The samurai were the feudal warriors of ancient Japan. For thousands of years they have upheld the code of bushido, the way of the warrior. Samurai have been 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. Above all, the Japanese warriors valued honor.
Loyalties to the lord were the most important aspects of honor. The young warriors were taught to sacrifice everything for the emperor or lord. In Japan, the emperor represented the laws and the state and was considered divine. Loyalty was an ethical demand stemming from this political theory. A samurai was obligated to appeal to the wisdom of his lord by committing seppuku.
The entire Japanese culture is based on honor. Honor extends to the nation, the family, and the individual. The samurai are no exception to a code of honor. The samurai follow the code of bushido. Bushido is closer to the western term of chivalry. Bushido places emphasis on courage, benevolence, justice, politeness, truthfulness, honor, loyalty, and most importantly is self-control. The samurai’s primary religion is Zen. The samurai adapted Zen easily due to the philosophy that fits closely to Buddhism. Samurai may act in the extreme when it comes to honor. They will kill anyone who may dishonor them or their lord. Nothing is worse to a samurai than to have corrupt dealings. Some of the warriors believed,
“Honor is the power of deciding upon certain course of conduct in accordance with reason, without wavering … to die when it is right to die, to strike when to strike is right.” Other warriors believed that “Honor is the bone that gives firmness and stature. As without bones the head cannot rest on top of the spine, nor hands move, nor feet stand, so without honor neither talent nor learning can make of a human frame a “Samurai”. With it the lack of accomplishments is as nothing.”The samurai placed honor above all else.
A samurai went through years of extensive training both in body and in mind. The young warriors were continuously drilled and indoctrinated in courage. When the warriors are young they are led to horrible places such as execution grounds, graveyards, and haunted houses. This system of training is what gives samurai their courage. The young bushi were trained extensively in the mind as well. The bushi are taught that benevolence is a feminine trait. Benevolence included the traits love, affection for others, sympathy and nobility of feelings. The instructors emphasized counter-balancing rectitude and stern justice.It was taught that politeness is a poor virtue if a person does it for fear of offending someone’s good taste. Simple acts such a