The Samurai of Japan: Warriors, Mercenaries, and Loyal Servants - Research Paper Example

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YOUR NAME CLASS The Samurai of Japan: Warriors, Mercenaries, and Loyal Servants The country of Japan, while today a unified and peaceful country with a strong global economy, was not always so. There was once a time when Japan was nothing more than a fractured country of lands existing under a rigid and strict feudal system that placed people into distinct classes based on profession and birthright (Louis and Ito 18)…
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The Samurai of Japan: Warriors, Mercenaries, and Loyal Servants
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Download file to see previous pages The samurai, a warrior of the highest class during the time of the feudal system in Japan, could be either a hired mercenary or a lifelong indentured servant to the daimyo he served (Turnbull 157). Through whatever task he undertook, whether he served one master or many throughout his lifetime, the samurai was expected to live his life with honor, commitment, and courage through an uncompromising code of ethics. It is not known exactly where samurai actually started from in Japanese history. The word itself comes from the now-obsolete verb saburau, which means “to serve” (Bryant and McBride 3). Though historical records are many and varied, it is believed that their forerunners were those who were involved in military exploits into the country of Korea during the seventh century (Turnbull 9). Within the country of Japan through the first seven centuries, power was held by those that took it by force, until in approximately 663 A.D. the first emperor considered to hold divine and godlike status, Emperor Timmu, took the throne (again by force) and began to build the military strength of the country (Lay). A conscripted peasant army was established, and both soldiers and horsemen were trained in sword fighting, crossbows, and catapults (Lay). Along with raising horses on the central plains, warriors were sent to the north of the country to guard the lands from barbarian attacks (Lay). The emperor believed that a strong military led to a stronger country, and from these border guards evolved the class of samurai in Japan. The samurai were by far not the first military power in Japan, but they were the best known. They are considered to be the first military specialists in Japanese history and the first to claim to be “professional warriors” (Ikegami 41). The most often-seen image is of a samurai in battle, either on horseback or on foot, using a sword to cause a great deal of pain to a supposed enemy (Ikegami 42). Possibly the most interesting factor about samurai is that, while they did indeed serve the daimyo unswervingly, they also managed to develop their own class in feudal Japan, a class that gained power as that of the aristocracy actually declined (Ikegami 48). This does not mean that the samurai led any sort of uprising; rather, the two classes existed side by side, with the aristocracy handling the political or more “civilized” political facets of ruling the country, while the samurai tended to military matters (Ikegami 49). In this way, Japan was able to keep peace with those outside of the country, while still warring for power and land within itself. Being a samurai held great prestige and power. Though originally a class in which anyone could aspire to, by the mid-twelfth century the class had become hereditary only, and those not born to samurai culture could attain no hope of ever becoming one (Louis and Ito 22). Samurai were expected to follow a code of moral ethics known as bushido, which outlined how they lived their lives. The code stressed a quiet life when not on the battlefield, embodying the ideals of service and loyalty to a master, self-discipline, and living in a respectful manner (Hanel 10). Samurai ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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