, 27. March 2016
Brave and Virtuous Warrior or Icy Warmongers?

Samurai - the Warriors of the East

It is said about Japanese samurai that their code of honor was on self-sacrifice, absolute loyalty, bravery, high weapon mastery and constant combat readiness. They usually fought cruel but they were fair and protective towards the weak. However, all these glorious stories, are they true? Alternatively, did life of Samurais happened a little bit different?

x-working Today the samurai Kusunoki Masashige is celebrated as a national hero. He lived until the early 14th century.
Today the samurai Kusunoki Masashige is celebrated as a national hero. He lived until the early 14th century.

Let's go back in history. In the seventh century, the Tenno, an emperor, reigned in Japan. He educated men from the lower nobility in military disciplines to serve him and to defend his honor. Hence comes the word "samurai", derived from the word “to serve”. The task of the samurai was to enforce the power of the emperor even in remote provinces. For this purpose, the court nobility left the samurai so-called vassals, meaning landholdings protected and managed by the samurai. After several centuries of successful power expansion in the provinces, a new form of government - the shogunate – was proclaimed in the late 12th century. The shogun as commander stands at the head of all samurai. The emperor was now only given a symbolic character. It began a period of turmoil and civil wars. Fanned by the lust for power, fame and property the warrior princes fought against each other.

In the 16th century, the first time Portuguese missionaries arrived in Japan. They were shocked by the violence and brutality that the Samurai fought out among themselves. Only the shogun "Oda Nobunaga" brought peace to Japan. This time then lasted 250 years. In peacetime, however, the samurai lost their core competence - waging war - and so they turned to other tasks, such as administration or teaching. The social prestige of the samurai faded gradually, many impoverished. In the 1870s, the samurai status was officially abolished and Japan opened to the west.

This is the true story of the samurai. Nowadays they are often stereotypically represented as loyal elite swordsmen. This idea is especially due to the publishing of the book: "Bushido - Way of the Warrior" in 1900. The book refers to the values ​​of the samurai and concludes that the hitherto relatively unknown Japan was economically very successful. The only drawback: At that time, the samurai already did not exist any longer since more than 30 years! Today the samurai have become a pop-cultural character. In daily life of the Japanese, they do not play a role.

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