Who Were the First Samurai Warriors?

First Samurai Warriors

The first Samurai warriors began to rise at 646 A.D. after the Taika reform, which included land reallocation. In this period, authorities implementing expensive taxes and obliging small farmers to sell their own land are usual. As a result, farmers have to work as tenants in their land.

Over time, the large landowners saw the need to protect their wealth; hence creating a feudal system in which they hired a Bushi or a Samurai.

Rise of the First Samurai Class

Originally, the first Samurai were servants at the imperial palace. The word is known to be one who’s working in the Japanese military. Initially, these Samurai warriors are in charge of tending their own land and underwent martial arts training for their own protection, using different espadas samurái, spears and bows.

Notably, their most significant service is their roles as guards in the palace. The early Samurai warriors were the elite soldiers who usually rode their horses in the battlefield with their arrows and bows as their primary weapons.

In the 8th century, the inadequate emperors of Japan lost control of rural Japan, ripping it apart by revolts against them. Three centuries later, Samurai families began receiving dainty reputations as a result of meddling in the state affairs.

In the year 1156 and 1180, quarrels are materialized using Samurai armies led by Samurai generals. On the same year, the Minamoto and Taira families started the Genpei War. The Minamoto clan claimed victory in the year 1185 over the civil war.

The First Military Leader

Their leader, Yoritomo Minamoto, was Japan’s first military dictator or Shogun. In his term, Samurai leadership began dominating the entire community and he established the Kamakura Shogunate. Though, there is still an emperor, and Minamoto only acts as the head of state.

The Ashikaga family rose into power in the mid-14th century and ruled for 2 centuries. However, their leadership system collapsed due to a dispute over succession.

Moreover, the Daimyo were neglecting the orders from the military governor.  In the year 1464, when Ashikaga Yoshimasa stepped down as Shogun, a conflict sparked between the proponents of his son and younger brother. It eventually sparked a vehement fight between the Daimyo. As a result, the conflict led to the Onin War that started from the year 1467 to 1677. Remarkably, the Shugo or military governors were the first Daimyo.

Initially, the Onin War started the Age of Warring States that lasted for 2 centuries. In that event, thousands of people died and Kyoto was burned.  On a lighter side, the Tokugawa family made Japan stable. Outstandingly, the most loyal Samurai were the ones who were financially dependent on their lords or family members.

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How Is a Samurai Recruited?

Notably, Samurai recruitment was primarily through bloodlines and family relationships. Ranging from brothers, cousins, nephews, and uncles. If the followers aren’t related through blood or marriage, it can be through an ancestral link to the family.

Proceeding to Toyotomi Hideyoshi’s time, most of the senior Samurai have risen in their ranks due to their personal skill on the battlefield. Therefore, the lower rank of the Samurai class are servants of the Daimyo.

Samurai Culture

In terms of the culture of Samurai, its foundation is on the Bushido concept or the way of the warrior. Their central dogma surrounds on the view of honor & freedom from fear of dying. Additionally, a Samurai warrior is legally permitted to kill any civilian who fails to honor him appropriately.

The Samurai have a Bushido spirit. As a matter of fact, he considers to fearlessly fight for his community and people expects him to die honorably instead of surrendering in defeat. In that event, whenever warriors are defeated in battle, they would commit suicide with honor by killing themselves with a short sword.

Samurai Weapon

When it comes to the weapons used by the first Samurai warriors, these are archers, longbows that called Yumi and swords. Shortly after the Mongol invasion on the year 1272 & 1281, Samurai utilized swords and spears more than any other weapon. Ultimately, the Samurai’s primary sword was the Katana and often carry a shorter sword called Wakizashi.

Samurai armour and helmet. Carnival costumes. Soldiers on outside

Sengoku: The Age of Warring States

Furthermore, the Age of Warring States began when the dispute spread from Kyoto and to the provinces. With no central authority, the Shogun’s Shugo ultimately became the Daimyo.

The most successful Daimyo in the Age of Warring States was the Hojo family of Odawara. In particular,  the founder of their dynasty is named Soun, who is previously known as Ise Nagauji.

Notably, Uesugi Kenshin or Uesugi is another successful Samurai.

Starting in the year 1530, the homelands of Uesugi, Hojo, Takeda, and Imagawa are ultimately dominated by the Hojo and Uesugi clans.

Meanwhile, on the Southern part of Japan at Kyushu, clan rivalries are common. These clans are Otomo, Shimazu, Ryuzoji, and Ito. And on the inland sea, the Mori family dominated.

Sengoku: The Age of Warring States

The Rise of Oda Nobunaga 

The domineering Samurai clans became inferior when the Great Daimyo rose to power. Remarkably, Japan first unifier was Oda Nobunaga.

Nobunaga received a minor territory from his father. However, when Imagawa Yoshimoto invaded his land in 1560, Nobunaga took advantage of the hiatus in Okehazama. As a result, Nobunaga was on the spotlight of Japanese politics.

Nobunaga distinctly adapted European military technology with his ruthlessness and leadership, when he started Japan’s reunification.

The Rise of Super Daimyo

Unification March

In the year 1582, Oda Nobunaga was slain by Akechi Mitsuhide at the Honnoji temple in Kyoto. Unfortunately, Mitsuhide was one of his lower rank generals.

Because of the incident, Toyotomi Hideyoshi avenged his master’s death by killing Mitsuhide. Hideyoshi then undertook campaigns which gave him the Kyushu and Shikoku islands. Surprisingly, when the Daimyo of Northern Japan has pledged allegiance with Hideyoshi, Japan was reunified in the year 1591.

Meanwhile, the last unifier of Japan is Tokugawa Ieyasu, wherein he resolved the war in Hideyoshi’s time. However, he took the wrong move by attacking Korea.

Tokugawa then defeated the neighboring Daimyo during the Edo period. Eventually, Hidetada his son became the Shogun and unified Japan in the year 1605. The Shogun then forced the Samurai to serve their lords or else give up their land and swords. From this year, Samurai warriors became bureaucrats.

It was in the late 16th century wherein peasants were banned from carrying swords, and only the Samurai and Nobility were allowed, the status symbol of a Samurai was carrying his Daisho, Katana sword as the main sword, and the Wakizashi as a backup sword.

Cease of the Samurai Class

In the year 1868 during the Meiji Restoration, The government has ceased the Fuedal system, Samurai were banned from carrying swords. Additionally, the emperor during the Meiji period declined the Daimyo’s power, then stopped the Samurai military and the class system and ultimately changed the capital’s name to Tokyo. The government then built an army from former Samurai warriors to work as police officers in the year 1873.

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