There were black samurai warriors
Samurai - the servant
From the 7th century, a tenno, i.e. an emperor, ruled Japan for the first time. In order to secure and expand the power of the Tenno, soldiers are recruited from the peasantry. When general conscription was abolished, fewer and fewer peasants volunteered for military service.
In their place are now - at the end of the 8th century - men of the lower landed aristocracy trained in the military to serve the Tenno from then on. The name "samurai" for this group is derived from the word "serve".
One of their tasks is to enforce the will of the emperor in the most remote provinces and to defend the empire. For this purpose, the court nobility gives the samurai lands on loan, which they must protect and manage as vassals. The greater the distance between the fief and the imperial court, the greater the trust the liege had in his vassals.
In the period that followed, the samurai steadily expanded their power in the individual provinces. They do this so successfully that towards the end of the 12th century the shogunate is proclaimed as a new form of government. The Shogun is now at the head. He is the commander in chief of all samurai.
As the first man in the state, the emperor is only symbolic. Officially, however, he is never removed from his rule. Until the end of the 16th century, Japan experienced a period of unrest and civil war. Fanned by the greed for power, fame and property, the warrior lords fight each other.
For the samurai, the tenno was of no importance
All of this does not really fit the image of the samurai as we know it from cinema and television. Portuguese missionaries first came to Japan in the 16th century. They are appalled by the violence and brutality with which the samurai try to kill one another. Many simply kill their masters, the Portuguese report.
So there can be no question of loyalty in this period of civil war - not even to the Tenno. Because for the samurai everything revolves around their highest military ruler, the shogun. The Tenno doesn't matter to them. And the common people in the provinces far away from the capital often do not even know that there is a Tenno at all.
Oda Nobunaga is the first shogun to succeed in pacifying Japan after several centuries. During this time the population is divided into four classes. The samurai form the top tier.
However, they make up just seven percent of the total population. They are the only ones allowed to carry two swords. They symbolize their membership in the warrior class.
250 years of peace in Japan follow. For the samurai, this is not necessarily the best. Because in times of peace their core competence - waging war - is less in demand.
So they have to move on to other duties and become administrators and scholars. Many are impoverished. Your social standing is declining. They are now only formally part of the upper class. In the 1870s, the samurai stand was officially abolished. Japan opens up to the west.
Bushido - way of the warrior
The stereotype of the virtuous and loyal elite swordsman has persisted to this day. This hero decal found its main origin in 1900. At that time a book was published with the title "Bushido - Weg des Kriegers". It was written by a Japanese man - in English.
The book is selling well abroad. Because the author explains to the rest of the world how Japan, which was relatively unknown until recently, was able to become so economically successful in a very short time. He refers to the dazzling values of the samurai - the knights of the east. Only: At this point in time there have been no samurai for more than 30 years.
Some time later the work was translated into Japanese and also became a bestseller. The reason: the Japanese finally have something in hand with which they can explain their own history and identity. That this samurai romance doesn't have too much to do with reality doesn't matter.
Rather, there is a lot of reinterpretation going on to make the picture more beautiful. For this purpose, only the few loyal and virtuous samurai that actually existed in the Middle Ages are taken from the moth box. But they were the exception.
Nowadays the samurai only play a significant role in popular culture. In the everyday life of the Japanese, they have become practically irrelevant.
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