What is a Samurai?
A Samurai was a trained Japanese warrior that protected and fought for Japan! Samurais made up the ruling military class and eventually became the highest ranking class. Not only did Samurais fight in wars, they also protected daimyos because of how much land they held.
The Rise of Japan's Military Society
The military society in Japan was established by a shogun named Minamoto Yoritomo. The emperors ruled by name, but shoguns had the real power. Yoritomo rewarded Samurais with land or appointments to office. Because he did this, Samurai warriors pledged to protect the shogun. By the 14th century shoguns shared the power with daimyos, in return the daimyos were supported with large numbers of Samurais. Over time shoguns were like the emperors and only ruled by name, daimyos held the real power. Because of this Samurai warriors allied themselves with their daimyo lords. In the late 15th century Japan went into chaos. Daimyos warred with their samurai armies to get more and more land. And that is how Japan became a military society.
Women in the Samurai Society
The role of female Samurais in the Japanese society changed greatly over the years. When women first started training and becoming Samurais they were not accepted as Samurai mainly because they were believed to be weak just because they were women. In the 12th century Samurai women would help around the household. In the 17th centuary women still had no control over their lives, it was said that if a women was young she obeyed her father, when she was grown she obeyed her husband, and when she was old she obeyed her son.
Samurai Armor and Wepons and Fighting
When Samurai warriors went to battle they wore heavy armor and carried a sword called a Katana that could slice though almost anything! The Samurai armor was very unique, it consisted of tiny overlapping metal plates that were laced together by colorful silk strings. Although this was a flexible armor, it was very protective and allowed the Samurai who was wearing it to move around freely! Underneath the Samurais armor was a colorful Kimona (robe) and baggy trousers which you can see in the picture below!
Not only did Samurai warriors carry a sword into battle, but they also carried a bow and a spear! A Samurai's wooden bow could reach up to 8 feet long, and had great power! Even though this bow had great power, it also took a lot of power to fire it! The Samurais who would have this bow as their main weapon would ride into battle on horseback, this role was called a sharpshooter. Sharpshooters would ride toward each other in attempt to knock each other of their horse! A spear was also used to knock Sharpshooters off their horses, and was also used to kill someone while on foot. Samurais definitely had powerful wepons!
Most Samurai warriors were Budddhist. There are two main types of Buddhism; Amida and Zen. Amida Buddists believed that all people could reach a paradise or "Pure Land" (sort of like a heaven). They believed you could reach this by relying on the mercy from the Amida Buddha. Amida originally was an Indian prince, he created a western paradise that he called the "Pure Land". Amida Buddhist believed that they could reach this land if they repeated Amida's name repeatedly every day, sometimes up to 70,000 times! Honen, who spread this religion, told believers that they could reach this "Pure Land" by sincerely saying Amida's name only once. A second form of Buddhism, Zen, appealed to many Samurais because of how much it emphasized its disciple and effort. Zen stressed self reliance and meditation which was achieved through enlightenment. Zen Buddhist meditated for hours in a stiff cross legged position in attempt to reach enlightenment. Zen masters would often create Zen gardens where they could meditate. Zen gardens represented peace and nature.