Samurai Culture

Samurai (侍) were the hereditary military nobility and officer caste of medieval and early-modern Japan from the late 12th century to their abolition in 1876. They were the well-paid retainers of the daimyo (the great feudal landholders). They had high prestige and special privileges such as wearing two swords

Qualities of a Samurai

Bushido mentions the eight virtues of a Samurai being

  • Morality
  • Courage
  • Compassion
  • Politeness
  • Honesty
  • Respect
  • Loyalty
  • Self-Control

Rise of the Samurai

The samurai as a class and culture emerged during the Heian period (895-1185), which was a time of great blossoming of art and culture in the capital of Kyoto.

Because the court government had no police force, bands of samurai gained power when the Heian government neglected the administration of the provinces. Samurai strength rested on strong group loyalty and discipline. These bands managed large areas of rice land in eastern Japan, around modern Tokyo.

Decline of the Samurai

In the 1870s samurai families comprised 5% of the population. As modern militaries emerged in the 19th century, the Samurai were rendered increasingly obsolete as very expensive to maintain compared to the average conscript soldier.

Additional Material