The history and significance of the samurai in the ancient japanese society

This edict allowed the Japanese aristocracy to adopt the Tang dynasty political structure, bureaucracyculture, religion, and philosophy.

The history and significance of the samurai in the ancient japanese society

Visit Website Did you know? The wealth of a samurai in feudal Japan was measured in terms of koku; one koku, supposed to be the amount of rice it took to feed one man for a year, was equivalent to around liters.

Beginning in the midth century, real political power in Japan shifted gradually away from the emperor and his nobles in Kyoto to the heads of the clans on their large estates in the country. The Gempei War pitted two of these great clans—the dominant Taira and the Minamoto—against each other in a struggle for control of the Japanese state.

The war ended when one of the most famous samurai heroes in Japanese history, Minamoto Yoshitsune, led his clan to victory against the Taira near the village of Dan-no-ura. The establishment of the Kamakura Shogunate, a hereditary military dictatorship, shifted all real political power in Japan to the samurai.

Zen Buddhismintroduced into Japan from China around this time, held a great appeal for many samurai. Also during the Kamakura period, the sword came to have a great significance in samurai culture. The Ashikaga Shogunate, centered in Kyoto, began around For the next two centuries, Japan was in a near-constant state of conflict between its feuding territorial clans.

After the particularly divisive Onin War ofthe Ashikaga shoguns ceased to be effective, and feudal Japan lacked a strong central authority; local lords and their samurai stepped in to a greater extent to maintain law and order.

Despite the political unrest, this period—known as the Muromachi after the district of that name in Kyoto—saw considerable economic expansion in Japan. It was also a golden age for Japanese art, as the samurai culture came under the growing influence of Zen Buddhism.

In addition to such now-famous Japanese art forms as the tea ceremony, rock gardens and flower arranging, theater and painting also flourished during the Muromachi period.

This period ushered in a year-long stretch of peace and prosperity in Japan, and for the first time the samurai took on the responsibility of governing through civil means rather than through military force. This relatively conservative faith, with its emphasis on loyalty and duty, eclipsed Buddhism during the Tokugawa period as the dominant religion of the samurai.

The history and significance of the samurai in the ancient japanese society

It was during this period that the principles of bushido emerged as a general code of conduct for Japanese people in general. Though bushido varied under the influences of Buddhist and Confucian thought, its warrior spirit remained constant, including an emphasis on military skills and fearlessness in the face of an enemy.

In a peaceful Japan, many samurai were forced to become bureaucrats or take up some type of trade, even as they preserved their conception of themselves as fighting men. Inthe right to carry swords was restricted only to samurai, which created an even greater separation between them and the farmer-peasant class.

The material well-being of many samurai actually declined during the Tokugawa Shogunate, however. Samurai had traditionally made their living on a fixed stipend from landowners; as these stipends declined, many lower-level samurai were frustrated by their inability to improve their situation.

The incursion of Western powers into Japan—and especially the arrival in of Commodore Matthew C. Perry of the U. Navy, on a mission to get Japan to open its doors to international trade—proved to be the final straw.

The controversial decision to open the country to Western commerce and investment helped encourage resistance to the shogunate among conservative forces in Japan, including many samurai, who began calling for a restoration of the power of the emperor.

Feudalism was officially abolished in ; five years later, the wearing of swords was forbidden to anyone except members of the national armed forces, and all samurai stipends were converted into government bonds, often at significant financial loss.

The new Japanese national army quashed several samurai rebellions during the s, while some disgruntled samurai joined secret, ultra-nationalist societies, among them the notorious Black Dragon Society, whose object was to incite trouble in China so that the Japanese army would have an excuse to invade and preserve order.

Ironically—given the loss of their privileged status—the Meiji Restoration was actually engineered by members of the samurai class itself. Three of the most influential leaders of the new Japan—Inoue Kaoru, Ito Hirobumi and Yamagata Aritomo—had studied with the famous samurai Yoshida Shouin, who was executed after a failed attempt to kill a Tokugawa official in It was former samurai who put Japan on the road to what it would become, and many would become leaders in all areas of modern Japanese society.

Bushido in Modern Japan In the wake of the Meiji Restoration, Shinto was made the state religion of Japan unlike Confucianism, Buddhism and Christianityit was wholly Japanese and bushido was adopted as its ruling moral code.

ByJapan had succeeded in building up its military strength—it signed an alliance with Britain in and defeated the Russians in Manchuria two years later—as well as its economy.Samurai ideals have transcended throughout Japanese history and understanding the samurai heritage provides an interesting insight into today's modern society and the respect, discipline and honour that is prevalent throughout this unique nation and that the rest of the world admires.

History shows that the most loyal samurai were usually family members or financial dependents of their lords. During the s, the weak emperors of the Heian Era lost control of rural Japan and the country was torn apart by revolt. Aug 21,  · Watch video · The samurai would dominate Japanese government and society until the Meiji Restoration of led to the abolition of the feudal system.

For more than years, the samurai have shown and teaching honor, duty, and service that remains in Japanese society still today. The samurai helped lay the foundations of Japan's culture.

A History of Japanese Literature, Vol. 1: Seeds in the Heart – Japanese Literature from Earliest Times to the Late Sixteenth Century (paperback ed.). New York, NY: Columbia University Press. . Japanese swords (samurai sword) are the weapons that have come to be synonymous with the samurai.

Ancient Japanese swords from the Nara period (Chokutō) featured a straight blade, by the late s curved tachi appeared, followed by the uchigatana and ultimately the katana.

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