Samurai Facts And Myths

Samurai have become legendary figures in popular culture, inspiring films, comics, and video games.

But what are the facts and myths about this ancient warrior class? Here's a look at some samurai facts and myths:

Samurai Facts

  • Samurai were a class of warriors in feudal Japan who were trained in martial arts and were known for their loyalty and honor. However, not Samurai were not purely warriors as some were also bureaucrats and administrators. They were educated and were expected to be well-versed in poetry, literature, and other arts.
  • Samurai followed a strict code of conduct called bushido, emphasizing loyalty, courage, and respect. The Bushido philosophy refers to not fearing death and dying for valor. It is sometimes criticized for disrespecting human life.
  • Samurai were known for their distinctive hairstyle called a chonmage, which involved shaving the front of the head and growing the hair long at the back, which was then tied up in a topknot.
  • Samurai were not allowed to marry without the permission of their lords.
  • Samurai were not allowed to engage in trade or manual labor, as it was considered beneath their status.
  • 5,500 swords were surrendered to the Allied forces after World Wars II and many swords were dumped as they are emotional burdens. 
  • The most martial arts sword cuts in one minute (rush straw) is 97 and was achieved by Ricardo Jesús Blanes Blancas (Netherlands) in Oss, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands, on 19 March 2022. He beat the last record of 87 held by Isao Machii.
  • Shingen-ko Festival is a Japanese festival (matsuri) that is held in April annually to celebrate the legacy of daimyō Takeda Shingen in Kōfu, the capital city of Yamanashi Prefecture. It was the "largest gathering of samurai" in the world and held the record of 1061 samurais and over 100,000 visitors.
  • Josh Horton holds the Guinness World Record for having juggled 4 katanas at the same time. 
  • The most consecutive samurai sword juggling catches (three swords) is 191 and was achieved by Marcos Ruiz Ceballos (Spain) in San Fernando, Cádiz, Spain, on 25 January 2019.
  • The most people wearing paper samurai helmets (kabuto) online simultaneously is 122 and was achieved by the staff, cast, and fans of Brave-Gunjosenki the Movie (Japan) in Minato, Tokyo, Japan on 8 March 2021.

Samurai Myths

  • One myth was that female samurais cannot match their male counterparts. Though rare, there have been examples throughout history of female samurais fighting alongside men during battle. One notable example was Tomoe Gozen - a skilled warrior who fought valiantly against rival clans during the Genpei War in 1184-1185 A.D. Her bravery eventually earned her admittance into the ranks of an elite unit called yamabushi ("mountain warriors"), an honor usually reserved for men only! 
  • One common myth about samurai is that they were always on horseback. While samurai did use horses in battle, they were also skilled in hand-to-hand combat and fought on foot.
  • Another myth is that all samurai only wore traditional armor and carried swords. Samurai were also trained in archery, spears, and other martial arts.
  • One myth about Samurai is that they were allowed to kill anyone who angered or offended them. Samurai were bound by strict codes of conduct and prohibited killing indiscriminately.
  • Samurai were not all noblemen, some were of common origin, who rose to power through their military skill.
  • Another myth is that samurai were invincible, but they were not immune to injury or death. They were also depicted as beings blessed with supernatural powers, like the ability to evade and deflect bullets with their swords.
  • A movie myth was that a samurai's katana can chop a regular sword in half. While a sword can break upon impact, it does not get chopped off by a katana.
  • Samurais also do not fight with ninjas as ninjas in general
  • Samurai were also known for committing ritual suicide (seppuku) as a form of honor, but this was not a common practice and was only done in extreme circumstances
  • One myth about samurai is that they were all wealthy, but this was not the case. Some samurai were very wealthy, but others were not, and many struggled to make ends meet.
  • The role of samurai started to decline during the Edo period (1603-1867) and the Meiji Restoration (1868) marked the end of the samurai era, and the samurai were no longer able to maintain their status and privileges.
  • Another unique myth is that Samurai always wore traditional armor, while in fact, during the Edo period, it was more common for samurai to wear everyday clothes and only wear armor for specific occasions such as battles or ceremonies.

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