Warm-Up : Imagine you are a samurai invited to the New Year dinner by the Shogun. What do you think will be on the menu and served for dinner tonight?
The Menu in early medieval Japan is quite simple:
Pickled Japanese apricot
Salt and vinegar for seasoning
Saki ( a wine made from rice)
Possible additions to the menu:
Soup of chopped vegetables, fish, or meat made with a miso base.
Miso (soybeans fermented in salt)
Steamed vegetables and seaweed
By 200 AD, rice cultivation had been known on the islands east of the Asian continent for 500 years.
People had to defend their land and rice fields.
Some were naturally better suited to fighting then others and became specialists at fighting.
Those who fought became warriors, and by virtue of their strength, became the leaders of their clans.
The wars they fought resulted in larger clans overcoming and absorbing smaller ones.
The Samurai eventually became a class unto themselves between the 9th and 12th centuries A.D.
They were called by two names: Samurai (knights-retainers) and Bushi (warriors).
Some of them were related to the ruling class. Others were hired men, called Ronin.
They gave complete loyalty to their Daimyo (feudal landowners) and received land and position in return.
Each Daimyo used his Samurai to protect his land and to expand his power and rights to more land.
The Japanese Samurai caste itself had different ranks with different privileges.
A basic ranking system from the twelfth century distinguished three major ranks:
kenin – meaning “ housemen.” They were the administrators or vassals.
mounted samurai : only high-ranking samurai warriors were allowed to fight on horseback.
The Samurai were privileged to wear two swords (daisho), and at one time had the right to cut down any commoner who offended them.
One sword was long; the other short. The long sword (daito - katana) was more than 24 inches. The short sword (shoto - wakizashi) was between 12 and 24 inches.
Commoners were not allowed to wear any weapons at all.
The ideal samurai was supposed to be a stoic warrior who followed an unwritten code of conduct called Bushido, which held bravery, honor, and loyalty above life itself.
Bushido was the code by which all samurai warriors were supposed to live. A samurai who did not live according to this code brought dishonor to himself and his lord, and this violation required him to commit seppuku, or ritual suicide.
A samurai understood that to die was his chief business.
He should think about how to die from morning until night.
In this way, he would always be prepared, and thus, his life was simple.
The philosophy of Bushido is "freedom from fear." It meant that the Samurai transcended his fear of death.
To conduct himself correctly at all times was the way of the warrior, and he should be loyal to both his parents and his lord.
He should think only of service to his master and be grateful for his role in society.
He should maintain self-control and discipline at all times, even when no one else was there.
To be well-educated in all things was the samurai’s duty as a part of the ruling class.
His goal was to achieve oneness of body, mind, and spirit.
He must always be clean and properly dressed for the occasion, always with two swords.
He should practice good manners and never sit idly doing nothing.
He must always know right and wrong, which are the same as good and evil.
He should know how to attain one and avoid the other.
"Duty" is a primary philosophy of the Samurai.
At birth : You will be considered to be a one year old, and a sword will already at your side, just where it will be at your death.
The sword is your soul.
. At birth, a samurai was given a name by which he would be known until his coming of age ceremony.
At age 5 : You will get your first haircut and your first set of samurai clothing.
“ There is a way of bringing up the child of a samurai. From the time of infancy one should encourage bravery and avoid trivially frightening or teasing the child. If a person is affected by cowardice as a child, it remains a lifetime scar. It is a mistake for parents to thoughtlessly make their children dread lightening, or to have them not go into dark places, or to tell them frightening things in order to stop them from crying. Furthermore, a child will become timid if he is scolded severely.”
At age 7 : You will now wear nakama, which are wide pants that you wear over your kimono.
You will begin to learn to ride a horse and use a wooden sword.
You will be passing from babyhood to childhood.
You will learn to read and write, and your education in the arts will begin.
You will learn the fine art of calligraphy, which is done with a brush and ink.
Between ages 10 and 12 : You will go to a Buddhist monastery or samurai training school to continue your education for another 4 or 5 years.
You will learn about Chinese classical literature and how to recite and write poetry, especially haiku.
You will learn to dance and to appreciate Japanese theater.
You will also train in the martial arts and learn how to use a sword, a spear, and a bow.
At age 14 or 15 : The gembuku ceremony we performed will be performed as a declaration of your manhood.
The Gembuku is your coming of age ceremony.
You will receive your adult name. During your lifetime you can expect to be known by a series of names.
The first name would be your family name. The second name would be given to you as a gift from a powerful person such as the shogun.
The front of your head will be shaved.
You will be given a steel sword and a suit of armor.
Once your have finished your training, you will then be a samurai.
Ready to protect—even give your life for—your lord.
It is not likely that you will live until you are old., but if you do and retire from fighting, you will be treated with great respect until you die.
You will then be cremated, and your ashes will be buried at a Buddhist temple.
Many Samurai who were facing seppuku (ritual suicide) or a honorable death were expected to write a short farewell poem that expressed their thoughts about their upcoming death.
Here are several poems written minutes before the writers death.
Minamoto Yorimasa (1104-1180) Like a rotten log half buried in the ground - my life, which has not flowered, comes to this sad end.
Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598) My life came like dew disappears like dew. All of Naniwa is dream after dream.
Ota Dokan ( 1432-1486) Had I not known that I was dead already I would have mourned my loss of life.