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Legends of the Samurai, the Black Samurai and a Woman Samurai

First Samurai Tairo No Masakado  1183

First Samurai Tairo No Masakado 1183

Saigo Takamori Last Samurai 1877

Saigo Takamori Last Samurai 1877

The History of Samurai

In Japan,t took the word the Samurai was from their word 'saburau,' meaning those who serve nobility, and for 700 years, they ruled the land serving their lords. Their weapons were the sword, a bow and arrow, and a spear-like weapon called the naginata. They lived and died by seven principles; courage, integrity, benevolence, respect, honesty, and loyalty. Their attire, weapons, and headgear were painstakingly hand-made according to their rank. The headgear was made to intimidate their opponents.

They were highly skilled warriors and loyal to their warlords and were paid either in rice or land.

The first recorded Samurai was in 1183, Tairo No Maskado, who led the first uprising against the government in Kyoto, Japan.

Samurai Swords

Samurai Swords

A Samauri

A Samauri

A Samurai Helmet

A Samurai Helmet

Yasuke, The Black Samuri

In 1579 the Jesuit missionary Alessandro Valigano brought his manservant Yasuke on his missionary trip to Kyoto, Japan. Yasuke was thought to have been from Mozambique, Africa, and believed to be about 25 years old, very tall at 6'2" and very black. The height of a Japanese man was 5'2" to 5'5", so it was a huge difference. Yasuke created such a stir that crowds gathered just to see him. A Japanese warlord, Oda Nobunaga, wondered what the commotion was and commanded an audience with Yasuke. Brought before him, he ordered Yasuke to strip, and then his servants were told to scrub the 'black ink' from his body. But, they realized it wasn't ink but his skin. Odo was so impressed he made Yasuke his weapons chief.

Before the year was over, Yasuke earned his worth on the battlefield and fought like ten men. This made Yasuke privileges such as his residence and the honor of dining with Odo and a Katana sword.

In 1582 a general of Oda betrayed him. Yasuke joined Odo's son Nobutada to prepare an offense against General Mitshuide, but unfortunately, it failed. Both Nobunaga and his son committed seppuku which was the samurai tradition if they failed in combat. Because Yatsku was not Japanese, he was exiled back to the Jesuit mission in Kyoto and vanished from history. Yatske became a hero in a children's historical fiction book, which won the Japanese Association of Writer's for Children prize.


Yasuke The Black Samurai

Yasuke The Black Samurai

Mitsuhide, Samurai

Mitsuhide, Samurai

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Tomoe Gozen, Female Samurai

Tomoe was married to Yoshinaka and fought alongside her husband. She was skilled with the bow and arrow and the long sword. At the Battle of Yokotugawara in 1181, she has won the heads of seven warriors. Then in the Battle of Uchida, she led her army of 300 against 6000 of the opposition. She was one of the only five to survive. There is a theory that she escaped the battlefield and became a Buddist num and died at age 90. Another theory says she was captured by Yoshimori and made his concubine.

Tomoe Gozen, Female Samurai

Tomoe Gozen, Female Samurai

Ninamoto No Tamotomo

Ninamoto was said to have been the greatest archer ever. Perhaps it was because he was born with a genetic deformity, with one arm being six inches longer, allowing him greater strength and agility with the bow. Legend says he sunk an entire ship with one arrow puncturing it below the waterline. He had been visiting Okinawa, and upon his return, he encountered Japanese forces. Rather than be captured, he committed seppuku.

The Legendary 47 Samurai

The 47 Samurai, also called ronin they had no warlord. Their leader Naganori Asane was forced to commit seppuku after he assaulted Yoshinaka Maganoris. The ronin plotted for over a year to avenge the death of their leader. After careful planning, they completed their mission and killed Maganoris. All of them knew this would result in execution. They turned themselves in, and instead, each of them committed seppuku. They are forever immortalized in Japanese history, with the incident now known as the AKO incident. Their graves are at the Sengakuj Temple near Shinagawa Station, Tokyo.

The Samurai Seppuka Ritual

The Samurai Seppuka Ritual

47 Ronin Graves

47 Ronin Graves

47 Ronin Graves

47 Ronin Graves

The Film, The Last Samurai

Most of us have probably seen the movie, The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise and released in 2003. It was an epic movie winning four Academy Awards and other entertainment awards. Based on the actual life of Saigo Takamori (1828-1877). It brought the samurai to life and their place in Japanese culture and history. Renewed interest in the samurai as it captured the imagination of these Zen warriors who ruled Japan for centuries until the Meiji Restoration period in 1868. After the end of the samurai, many became teachers or businessmen.

Today, there are over 100 castles that still exist in Japan, and twelve of them are the original castles. The Sword Museum has the most extensive sword collection on display. The Tokugawa Museum in Nagoya has armor, swords, artwork, and household items displayed.

The samurai legends live on in film, comics, boos, myths, parades, and plays.

A Samurai

A Samurai

Sources Used

https://www.worldhistory.org/samurai

https://www.tofugu.com/japan/tomoe-gozen

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/taira_no_masakada


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