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Samurais and Their Tradition

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Samurais and Their Tradition

There are not many countries with a strong warrior tradition that is as long and exciting as Japan. This tradition is found in the samurai, the loyal and self-sacrificing knight of ancient Japan. The Samurai is a brave warrior who can both appreciate the beauty of nature, but will also kill or die for his master in an instant. Samurais were the ruling class of Japan for almost seven hundred years. They fought for the control of their country and to keep Japan away from outside influences. During the 12th century wars between the Taira and Minamoto clans this aristocratic warrior class came about. Samurai were to wear two swords, and at one time had the ability to cut down any common citizen who offended them. They managed martial virtues, indifference to pain or death, and unfailing loyalty to their overlords. In Japan samurai were the dominant group.

In the beginning samurai were men who guarded the capital for the Emperor, some were used as tax collectors. Later the word grew to include any military man who served a powerful landlord, almost like a police force for that time. Samurai would go around the countryside on horseback collecting taxes from peasants. These taxes were often in the form of rice. These taxes collected helped the Emperor pay for his rich life style. The word, samurai, quickly spread and was respected for the men it represented.

The noblemen depended on the strength of the samurai. Their power and wealth was directly depended on how much land they owned. This is why noblemen kept small armies of samurai to protect their property from thieves and invaders. Eventually many noble families joined together to form clans that became more powerful than the emperor, who was the traditional head of the Japanese government. In the 12th century the two most powerful clans were the Minomoto and the Taira. The two came to battle in 1160 with the Taira winning. Twenty years later in 1180 the children who had escaped death during the first attack known as the Minamotos led a new attack that turned into a war that lasted five years and was called the Gempei War. The Minamotos won, and the emperor made Minamoto Yoritomo shogun, the head of the military. Yoritomo wanted more power and took it away from the emperor and made himself dictator. During this period the samurai gained power, through the land given to them by the new shogun. The samurai began to rise in status.

The battles that were fought during The Gempei War were very important in the history of the samurai. They set a new and honorable standard for all samurai to live by. These standards lasted throughout the existence of the samurai warrior. The Gempei War provided a model for Japanese samurai's courageous and noble behavior. Almost all the important characteristics connected with the samurai culture came out of the Gempei war. This included archery, hand-to-hand fighting, loyalty to one's lord and the tradition of ritual suicide. These characteristics all have passages and proof texts in the tales of the Gempi War.

The samurai had an unwritten code of honor called the bushido. Bushido means "way of the warrior." This code helped to show them how to live and conduct themselves at home and in battle. One of the most important duties of the samurai was their loyalty to their lord. The samurai would defend their lord until the death. Revenge was also central in the samurai's life and if someone had killed their master or attacked their master's honor then revenge must be gotten. The same vengeance was given if they themselves or their family were disrespected or defeated.

Not just anyone could become a samurai warrior. You had to be the child of a samurai, being born into this class was a privilege. The samurai were not all rich, in fact their wealth was judged on the amount of rice that the fields produced (koku). As a young samurai there were strict traditions to be followed. When a samurai was born, he would be given a small sword charm to wear on his belt. When the boy would turn five he would get his first haircut and begin



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