The Way of the Samurai How the Samurai Lived and Prospered in the Land of the Rising Sun

The Rise of a Military Society

How did Japan become a military society?

In 1185, Minamoto Yoritomo took over Japan in 1195. In 1192, he decided to become the shogun instead of the emperor. Instead, he created his own military government with its capital in Kamakura. Soon, the role of emperor slowly became less and less important.

What are shoguns, daimyo, and samurais? What are some loyalties involved?

Shoguns, daimyo, and Samurai alike used the lord-vassal system, or feudalism. The daimyo became loyal to the shogun, while the shogun would give land to them. The Samurai will be given land in exchange for layalty to the daimyo he is serving, and to protect the daimyo.

Samurai Armor, Weapons and Fighting

Here are some pictures that show a Samurai's armor and weapons:

As you can see, their armor is pretty tough to break. Samurais always wear multiple layers of armor, so they can worry only about their fight. It also allows the Samurai to move freely. The Samurai also used many types of weapons. They used bows and spears. However, they used their trusty sword a lot. It is flexible enough to curve, making it extremely durable, while having a razor sharp edge.

A Samurai's Fighting Style

A Samurai's fighting skill required extensive training. Young Samurai were apprenticed to archery masters, as they taught them many mental and physical techniques. They were also taught how to shoot, fight, and fence well without thinking.

Samurai Training and the "Warrior code"

How did one become a Samurai?

At age three, soon to be Samurai are given a wooden sword and was taught basic fencing skills. They they are given a real weapon, a mamorigatana sword for self-defence, between the ages of 5 and 7. A child had to be able to protect itself from surrounding dangers, family enemies, robbers and vagrants, with his father and male relatives providing early combat training. Then they were sent to Training, where they were taught physical and mental techniques, while handling real Samurai weapons.

What were they trained to do physically and mentally?

They were mentally trained for self control, so they can overcome emotions that might intervene with focusing on fighting. They also were taught to always be alert, even when you least expect an ambush. They were physically taught how to fence, shoot an arrow, and how to stay out of range from an opponent's sword, among others.

What is Bushido?

Bushido is the warrior code all Samurai lived by. It taught Samurai to be honest, loyal, and to be fearless in the face of death. They also valued loyalty and honor above their own lives.

Other values and ideals Samurai lived by

Samurai also respected and lived by Zen Buddhism, a type of Buddhism. Zen Bushido emphasized the power of nature and meditation, and it helped Samurai as it calmed them before a battle.


Seppuku was a ritual suicide made by Samurai in which they cut off their abdomen and bleed to death. This was usually done when their master died, or they had done disgraceful.

Training in Writing, Literature and Tea Ceremony

By the seventeenth century, Samurai were expected to be students of culture, along with being a warrior. They practiced calligraphy and writing poems. An example of one is a Haiku, which is a type of poem with three lines of 5-7-5. Another cultural tradition they had to do was the Tea Ceremony. It fostered a spirit of harmony, reverence, and calm. Each step of the tradition had to be imitated very carefully.

Amida Buddhism and Zen Buddhism

When Japan was still in the "Samurai" era, two types of Buddhism stood out against the rest. The first, Amida Buddhism emphasized on the life of Amida, an Indian king thought to have created the 'pure land.' It was said that if you were to say his name multiple times per day, you would make it there once you die. The other, Zen Buddhism, was important to Samurai because it emphasized peace, calm, effort, and discipline. Zen was usually achieved when meditating for hours, without moving. Zen masters created gardens to aid with meditating.

Women in Samurai Society

How did the role of women change in Samurai society?

Over the years, the role of women in Japanese society greatly deteriorated from the twelve to the seventeenth century. They enjoyed loyalty and honor, then in the seventeenth century, they were treated as inferior to their husbands.

Life in the 12th Century

In the twelve century, Samurai women were treated almost equal to the Samurai men. They were treated with respect and loyalty. When her husband died, she could inherit the property and perform the duties of a vassal.

Life in the 17th Century

However, in the 17th century, women were treated like in Medival Europe. Woman's position in society deteriorated, and men became unquestioned lords of the household. Women were always influenced by someone; by their father when young, by their husband,p, the by their sons when old.


Created with images by Fæ - "Sahyoenosuke Minamoto no Yoritomo Attacking an Enemy on Horseback LACMA M.84.31.96" • madmrmox - "Japanese Samurai" • madmrmox - "Samurai-238x300" • madmrmox - "mean_samurai" • bykst - "sword katana japanese long sword" • madmrmox - "Rebel-Samurai_w" • Moyan_Brenn - "Kyoto" • jimbowen0306 - "Budai -The Chinese Representation of the Buddha" • born1945 - "Japanese Print"

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