The Rise of the Military Society
In 1192 Minamoto Yoritomo came into power. He did not take the place of the emperor, instead he created a military government. This marked the beginning of a new era in Japan's history. For the first time warriors became the ruling class.
In the beginning Shoguns were the 'commander in chief' supported by the samurai's. The samurai's were given office as well as land in return for their loyalty to the Shoguns.
Later on, Daimyo's, warrior lords fell below the Shoguns that were supported by large groups of samurai's. The Daimyo's gave the samurai's land and office for their loyalty. Eventually the Daimyo's took over for the Shoguns who lost their power to the Daimyo's. The samurai's aligned with the Daimyo's
As time went on the Daymio's treated their land as individual kingdoms. Eventually leading to fighting between the Daymio's for each other's kingdoms.
Samurai, Armor, Weapons, and Fighting
Samurai's wore heavy armor with colorful robes underneath called kimonos with baggy pants. To protect their legs they wore shinguards made of leather. The armor was made of small metal plates coated with lacquer and laced together. It was strong and flexible so they could move around. Box-like panels covered their chest and back. Metal sleeves covered their arms.
The samurai's mostly used three types of weapons: bow and arrow, swords, and spears. They were trained to shoot the bow and arrow without thinking. They learned to take down their enemy on horses with them as well. Some bows were up to 8 feet. They used spears to knock people off their horses to have hand to hand combat.
Samurai's are mostly known for their ability with their swords. The swords were passed down from generation to generation. They typically had two types of swords: a long one with a curved blade for fighting and a short one to cut the enemies heads off.
Samurai Training and the Warrior Code
There were several stages to become a samurai warrior all involved a ton of training. They trained to fight, mental training, writing and literature, they even trained for a tea ceremony, and lastly spiritual training.
Physically they had to master many skills. They were assigned to an archery master to train them in the skills of the bow and arrow. They needed to learn how to breath properly, shoot without thinking and how to shoot at moving targets on horses. They also learned to fence. They had to learn how to make the enemy make the first move, stay out of range of the enemy, and how to fight in close range. They even trained on how to use objects around them to fight in case their weapons broke.
Samurai's were some of the fiercest fighters mentally. They learned self control. Part of self control was to learn how to endure severe pain. They had to learn how to not fear death. Most thought of themselves as already being dead. Samurai's were also trained to be prepared. They had to learn how to predict when their enemy would attack. They often did this by hitting them with objects unexpectedly while they were training to always keep them on alert.
It was very important for a Samurai to be well educated in the arts and writing. Samurai's learned how to write in calligraphy, the art of beautiful writing.
Along with learning calligraphy they also trained in poetry. During this time they mostly trained in Haiki where you use images to suggest an idea or create a mood.
All of the training the samurai's went through was all for the Bushido, 'the way of the warrior'. The Bushido was basically the values the samurai warriors lived by. Samurai's were to be honest, fair, fearless in the face of death. They were expected to value honor and loyalty more than their own lives.
The samurai's believed in their bushido so much that if they failed to live up to the expectations they often committed seppuku (suicide). If a warrior ever failed to live up to their beliefs they would often take their own lives.
While samurai's spent most of their time fighting there was another part of their culture that important as well, the tea ceremony. While the tea ceremony was to help with their spiritual harmony, reverence and calm, it was also where they began to build their political alliances.
Most samurais were buddhists. There were two types of buddhism they predominantly practiced: Amid and Zen. Amid believed all people could reach paradise called the pure land by relying on the mercy of Amid. In order to do so they had to repeat Amid's name over and over each day....up to 70,000 times a day!
Zen was a little different. They stressed self reliance and to achieve enlightenment through meditation. Zen fit into the samurai's way of life in the fact that it allowed them to learn discipline, focus their minds and overcome their fear of death.