Legacy Of The Samurai: The Characteristics, Philosophy, And History Of The Samurai.

2578 words - 10 pages

Legacy of the SamuraiThe characteristics, philosophy,and history of the samurai.For seven centuries, the samurai ruled Japan as the powerful warrior class. As a class of warriors and knights, they led society in feudal Japan. The loyalty to his lord was much more important than his allegiance to his friends, family and even the emperor. Their philosophy was one liberated him from fear, and for these reasons, the samurai came to be the dominate force throughout medieval Japan.War played a central part in the history of Japanese samurai. As regional clans gathered manpower, resources and struck alliances with each other, they formed a hierarchy centered around a toryo, or chief. This chief was typically a relative of the emperor and a member of one of the two dominating clan families of the pre-samurai era. Though they were originally sent to regional areas for a fixed four year term as a magistrate, the toryo usually declined to return to the capital when their terms ended. Their sons inherited their positions instead and continued to lead the clans in suppressing rebellion throughout Japan during the middle and later Heian period. (Cook 24) One main reason why conflict between clans was so predominant was because they were typically started as a result of land ownership. Only a fifth of Japan's land was suitable for agriculture. The struggle for control of land eventually gave rise to the samurai class.The samurai eventually became a class unto themselves between the 9th and 12th centuries A.D. They were called by two names: samurai which means "knights" and bushi which means "warriors". The samurai came from guards of the imperial palace and from private guards that the clans employed. They also acted as a police force in and around Kyoto. These forerunners of what we now know as samurai had ruler-sponsored equipment and were required to hone their martial skills. They gave complete loyalty to their daimyo (feudal landowner) and received land and position in return. Each daimyo used his samurai to protect his land and to expand his power and rights to more land.The first samurai were servants, yet their advantage of being the sole armed party increasingly became apparent. By promising protection and gaining political clout through political marriages they amassed power, eventually surpassing the ruling aristocrats. (Kure 10-12)In the late 12th century, the two most powerful clans served the emperor of Japan: the Taira clan, and the Minamoto clan. These two families became bitter rivals, and in 1192, Minamoto Yoritomo led his clan to victory over the Taira. The emperor, the traditional head of the Japanese government, declared Minamoto Yoritomo shogun, the head of the military. However, Yoritomo used his new power to strip the emperor of all political power, make his position as shogun permanent, and set up a military dictatorship known as bakufu. So, the samurai went from being servants of the land-owning daimyos to being the rulers of Japan...

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