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The Samurai Warrior in History

The Origin of the Samurai:

The Samurai were a class of highly skilled, respected and famed warriors in Japan. It is generally believed that the Samurai came into being after the Taika reforms of 646 A.D. These reforms included such things as land redistribution, and came with new, very heavy taxes that were intended to support an elaborate Chinese style empire. These taxes and reforms forced many small Japanese farmers to sell their lands and work as tenant farmers, the equivalent of 19th and 20th century sharecroppers.

This created a feudal system similar to the one in medieval Europe, because an elite few of the large landholders amassed most of the wealth and power. Being an inequitable system, it naturally caused many problems among the lower classes, and the newly created feudal lords needed warriors to defend their property and riches.

It was thus that the samurai warrior, or bushi, was born.

Initially, some of the Samurai were relatives of the landowners. But, others were simply hired swords, or mercenaries. Historically, the most loyal and dedicated Samurai were family members of the lords they served, protected and defended.

The emperors of the Heian Dynasty (794-1185) lost control of rural Japan during the 900s A. D. During this time, the country was torn by the revolt of the downtrodden lower classes, and soon the emperors only wielded power within the capital itself. The Samurai moved in to fill the power slots left open by the former feudal lords. In fact, by 1100, the majority of the military and political power in Japan was held by the Samurai.

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