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Common Myths and Misconceptions About Japanese Samurai

April 12, 2018

Common Myths and Misconceptions About Japanese Samurai

Samurai warriors, also known as bushi and buke, were the predominant fighting force of Japan during the region's feudal period. They were initially part of Japan's military, later rising to power when the country formed a military dictatorship, shogunate, around the 12th century. But while most people are familiar with the general concept of the samurai, there's a lot of myths and misconceptions about samurai warriors that we're going to debunk.

They Were a Small Fighting Force

Some people assume that samurai warriors were a small, elite fighting force of Japan's army, but this couldn't be further from truth. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, they accounted for roughly 10% of the region's entire population during the Tokugawa period (1603 to 1867).

They Weren't Educated

Just because they were adept at fighting doesn't necessarily mean that samurai warriors ignored school. On the contrary, samurai warriors, priests and aristocrats in feudal Japan were all highly literate and well educated . Some traditional Japanese samurai warriors even had their own personal library of books, known as a buke bunko, that they would read and study.

They Were Given Random Names

A samurai warrior's name wasn't random. In feudal Japan, samurai warriors were named by combining their father's or grandfather's name with a new name. This allowed samurai warriors to carry on their ancestral lineage.

Only Men Were Samurai Warriors

While most samurai warriors in feudal Japan were men, women weren't prohibited from joining this elite class of warriors. Women samurai warriors have been known to fight alongside their men counterparts. Additionally, they were tasked with protecting their homes from invaders during times of war.

They Only Wielded Swords

Although swords were the primary weapon used by samurai warriors, they used a variety of other weapons and tools during combat. The matchlock, for example, became a key weapon used by Japanese samurai warriors. Around mid-1500s, Japan had acquired the matchlock through trade with Portugal, allowing samurai warriors to strike their enemies from afar while limiting the risk of self injury in the process.

They Only Engaged in Military Combat

Finally, some people believe that samurai warriors in feudal Japan only engaged in military combat. Not surprisingly, this was the primary duty for many samurai warriors. Others, however, had different duties like maintaining civil order and performing other daily affairs.

These are just a few common myths and misconceptions about Japanese samurai warriors that you shouldn't believe.


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