Samurai

By Brandon Fisher

History

The samurai are a group of highly skilled warriors. They started developing in Japan after the Taika reforms in 646 AD. The reforms included land being redistributed and heavy new taxes, that were meant to support the elaborate Chinese-style empire. In result, many small farmers had to sell their land and work for wealthier landowners.

Meanwhile, a few large landholders amassed power and wealth, creating a feudal system similar to medieval Europe's. This system was unmanageable, and fell within a few centuries. As in Europe, the new lords needed warriors to defend their riches. From this, the samurai warrior was born.


Some samurai were relatives of the landowners, while others were just hired swords. The samurai code emphasized loyalty to one's master, even over family loyalty. History shows that the most loyal samurai were usually family members or financial dependents of their lords.


In the 900s, the weak emperors lost control of rural Japan. The country was taken over by peasants and the emperor controlled only the capital. Across the country, the warrior class moved into power. By 1100, the samurai held both military and political power over much of Japan.


Purpose

The original main purpose of the samurai was to protect rich landowners from poor people trying to steal from their land. If the samurai's master died, the Samurai would commit ritual suicide. The samurai later moved into control for themselves.

Weapons

The Samurai had two swords. One is long the other one is short. The long sword is called a Katana and the short sword is called a Shoto. The long sword is more than 24 inches. The short sword is between 12 and 24 inches. The oldest swords were straight and were designed in Korea and China. The Samurai's desire for tougher, sharper swords for battle was met with the curved blade we still use today. The sword starts out as iron combined with carbon. The swordsmith used fire, water, an anvil and hammer to shape the world's best swords. After the swordsmith finishes the blade the sword polisher does his best work to prepare the blade for the Samurai. After that the sword tester takes the new blade and cuts through the bodies of criminals. They started by cutting through the small bones first then they moved on to the larger bones. The test results were usually recorded on the nakago (the metal piece attached to the sword blade next the handle).