Overview of Who the Samurai Were and What Their Lives Were Like

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Ancient Japan lasted for over 16,000 years and during that time a number of events have changed history and affected the people of today. Over that period of time, some people called the samurai had contributed in changing history. The samurai began in 1185 by the Japanese government in the Heian period. The very first samurai was known as Yasuke, the man was a warrior who reached the rank of the samurai under the rule of Oda Nounaga, who was the powerful 16th century Japanese Feudal lord who was the first of the three unifiers of japan. The samurai were the warriors of pre-modern japan. They later made up the ruling military class that eventually became the highest-ranking social castle of Edo period (1603-1867).

The samurai day would begin something like this. Wake up at 7 am, their hair tied into a topknot, gets dressed and then rolls his bed up and puts it away neatly. At 7:30 am, he will have breakfast with his family, where he would usually eat pickled vegetables. At 8 am he makes his way through the city to the castle. At 9 am, he goes on patrol with other low class samurai to guard the walls of the castle. At 1 pm, after lunch the samurais have fitness training, where they practice with swords with expert teachers. At 3 pm, he will leave the castle to go and visit the local craftsmen. The craftsmen would usually mend the armour and weapons for the samurai. At 4 pm, he would take a bath in a hot spring. At 5 pm now, he will visit the Buddhist temple to pray. At 8 pm, he has dinner with the other samurai, where they usually have rice, soup and fish. At 10 pm, guarding is over, they usually have some rice and wine with his samurai friends. At 11 pm, it is time to go home and he greets his wife and tells her what happened during the day. At 12 pm (midnight), it is bedtime and he meditates before he sleeps.

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The stages to become a samurai were to be born into a samurai family. Secondly, they had to fence with a wooden sword and be able to protect themselves from danger. After that, they could train to become a samurai, which would take years to complete. The training they would undertake would be to meditate because the samurai culture was strongly influenced by Zen Buddhist and Confucian philosophies. They would set aside time in the morning to calm down and forget about things. They would have a high set of values, since the samurai followed Bushido ‘The Way of The Warrior’ the code of conduct that dictated how they lived their lives. They live by honesty, respect, loyalty, compassion and courage, which were some of the most important values. They had to train their bodies, the reason being that the samurai were such a strong force was because of the intense physical training they undertook. They practiced from a young age, learning skills like swordsmanship, but also archery, hand-to-hand combat and grappling. The samurai were also trained in most martial arts. They have to eat a healthy diet, which mainly consists of vegetables and rice with a small amount of fresh seafood. They also have to practice art like calligraphy, poetry, music and painting. They class it as an active form of meditation.

Some of the tactics the samurai used against the enemy were to use their weapons to attack at close, short and long range. The samurai were organised people and had elaborate battle tactics to ensure their success. Before samurai went into battle, they would go through a ritual where they paid tribute to the Japanese Gods. During the battles, the samurai were ruthless as they were well known for both close quarters combat with a katana and long-range fighters with bow and arrows. As armies became larger and tightly organised, they gained the ability to create tactical formations with the pikemen to the fore protecting the main body of the troops. The central region of the formation was served to protect the main commander. The elite troops were always the men on horseback. The samurai were divided up into groups of spearmen, archers and arquebusiers. The other members carried around flags and banners and some were given jobs of carrying the army’s baggage. On the battlefield, they would use fans and symbols to tell all the troops what kind of formation or tactic they were using against the enemy. Sound signals would also be used to send information to the troops, such as blowing on a conch shell and beating on drums or gongs. The samurai army would mostly consists of 100,000 men.

The samurai used a katana, which was a curved, slender, single-bladed longsword, with a circular or squared guard and long grip to accommodate two hands. The samurai wore the katana on their left hip, with the edge facing down. The katana was strong enough to slice through limbs. The samurai could draw the sword and strike the enemy in one single motion. They also used the wakizashi, which is shorter than the katana. The only people that could use this were the daishō, which symbolised their social power and personal honour. It was between 12 and 24 inches long and the wakizashi had a slightly curved blade. It was used as a backup sword or sometimes to commit the ritual suicide (seppuku). The tantō was a single or double-edged knife designed as a stabbing or slashing weapon and most samurai would carry one of these short, sharp daggers. The samurai also used the yumi, which was a Japanese longbow and an important weapon to the samurai during the feudal period of Japan. Traditionally made of laminated bamboo, wood and leather. The yumi was exceptionally tall at over two meters and exceeding the height of the archer. Samurai warrior suits included armour plating, to deflect swords and arrows. A fully armoured samurai would including a helmet, sleeve shields, and lower armour (below the waist). The body armour was made of thick leather with armour plates placed on top and beautifully made with patterns of colours woven into it.

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Overview of Who the Samurai Were and What Their Lives Were Like. (2022, September 01). Edubirdie. Retrieved July 17, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/overview-of-who-the-samurai-were-and-what-their-lives-were-like/
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