The samurai, members of a powerful military caste in feudal Japan, began as provincial warriors before rising to power in the 12th century with the beginning of the country’s first military dictatorship, known as the shogunate. As servants of the daimyos, or great lords, the samurai backed up the authority of the shogun and gave him power over the mikado (emperor). The samurai would dominate Japanese government and society until the Meiji Restoration of 1868 led to the abolition of the feudal system. Despite being deprived of their traditional privileges, many of the samurai would enter the elite ranks of politics and industry in modern Japan. More importantly, the traditional samurai code of honor, discipline and morality known as bushido–or “the way of the warrior”–was revived and made the basic code of conduct for much of Japanese society.
1. In 1868, a French captain observing the execution of 20 Samurai by seppuku (ritual suicide by disembowelment) was so horrified by the act that he gave pardons to 9 of the remaining samurai.
Thankfully he spared their life!
2. An African slave became the first foreigner Samurai.
Yasuke, a 16th century African who traveled to Japan as a slave, caused such a sensation that a powerful warlord wished to see him. He thought his black skin was painted and ordered it to be scrubbed. However, they became friends and Yasuke was later given the prestigious rank of Samurai.
3. The Samurai wore a cloak that inflated when the wearer was riding a horse, which protected him from incoming arrows from behind.
These guys were genius!