A Brief On Samurai History

Samurai warriors are highly skilled in warfare and came into existence after the 646 AD Taika reforms in Japan. So, the History of Samurai can be traced back to this era. The reforms included the redistribution of land and exorbitant taxes paid to support the Chinese model empire. Due to this small farmers were forced to sell the land and work as farmers in the land. During this period landholder become powerful and wealthy as they amassed the land. This lead to the creation of a feudal society, similar to the Medieval Europe. Here, the Japanese were in need of skilled warriors to protect their wealth and this resulted in Samurai Warrior or the bushi.

The Feudal Era
It so happened that a few of the Samurai were related to the landowners while others were hired for the job. Those hired were mostly financial dependents of the landlords. Samurai are extremely loyal to their master even when it comes to their own family. The Heian Era emperors reign Japan during 794 to 1185 lost power and this led to a revolution. The emperors crossed the borders and the warrior class took over the power. The war between the shogunate rule and the warriors resulted in the latter acquiring both political and military power over the country in the early 1100.

The imperial system was weak and the reign was overthrown in the year 1156 as after the death of Emperor Toba, his two sons Go-Shirakawa and Sutoko fought for power during the Hogen Rebellion, 1156. The result, both of them lost power leading to the rise of two major samurai clans called the Taira and Minamoto. The two fought for power in 11160 and the Taira won to form the first ever Samurai led government and the Minamoto were sent on exile from the Kyoto, the capital city.

Genpei War
Another prominent war is the Genpei war that happened between 1180 and 1185. This led to the prominence of Minamoto clan. This led to the Kamakura Shogunate, where the Emperor was a decorated head of the state but all the legislative and executive powers rested with the Minomoto clan. The Clan ruled Japan till 1333. During the year 1268, there was an external threat from the Mongol ruler, Kublai Khan of Yuan China. The ruler demanded tribute but the Kamakura Shogunate declined following which the Mongol attacked Kyoto in 1274 in 600 ships. To the favor of Minomoto, the Mongol fleet was devastated by a typhoon. A few years later in 1281, another fleet advanced towards Japan and this also was a victim of the typhoon.

Despite the Gods favoring the Kamakura, they were unable to maintain their promise to the samurai leaders as their war cost left them with no resources to support them. Meanwhile the Emperor Go Daigo who was in exile returned to put an end to the Shogunate rule in 1333.

This restored the power to the emperor but this lasted only for three years. The samurai rule was re-established in 1336 under the aegis of Ashikaga Takauji. Later the weak government was overthrown by the daimyo or the regional constables.

Muromachi Period
Post resignation of power by Ashikaga Yoshimasa in 1464, there was a fight between his son and younger brother for power dividing the support of the daimyos. This resulted in the Onin War that lasted for a decade. It war was fierce leading to death of thousands and the capital was burnt, resulting in the Warring States Period. Between the years 1467 and 1573, the daimyos fought for power and most of the provinces were involved in the fight. The Period came to an end in 1568 when three powerful daimyos were defeated giving rise to the Oda Nobunaga. He made Yoshiaki the shogun. Nobunaga fiercely crushed the oppression by the rival daimyos for the following 14 years. He constructed the grand Azuchi Castle, a symbol of Japanese reunification in the year 1576 and 1579. Nobunaga was killed by his general. Later Hideyoshi invaded Korea and ruled as kampaku.

The Tokugawa clan were sent on exile but after the death of Taiko they returned to Edo now Tokyo. The Tokugawa domesticated the Samurai leading them into the bureaucracy. The Meiji Restoration put an end to the Samurai. The conscripted army was formed in 1873 where the samurai found jobs and the others were absorbed into the police.

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