If you have ever listened to the history of Japan, then you will definitely have heard of the samurai. The samurai were a group of warriors belonging to various elite classes, renowned for their ferocity and loyalty. They have an indelible place in Japanese history, having shaped civilization. Belonging to early modern Japan; the samurai were both renowned as the golden members of society and as the champions of ferocity and loyalty.
however, with their courage, their bravery, and their eternal struggle for a noble cause ; there were a good number of samurai that existed at that time. They are the symbols of Japanese culture, and their code of honor is anchored there. According to history, there were myriad warriors who wrote history with their courage and nobility. In this article, we will tell you about the 10 most famous samurai warriors in Japanese history .
What is a samurai?
The word “samurai” derives from the verb “saburau”, which means “to serve” . This term has been used since 1600 and designates a formidable warrior in the service of a lord named daimyo . The term “samurai” should not be confused with “bushi”, which refers to ancient warriors who serve a lord in exchange for a reward: land or salary. A samurai without a lord or master was called a ronin and was considered no better than a wanderer. Many samurai were low-ranking soldiers cultivating their own land, far from the great warlords, the daimyos . In the 10th century, the Minamoto warrior clanimposed a government of warriors, the bakufu, headed by a shogun (general). They will then become a warrior elite with their own culture.
Characteristics of samurai
The education of a samurai was very strict in all sincerity, with the learning of self-control and an absence of laziness and fear. The apprentice samurai studies in a specialized school where he learns the handling of swords; including katana, wrestling, archery, horsemanship, strategy, and various arts of war . The samurai must take an oath to a member of the nobility; his life’s purpose is to serve his master with both his blade and his wisdom. The samurai followed a particular moral and philosophical code called Bushido ; the same way the Knights strove to embody the concepts of chivalry. Follow Bushidowas a way for samurai to internalize the values of frugality, mastery of martial arts, service and loyalty, and death before dishonor.
Origin of samurai
Like knights, samurai belonged to the military nobility of medieval Japan. For hundreds of years, the samurai held one of the most sacred roles in Japanese society . Some samurai, through circumstances of inheritance or chance, were able to become full-fledged warlords; and even with their own sworn samurai servants. The samurai were then a group steeped in Zen Buddhism , which they consider close to the spirit of bushi . They knew refinement and were passionate about the tea ceremony and Noh theater.
Indeed , Kamakura was the great city of the Slayer warriors , the first capital of the bakufu . You can still see it today during the Yabusame festival , reminiscent of the contest between warriors . The samurai had their heyday during the Sengoku era, from the middle of the 15th century to the end of the 16th century when the only law was the rule of the strongest; this allowed them to rise rapidly in society.
The story of the late 16th century when the only law was the rule of the strongest
At that time, the great castles like those of Osaka, Himeji or Kumamoto were built. They appear as dojos, corresponding to different styles of martial arts. These samurai are far from the image we have now: quick to betray their masters, to change sides or to revolt, and they lead a reign of terror in the countryside. When a samurai had failed himself or his master; it was customary to engage in “seppuku”, which is the name for a samurai’s ritual suicide . Some of the men on this list had fates that ended like this while others lived their lives in service; but the one thing they all have in common is that they fully embody the ideals of bushido.
So, if you are a fan of these heroes of Japanese history, a collection of their figurines would be a great idea. For your collection, consider buying a samurai figurine of excellent quality on statuette.fr .
Now, let’s find out about the 10 greatest samurai in the history of Japan
The 10 most famous samurai warriors in Japanese history:
1. Shimazu Yoshihisa
One of the most famous warlords of the Sengoku period, Shimazu Yoshihisa hailed from Satsuma Province . He was married to his aunt for a brief period. Then he launched a campaign to unify Kyushu , and tasted many victories. His clan ruled much of Kyushu for many years; but he was eventually defeated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. After the defeat, Yoshihisa is said to have retired and become a Buddhist monk. He died a peaceful death.
