The Rise of a Military Society
Shogun is a supreme commander of the army, which ruled Japan on the emperor's behalf. Minamoto Yoritomo became the first shogun of Japan. From 1192, for nearly 700 years, Japan was under a shogunate which is a military government.
Shogun is a military and political leader, who is highest in worriors class. Those of other classes under him provided for his needs, in returned shogun gave protection and privileges. Daimyo is part of warrior class, which means "Great Names". They ran estates according to shogun's rules. They used swords to demonstrate loyalty to shogun. Samurai is a professional warriors who are loyal to shogun and daimyos. They had fairly high social status but little political power. They met their needs by lower classes than them.
Samurai Armor, Weapons and Fighting
A samurai wore heavy armor. Under the armor samurai wore a colorful robe called a kimono and baggy trousers. Samurai armor showed its uniqueness by rows of small metal plates coated with lacquer and laced together with colorful silk cords. They wore various kinds of armors, but they were strong and flexible.
Samurai's weapons were bows and arrows, spears, and swords. The samurai's most important weapon was sword. Samurai carried two types of swords. One is long sword with a curved blade. And other was a shorter sword used for cutting off heads. Swords were passed down through generations of warrior families.
Young samurai were apprenticed to masters and learned mental and physical techniques about archery and swordsmanship. They practiced until they could fight with archery and sword without thinking. They also learned martial arts to prepare for instant when they don't have weapons.
Samurais had unique style of fighting. They sent messengers to each other to choose date and place for fight. Then they fought a series of one-on-one duels. After the match winner took enemy's head for proof to warlord.
Samurai Training and the Warrior CodE
Small samurai began practicing the basics of fencing with wooden swords at the age 3, being 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. Samurai required to learned extensive training of archery and swordsmanship. Samurai also had to learn mental training. They had to learn self-control to overcome the fear of death that interferes fighting. They developed "sixth sense" of danger to be prepared of unalarmed attacks. Bushido is an unwritten code of honors lived by samurai. Bushido regulated samurai to be honest, fair, and fearless in the face of death. The core value of bushido was loyalty and personal honor. It was their to be loyal and die for their lord. Seppuku is ritual suicide which is the price for failing to live up to the code of bushido. Samurai acted seppuku in many reasons. They used seppuku to preserve personal honor and avoiding capture in war.
Training in Writing, Literature and Tea Ceremony
Writing and literature were two important aspects of samurai culture.
Samueai practiced calligraphy, and the main tool of the calligrapher were a brush, ink block, paper or silk. The calligrapher wetted the ink block and rubbed it through the ink stones until the ink was right consistency.
Samurai wrote poetry. Matsuo Basho was one famous samurai poet. He invented a new form of short poetry, later this called haiku. Haiku consists of three lines of 5, 7, and 5 syllables, making of 17 syllables in all. Basho choosing simple words and added to the beauty of haiku.
Another aspect of culture that samurai studied was the tea ceremony, it fostered a spirit of harmony, reverence and clam, and it also served as an important way to form political alliances among samurai. Each step of ceremony had to be done in a certain way. The tearoom was very simply decorated. The only decoration was a scroll or an artistic flower arrangement, and they then engaged in sophisticated discussions as they admired the utensils and the beautiful way the tea master had combined them. To make the tea, the master heated the water, and then he scooped powdered green tea from a container a tea caddy into a small bowl. He ladled hot water into the bowl with wooden dipper. And then whipped the water and tea with using the bamboo whisk. Each guest in turn took the bowl, bowed to the others, took three sips. And cleaned the rim with using a tissue. Then guest passed the bowl back to the master, and master prepared tea for next guest.
Most samurai believed in Buddhism. Two forms of Buddhism that have gained popularity in Japan are Amida and Zen. A monk named Honen established a popular form of Amida Buddhism in the 12th century. Amida Buddhist believed that all people could reach paradise called Pure Land by prayerfully repeating Amina's name over and over up to 70,000 times a day. Another form of Buddhism was Zen. It appealed to many samurais because it emphasized effort and discipline. Contrast to Amida, Zen stressed self-reliance and enlightenment through meditation. Zen masters created gardens to aid in meditation and it matched with samurai way of life.
Women in Samurai Society
In 12th century women could be a household or warriors. They could inherit their husband's property and perform the duties of a vassal. Some women, like Tomoe Gozen or Koman, fought alongside men in battles. But in 17th century women were under control of men. Women should obey their fathers, husbands, and sons. There was a book that told women's behavior, that they had to act frugal and diligent.
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