Individualism In Samurai Culture And History

1114 words - 4 pages

The principle of individualism was essential to the shaping of the samurai history and culture. The beliefs of self reliance and personal dependence were evident throughout samurai life. Ikegami discusses how the process of the formation of Japan and self identity of the people have been intimately connected (Ikegami 43). Not only did this sense of individualism affect samurai identity but Japan as a whole. The samurai class sought to be part of their own warrior class, or even a part of the upper class, anything but the commoner class. The samurai had individualistic attitudes in every aspect of their lives and it was an obvious characteristic of these warriors. Individualism in samurai life was evident through culture, societal structure and through the military by means of seeking honor, occasionally leading to the corrupt methods during the gaining of power.
The sense of necessary honor was very unique to the samurai society. It enabled samurai to develop a culture derived from their individualistic ways. The samurai initiated many new aspects of popular Japanese culture. In their drive to fulfill their independent fight for honor and status samurai began to take part in high status activities. Being a part of a warrior class gave samurai warriors a distinct character of ruthless killers, but during the Muromachi period in Japan, culture among the samurai flourished. It became common to see samurai enjoying no theatre, developing gardens, and taking part in the flourishing tea ceremony (Keene 164). This became important to the samurai because they were desperate to have a sense of honor and power. These activities were enjoyed by the samurai who had enough time and money to spare. This showed status and power to the individual samurai to able to partake in this form of recreation.
Separate from the culture of Japan the societal structure allowed samurai the the ability to acquire independence and power on their own. Each samurai house was an independent organization, allied and united with other houses, all loyal to the Shogun as vassals but had many subordinates of their own (Ikegami 82). These independent houses allowed the samurai to practice their qualities of absolute loyalty. This socioeconomic independence in the system of vassalage created a basic sentiment of samurai culture, embracing the individualistic pursuit of a reputation of strength and power (Ikegami 83). Because of this framework of society individualism emerged as a vital characteristic of the samurai life.
The characteristics of samurai military showed an intense sense of individualism. Throughout samurai history, samurai battled for their spot in Japan’s social hierarchy. Samurai desired to be admired as warriors and not thought down upon. Through the use of a fierce pride in the military identity, the Kamakura samurai attempted to overcome their feelings of cultural inferiority (Ikegami 80). Moreover samurai felt that in order to be independent they...

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