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Bushido, Emperor, Shogun, Daimyo, Samurai
Medieval Japan Unit
This article brought to you by 10th - 19th centuries in Japan!No, son. You cannot be a samurai warrior. They are not of our class. Here in Japan, we are a part of a feudal system. There is a ranking to things, with important people at the very top, and not important people all the way down at the bottom. You are a farmer's son. This means you cannot be a samurai. You must work the fields with me . . . You do not think that's fair? I guess I will have to explain the way of things to you yet again. We begin with the leader of the most beautiful island in the world. Or at least, your father thinks so. The emperor is the highest ruler of Japan and we see them as a god on earth . . . and yet he is controlled by someone else. You would think that the person in the highest class would make all the important decisions for Japan. You would be wrong. He does not make any big decisions for our country. Yes, we must all bow when he comes around, but it is someone else who holds all the true power.
Remember this, son. The strongest person in this country is the one with the most military power. This is not the emperor, but the person in the class below him. The shogun is the general of Japan and controls all the armies. He received this place of honor from his father and his father's father. Even though we act as if the emperor is the one who makes the choices, the shoguns took power many years ago. He makes all of the choices when it comes to whom we fight and when. We would never say such a thing in front of our emperor, of course. The daimyos are the great lords under the shogun and they own the land. They own and run the ground under your feet. They also try to keep peace, so long as they keep the shogun happy. Their name means "big private land." Their power comes from how much land they own. Yes, our rice paddy belongs to the daimyo. The more land a person owns, the more they have to keep it safe from others. Yes, yes, I know. This next part is your favorite part.
The daimyos hire strong warriors to come keep an eye on the land, like ours. The samurai are under the daimyo and members of the warrior class that keep their leader and everyone else safe. They carry two swords: one long and one short. There was a time long ago when they might use these swords on farmers like us to keep the peace. Now they rule by making smart choices. As impressive as they are, samurai means nothing more than "one who serves." Yes, that's true, you are a servant to me. No, I will not give you a sword to cut the rice fields. Even if the law did let me.
I do have good news for you, son. There is one way you can act like a samurai. Bushido is the way of the warrior; it is the code of honor the samurai must follow. Even though you cannot carry two swords as a farmer, you can still be honorable. Yes, a part of it is about being a good military leader. It's also about being nice to your neighbors and friends and your family, especially those who are older than you. The most important part of this code is to listen to your leader. If a samurai does not keep his honor, the daimyo can command you to take your own life. So you see? If you want to be like the samurai, you must listen to me and keep picking rice. Yes, son. I know it's hard to hear. You will never be a samurai. But think of it this way. If there were no farmers like us, there would be no rice. With no rice, the emperor would not have enough energy to sit on his throne at the top. The shogun, who has all the power, but is under the emperor, would not have the energy to make strong military choices. Under the Shogun, the daimyo would have no energy to run their land and the farmers on them. And last, with no rice, the samurai would not have enough energy to keep us safe and making more rice. Does that make you feel better? No? Then remember Bushido, son, and be loyal to your father. Keep picking rice!
References: History. "Samurai and Bushido" history.com, 2010. US History. "Feudal Japan: The Age of the Warrior" ushistory.org, 2013.