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Shogunate Japan: Samurai

The Samurai

Samurai were Japanese warriors revered for their skills as warriors. Samurai first appeared in Japan as early as the eighth-century c.e., but they truly rose to power in the eleventh century as elite warriors in service to their feudal lords, or daimyos. Other samurai served as guards of the imperial palace. The samurai were accorded special status after about 1600. They alone had the privilege of wearing two swords, they married only among their own class, and they passed their privileges on to their children. The word samurai literally means "to be on one's guard."

The samurai, or warrior class, replaced the court nobles who had once surrounded the ruler. These nobles had always worn ceremonial clothing and lived a very formal existence within large castles. The rulers understood that the samurai were strong and wise and capable of forming their own armies and taking control of the country. To keep the power of the samurai in check, the rulers encouraged the samurai to live by elaborate rules about dress and behaviour. Samurai lived by a code of honour known as Bushido, "the way of the sword". Loyalty, truthfulness, sincerity, and readiness to die for honour were its main attributes. The samurai also became very dedicated to ceremony and to acquiring and displaying meaningful colours, fabrics, and styles.

Shogun : Japan's Greatest Samurai Warrior (Full Documentary)

Warriors shogun

Culture of the Samurai

BBC The Shogun: Tokugawa takeover

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