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Samurai are a military-feudal class of small Japanese nobles. There was a time when this estate, led by its shogun, actually ruled the country.
Over time, feudal wars ceased to shake Japan, most samurai changed their occupation. Samurai was officially abolished in 1867. Familiarity with samurai in humans usually begins with a small paragraph in a history textbook. As we grow up, we learn from idealistic sleek Hollywood stories. As a result, many of us believe that the samurai is either a killing machine, or a romantic warrior like the hero of Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. Let's debunk the main myths about these warriors.
To become a samurai, you must have a noble birth. In fact, the samurai were pretty poor people. Each warrior belonged to a specific owner, leading a lifestyle little better than an ordinary peasant. Few managed to earn wealth, but even this did not deprive the samurai of the duty to be a vassal of his master. Most of the soldiers, moreover, in order to somehow feed their families, worked the land together with the peasants. The word samurai itself, translated from Japanese, means "a person who serves." When the war began, almost all samurai were rank-and-file members of the army, and not noble military leaders at the head.
A samurai for the sake of his master could accept death at any moment. This myth is confirmed by the heroic and romantic images of the film "The Last Samurai". And in life everything was much easier. Most samurai, during frequent civil strife, constantly changed their masters. If the feudal lord did not suit with something or did not pay on time, then the warrior simply switched sides. At the same time, he did not feel any remorse, and even more so without committing hara-kiri. True, the order of the owner was carried out by the samurai without question. Even if it was a command to take his own life or to oppose a superior enemy. The latter method, by the way, was often used to get rid of an objectionable campaigner. If the Japanese people had neglected their lives for centuries, they would not have been able to build a high-tech society. After all, someone who does not value his life cannot have goals. Samurai, like all Japanese, appreciated and loved their lives. It's just that in the conditions of endless wars and conflicts it might seem that a person is worthless. Most warriors had a short life, but no one was in a hurry to part with it without good reason. Nu could become the desire of the owner, because disobedience meant a terrible shame. A samurai could lose his life, having committed crimes or covered with shame, being captured, which was considered treason. After all, a warrior was taught from childhood that honor is preferable to life.
Of the weapons, the samurai had only a sword. This is far from the case, because fighting with only a sword will not work. That is why many samurai, in addition to the art of swordsmanship (kendo), also mastered the techniques of hand-to-hand combat and archery, and handling a spear. In addition, samurai were taught to swim, ride a horse and write skillfully. And you shouldn't assume that all the fighters were perfect with their weapons. In addition to real masters, there were the same grandiose inept. They just died quickly. The sword was simply the distinctive mark of the samurai. This weapon was the main one, but not the only one. In addition, the samurai had two swords - a long one, a katana, and a short one, wakizashi, sometimes used for ritual suicide.
Thanks to the Japanese government, the samurai as a class were exterminated. What is shown in the above-mentioned film "The Last Samurai", the oppression of the samurai by the authorities is just a plaintive story, designed to impress the gullible viewer. In fact, after the unification of Japan, internecine wars practically ceased. Samurai, as a class of warriors, simply did not find employment. Nobody wanted to support them anymore - there was no longer a need for it. Therefore, the samurai eventually retrained, engaging in either trade or agriculture. This process took place gradually, and Western civilization did not take any part in this.
The samurai differs from ordinary people in increased nobility. Like any other warrior, moreover, of an ordinary origin, the mentality of the samurai was quite typical. Of course, the warriors possessed a certain code of honor that accompanied them in battle. But the samurai behaved quite contemptuously towards those few who were below them in social status. They, as well as enemies, were considered by the warriors to be something like animals. If the honor of the owner was respected, then the samurai could afford robbery, violence and betrayal. This was considered a way of humiliating the enemy. The samurai tradition, officially abolished in 1867, was continued by Japanese soldiers who invaded China in the 1930s. Their actions were filled with cruelty and cynicism, surpassing in many ways the Nazis.
Honor and principles were above all for the samurai. This statement is largely true. In ordinary life, samurai adhered to their code of honor, bushido. He regulated the rules of conduct for a warrior, giving instructions on how to properly take his own life. There is a story about 47 ronin samurai who lost their master. He insulted the official and was executed. For a long time, the samurai were preparing revenge, eventually killing the offender. They were sentenced to ritual suicide and buried with honors.
For a samurai, there is nothing more worthy than ending his life with the help of hara-kiri (performing the sepukka rite). Often such a way to die is the only worthy one if the samurai has lost his honor or is about to be captured. This method of suicide was used even after the abolition of samurai, during the Second World War. However, the most honorable death for a samurai was death in battle. Those who fell during the battle were reckoned among the divine warriors. Especially appreciated were those who went into a furious, albeit hopeless, attack. The names of such samurai were displayed on special tablets in temples, the relatives of the deceased were proud of them. Harakiri also carries a deep psychological implication. Indeed, according to the beliefs of the Japanese, it is in the stomach that the human soul is located. Such a ritual allows her to be released. Besides, hara-kiri is a rather painful procedure. She allowed her enemies to demonstrate her courage and contempt for death. Ritual self-sacrifice in Japan was also performed as a sign of disagreement with unfair actions or after an offense suffered. After the country's surrender in 1945, a wave of hara-kiri swept through it.
Ronin is a samurai who was left without a master. In medieval Japan, the loss of their master by the samurai was common. However, there is more to ronin. The word is translated as "man-wave". The owner of such a samurai could remain quite alive and capable, but, for some reason, decided to release his warrior from obligations. For example, a warrior who conceived revenge could leave his owner at his own request. After all, such an action could cast a shadow on the owner himself. Having become a ronin, a samurai did not have to fear that his former clan would be punished. Sometimes warriors became ronin in order to change their occupation, to go on trips. Ronin often became bodyguards. As a result, even the son of a samurai who became a ronin was considered the same from the moment of his birth.
Kamikaze from the Second World War - the same samurai. The motives of the kamikaze and samurai were different. Long before the twentieth century, warriors in Japan threw themselves at a superior enemy with no chance of salvation, with the desire to die with honor in battle. And the kamikaze sought to inflict the greatest damage on the enemy, thereby bringing benefit to the country. Kamikazes were prepared and used only during the Second World War, and even then, only when the advantage went over to the side of the Americans. So, during the attack on Pearl Harbor, the kamikaze were not used at all. The use of suicide bombers was not justified as long as Japan was successfully waging the war. As a result, only volunteers were used for special attacks, there were only a few thousand of them. In addition, self-sacrifice on the battlefield was in all armies, when a warrior sees no way out, he seeks to perish along with his enemies. Kamikaze, on the other hand, deliberately prepared for a suicidal attack, not looking for a way to keep themselves alive. It is believed that the "spirit of Yamato", which has come down from the time of the samurai, manifested itself precisely in the young Japanese samurai. After all, their desire to achieve victory, to preserve honor, despite death, were somewhat similar to the samurai.
Samurai traditions are still important to Japan today. After the defeat in World War II, Japan began to experience great influence of Western culture, especially American. A kind of blockade, in which the country was for centuries, was lifted. After all, earlier the Japanese were forbidden to leave the country, and they were extremely hostile to foreigners. Samurai traditions appeared in the closed world of one nation. Today, Japanese youth more than ever in their habits and lifestyle are similar to their peers from other countries. Perhaps the preservation of samurai traditions and codes would significantly complicate Japan's integration into the world community. Nevertheless, the country honors its past - there are many ancient monuments, ancient manuscripts and the memory of the great people of the past are kept. And the system of government is quite old-fashioned - the emperor still stands at the head of the country. Traditions pass from father to son. But it is not worth hoping for the revival of samurai, its time has passed.