2. Date Masamune
Known for his affinity for violence and his lack of mercy; Date Masamune was one of the most feared warriors of his time. Having lost sight in his right eye as a child due to smallpox; he had to go the extra mile to be recognized as a fighter. After a series of early defeats, he slowly built up his reputation and became one of the most effective warriors of the era. When his father was kidnapped by the enemies of his clan; Masamune retaliated by slaughtering them all, killing his father during the mission. He then served Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, as the leader of the Date clan.
3. Uesugi Kenshin
Known as the Dragon of Echigo, Kenshin was a fierce warrior and the leader of the Nagao Clan . He was famous for his rivalry with Takeda Shingen . The two fought each other for many years, engaging in one-on-one fights on several occasions. He was also, one of the warlords who resisted Oda Nobunaga’s campaigns; and was a reputable administrator. There are various stories surrounding the cause of his death.
4. Tokugawa Ieyasu
Initially an ally of Oda Nobunaga and his successor Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu was more agile with his brain than with his sword. After Hideyoshi ‘s death, he gathered the enemies of the Toyotomi clan and fought against them for power. He defeated the Toyotomi in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 and became the first Tokugawan shogun in 1603 . The Tokugawa shogunate ushered in a new era of peace in Japan and ruled until 1868.
5. Hattori Hanzo
The leader of the Iga clan, Hattori Hanzo was one of the few samurai who were also ninja warriors . He was a loyal servant of Tokugawa Ieyasu, who repeatedly saved his master from certain death. His main weapon was a spear. In his older years, Hanzo became a Buddhist monk. He is one of the most famous warriors in Japanese pop culture and has inspired many fictional warriors.
6. Takeda Shingen
Often referred to as the Tiger of Kai, Takeda Shingen was a fearsome warrior as well as a poet . He fought in many battles. In the Fourth Battle of Kawanakajima , he also met his rival Uesugi Kenshin in a one-on-one fight. He was one of the very few warriors who tasted success against Oda Nobunaga and had the power to stop him. However, Shingen died under mysterious circumstances in 1573, after which Nobunaga consolidated power.
7. Honda Tadakatsu
Often known as “the warrior who surpassed death”; Honda Tadakatsu was one of the fiercest warriors Japan had produced. He is one of the four celestial kings of Tokugawa , and participated in more than a hundred battles; but he was never defeated by any enemy. His primary weapon was a spear known as the Dragonfly Cutter, which instilled fear in every opponent. Tadakatsu fought in the decisive battle of Sekigahara which ushered in a new era in Japanese history.
8. Miyamoto Musashi
Perhaps the most famous samurai warrior over the years; Miyamoto Musashi was one of the greatest swordsmen Japan ever had. His first duel took place at the age of 13. He fought in the battle between the Toyotomi clan against the Tokugawa clan, on the side of the elder, eventually being defeated. however, he then traveled along Japan, winning many duels against strong opponents. Musashi’s most famous duel took place in 1612, in which he fought master swordsman Sasaki Kojiro and killed him. Later, he spent more time writing; then, he wrote the Book of the Five Rings , which details various sword fighting techniques.
9. Toyotomi Hideyoshi
Successor to Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi was a powerful ruler and warrior . Born into a peasant family, he slowly rose to power with his skills on and on the battlefield. He ruled much of Japan from 1585 until his death in 1598, although he never achieved the title of Shogun. Hideyoshi built the huge Osaka Castle and fought battles to conquer Korea and China, but was unsuccessful. Shortly after his death, his clan was wiped out.
10. Oda Nobunaga
One of the most recognizable warriors in Japanese history, Oda Nobunaga was also a charismatic leader . In 1560 he killed Yoshimoto Imagawa who attempted to take over Kyoto and laid the groundwork for the unification of Japan . He used firearms in battles, a novel idea at the time. His death was due to an act of treason by one of his own generals, Akechi Mitsuhide , who set fire to the temple where he was resting. Thus, Nobunaga committed suicide, a more honorable way to die .