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Samurai (bushido) were fearless warriors of ancient Japan who primarily fought against evil, but also against other samurai. Between 1603 and 1867, they became the ruling military class, as well as Japan's largest social class. With a katana in hand, guided by a strict code known as the Bushido ("warrior's path"), the samurai were an incredibly disciplined army, the fear and trembling of all the enemies of Japan, a horde of ancient warriors who did not fear death, warriors who always put honor before their lives. .
Here are some of the fascinating facts about samurai:
5. Samurai were not just warriors
Samurai have served many functions in Japan, however, their most famous role is that of a warrior. But what set them apart from other warriors around the world was not just a different armor and sword. They were an educated, politically active elite class.
Although their role in Japan has changed over the centuries, the four items that define the term samurai have remained constant: 1. A samurai is a well-trained, extremely skilled fighter; 2. A samurai serves his Daimyo or master, with absolute loyalty, even to death (the word samurai itself means “those who serve”); 3. The samurai is a member of the elite class, considered superior to ordinary citizens and ordinary warriors; 4. The life of the samurai is ruled by Bushido, a strict code of conduct and philosophy of life headed by honor.
War was an integral part of the samurai’s life, but they were also poets, politicians, fathers, and farmers. They have played a key role in the last 1,500 years of Japanese history. In fact, the history of that period in Japan is actually the history of the samurai.
4. For samurai, homosexuality was not a taboo topic, on the contrary ...
Samurai were not exclusively homosexuals, but it is a well-known fact that some of them had open same-sex relationships that were quite normal and common at the time. Not only was homosexuality not a taboo subject for samurai, they even encouraged such relationships - because they believed that love relationships would strengthen the soldiers themselves who would get more motivation to win.
This practice was known as wakashudo ("path of youth"), and applied to samurai of all ages. According to historical records, no one would ask Daimy, the “master,” why he entered into a homosexual relationship with a younger warrior, but they would therefore ask him why he did not. In fact, wakashudo was such a common thing, that Daimyoi could face very embarrassing questions if he did not practice it.
Although wakashudo is considered a fundamental aspect of samurai life, history has largely ignored this lifestyle, and popular books and movies almost never mention it.
3. Samurai did not use only katanas
The samurai's original weapon was a sword called the "chokuto," which was a thinner, smaller version of the flat swords later used by medieval knights. As sword-making techniques advanced, samurai began to use curved swords, which eventually became katanas - the most legendary of all samurai weapons. According to the code of conduct, the soul of the samurai was in his katana.
But these warriors did not rely on just one sword. They were experts in various types of weapons, such as Yumi - longbow, Yari and Naginata - types of spears, bō, jō, hanbo and tanbo - types of weapons made of wood, several types of iron and wooden sticks, as well as a handful of weapons made of chains. Later, the samurai added a new arsenal: the tanegashima, a type of rifle that began to be used in 1543, and the cannons that became an integral part of the samurai army in the 1570s.
2. Samurai were educated
Samurai were far more than a skilled warrior with a sword in his hand. They were also educated, both in public school and at home. At a time when very few Europeans could read and write, the level of literacy of the samurai was extremely high. In addition, they were skilled mathematicians.
During the Tokugawa period, in peacetime, samurai were not much needed as warriors - they dominated their academic skills during that period.
Bushido, an unwritten code of conduct required samurai to be above the ordinary warrior. Precisely because of this, these fearless fighters from all grades wrote poetry, landscaped beautiful gardens, and studied subjects such as calligraphy, literature, and mathematics.
1. Samurai were not just men
At a time when women around the world were mostly helplessly waiting for their sons and husbands to decide the outcome of the war, a completely different story was happening in Japan. Women in Japan had strong political power, and they were not just pawns in the game of making alliances through marriage. But politics was not their only strength, they were also fearless warriors, known as Onna-bugeisha, these women fought side by side with their fathers, husbands and sons.
The Onna-bugeisha belonged to the samurai class, and the same Bushido (code of conduct) applied to them as to men. The only difference between male and female warriors was the weapon of choice: While men always went to war with their legendary katanas, women mostly fought with a slanted, spear with a rounded sword on top.