to the samurai warriors. In the opening of Hagakure, Tsunetomo states that “the Way of the Samurai is found in death”. These rank among the greatest and most well known phrases in Japanese history, and in fact in the history of the world. Death is not to be feared by the samurai, it is to be embraced.
Japan’s culture reflected how the country waged war. The Japanese did everything and anything in order to win, but most importantly, they fought not to be seen as disgrace. The most horrible experience for a Japanese soldier was to come home from a battle after surrendering. For Japan, losing a war was respectable if and only if the soldiers, warriors, fought until they were incapable of fighting any longer. Bushido, the samurai tradition, was the standard for life in Japan, and it was also a standard in war.
The Sacred Samurai Sword The balance that defined the samurai's way of life found its focus in his sword. It was both a work of art and a weapon of death. The sword was the soul of the samurai, deemed sacred as the symbol of the warrior. He ate with it, slept with it; he would never be without it. The sword was so precious to him that if he had to leave it somewhere he had a secondary sword to go inside people's homes.