How To Become a Samurai

A Samurai is a member of a noble class of warriors from Japan's feudal system, dating back to the middle of the Heian period (794-1192), when clans of farmers and military officers were employed to protect government officials. In fact, the word Samurai literally means "to serve or attend to those of nobility." From the introduction of the Samurai class to the first official emperor of Japan, the Samurai served and ruled the nation for nearly 700 years.

Samurai girlBecoming a Samurai, however, was no easy task. To become one, you must have been born into a Samurai family. Only in rare instances could one, through great talent of swordsmanship or other related disciplines, be granted the privilege to uphold the way of the Samurai. Some managed through political favor, like English sailor William Adams, who was appointed a Samurai by shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu for being an important diplomat and trade advisor.

Once born into a Samurai family, training would take various forms, depending upon the wealth of the family. In poorer households, young Samurai would be sent to a village school for history and cultural education while other aspects of training such as the tea ceremony or rock gardens would be taught by the father. In wealthier households, a young Samurai might be sent to a formal academy or to be an apprentice under a specialized master.

Regardless of the method, a Samurai's education would serve as the foundation for all aspects of their life. They were taught how to read and write in Kanji and how to wield various weapons, especially the katana - a curved, single-edged sword. Also, a complete understanding of the history of the samurai was required, from the evolution of the Samurai in the Heian Period to the elimination of the caste system in the Edo Period.

More importantly, Samurai training required a complete understanding of bushido, or the "way of the warrior." Bushido acts as the code of behavior ruling a Samurai's daily life - everything from discipline and humility to honor and respect. Of utmost importance, the respect of one's master and doing the right thing.

In 1871 after the last shogun, Tokugawa Yoshinobu, resigned, Emperor Meiji abolished the feudal system that granted privileges to the Japanese Samurai class. While no longer prominent in Japan today, Samurai and their descendents continue to receive a large amount of respect and attention. And thanks to the works of Akira Kurosawa, a popular place in pop culture.


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