Throughout History, there have been many different groups or events that are still widely known today. Groups of people such as the Indians or Vikings are popular groups which are referenced constantly in today’s society. However, none of these groups is more known or referenced than the Japanese Samurai. Originating in 646 AD, these Japanese warriors developed from a loose organization of farmers to the dominant social class in Feudal Japan. Along with their dominant military and political standing, the samurai brought with them a unique code or moral belief that became the core of Samurai culture. Because of this, the Samurai and their principles still affect modern day Japanese society with social customs today deriving directly and indirectly from the beliefs of the Samurai.
History of the Samurai
When discussing the origin of the Samurai, an important time in history for their beginning can be seen in the formation of a Feudal System in early Japan. In 646 AD, Emperor Tenji enacted the Taika Reform. This reform allowed the aristocracy to adopt Chinese-Style political structures, bureaucracy, and culture (Farris). Basically, this allowed land to be redistributed among the people and while new taxes were formed. This was because more income was needed to support the newly adopted Chinese style empire. Due to these reforms, many peasants had to sell their land and work as farmers for other people while people who actually owned land were able to gain wealth and power. This resulted in the formation of a feudal system. This system was similar to that of medieval Europe and contributed to the rise of the Samurai social class.
Because of the newly divided land among Japan, feudal lords hired warriors to guard their property. The warriors were known as “Bushi” and can be considered the first early Samurai. By the 900’s, the Japanese government began losing control over rural areas due to its weak ruler and the samurai warrior class stepped in to take control. This was due to a civil war called the “Hogen Rebellion” in 1156. This rebellion was due to conflicts regarding Imperial Japanese succession and unexpectedly laid the groundwork for the samurai clans to gain dominance. With both “would-be emperors” losing the Hogen Rebellion, the imperial government of Japan lost all of its remaining power. This led to the Heiji Rebellion in 1160 which was fought between two samurai clans, the Minamoto and Taira. With the victory of the Taira clan, the first samurai-led government (Shogunate) was formed. This type of government was controlled by the samurai clans, and the Emperor of Japan was only used as a figurehead to the government.
With the new dominance of the samurai, it faced many problems relating to any government. Rebellion and civil unrest were not uncommon, and throughout the superiority of the Samurai, there were many different periods of rule, each facing their own dilemmas. Attacks from external...