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A Brief History of Samurai


The Samurai are one of history’s most iconic groups of people. War was a central theme in the history of Japan, and for much of its history, warring clans ruled the country. Most of the wars were regarding control of land. Only a fraction of the land was suitable for farming. Samurai eventually rose out of the struggle for land control.


The Legend Of The Divine Warrior

660 B.C. was an important date in the history of Japanese warring clans. Legend holds that Jimmu Tenno was named head of a confederation of war tribes. Tenno, also known as “The Divine Warrior,” conquered the people in the Kinki region. They settled in the Yamato area, eventually leading to the rise of the Yamato dynasty. The leaders of Yamato were believed to have divine origin.


The Yamato dynasty often launched military campaigns against tribes on the Asian mainland, with targets including Korea and China. These conquests allowed Korean and Chinese culture, technology, and martial arts to infiltrate Japanese society.


Samurai Weapons And The Bushido Code

Ancient Yayoi warriors were instrumental in developing weapons, armor, and a code that became a central influence for the Japanese Samurai. Over time, weapons, armor, and strategies continued to change with the landscape of technology and battle types. A major change took place in the 5th century when horses were introduced to Japan. The famous Samurai code was developed from the Chinese warrior virtues and eventually morphed in to the Bushido (Way of the Warrior) code.


The Bushido code was at the heart of the principles and conduct of a Samurai warrior. The Bushido philosophy, “freedom from fear,” meant the warrior could transcend the fear of death. This supposedly endued him with the peace and power he needed to serve faithfully, loyally, and die well. “Duty” is a major teaching of the Samurai.


Types Of Samurai Swords

Samurai wore two swords, one on each hip. The long sword, called a katana, was longer than 24 inches in length. The shorter sword, called a wakizashi, was 12-24 inches in length. Samurai’s often named their samurai swords, believing the sword was the soul of the warrior. Ancient swords had a straight blade and originated from China and Korea. Eventually, they adopted a sharper sword, with a curved blade. The sword was a very important, highly respected piece of Samurai culture.


The Dark Side Of The Samurai

Though the warrior culture was heavily steeped in honor and respect, the Samurai also had a gruesome and disturbing heritage. From testing newly forged swords on the bones of a corpse or condemned criminals, to their grisly suicide ritual, the Samurai were definitely not peaceful people. The latter in particular, called seppuku, was required by Samurai culture if a warrior broke the code or was likely to be captured. The performer was required to cut his stomach with a sword and a friend cut off his head shortly after. This was also performed formally with a long ceremonious ritual, including bathing, writing a death poem, and eating a final meal. Seppuku was seen as a very honorable way to die.


Get your very own authentic Samurai sword at Swords Of The East.