The Samurai (侍) was the typical military noble belonging to ancient feudal Japan. The name Samurai comes from the verb "saburau" which means "to serve" precisely to indicate the samurai as "one who serves".
Another term, dating back to the Edo period, to indicate this caste of warriors, perhaps even more so than the samurai, is the word "bushi" which literally means "warrior", a term currently used to indicate the warrior nobility.
The samurai, on the other hand, who did not need any daimyo (ancient feudal lord) because they died in battle or because they had lost the favor of their lord, were called "ronin". The samurai were a cultured caste, because in addition to martial arts, they practiced Zen arts such as cha no yu or shodo (art of calligraphy).
Over time, then, at the arrival of the Tokugawa era, the samurai lost their value and their military function by simply becoming bureaucrats of the Shogun (equivalent of the General) using their sword only for ceremonies. Finally, with the Meiji renewal, the samurai class was completely abolished to adopt a national army following the Western style. Despite this, the bushido (samurai code of honor) has survived time and is today a set of moral, behavioral, ethical and religious principles for Japanese society.
The word Samurai 侍 originates in the Heian period, when it was still pronounced "saburai" which, as already said, meant "one who serves". Then in the Edo period, "saburai" became "samurai".

However, there are some terms that can be synonymous with samurai and are used depending on several factors:

Buke: indicated one belonging to a military family.
Mononofu: is the most archaic term to indicate the "warrior"
Musha: is the abbreviation for Bugeisha and indicates "the man of martial arts"
Shi: it is the ideogram that is then read in Japanese samurai
Tsuwamono: was the archaic term to indicate the word "soldier" or in any case a brave person.
The samurai used a great variety of weapons. In the Tokugawa period it was believed that the soul of a brave samurai resided in his "katana" (sword) which was entrusted to the samurai only after he turned thirteen.
In fact, at that age the boy who belonged to the military class was given a wakizashi (traditional Japanese short sword) and an adult name, thus officially becoming a samurai. This gave them permission to always carry a sword with them; this ritual lasted until the first half of 1500 when it was completely forbidden to carry weapons.
Another weapon wielded by samurai was the bow: the Japanese bow, if wielded by a samurai, was a very powerful weapon: its size made it possible to shoot arrows with maximum precision at a distance of 100 but also 200 meters. In the 15th century, another very powerful weapon was the spear (yari) which in the hands of the infantrymen became even more effective than a katana.
Bushido is the samurai code of honor. It is a code of conduct and a set of precepts on the way and style of life. In Bushido the rules of discipline, military and moral applied by the samurai are collected: they are rules inspired by the principles of Buddhism and Confucianism then adapted to the caste of warriors. Bushido demands values ​​such as honesty, piety, loyalty, duty and honor and were to be pursued for life. Failing to comply with one of these principles, the warrior was dishonored and forced to atone for this with seppuku or better known in the West as Harakiri.

The principles of Bushido were and are seven:

義, Gi: Honesty and Justice
Be scrupulously honest in your relationship with others, believe in justice that never comes from other people except from yourself. The samurai must never be uncertain about honesty and justice.
勇, Yuu: Heroic Courage
Rise above those who are afraid to act and hide in the shell of not living. A samurai must have heroic courage which is risky and dangerous but allows one to live fully and comprehensively.

仁, Jin: Compassion
Training makes a samurai strong. The samurai must also acquire a power that must be used for the common good. Therefore, he must have compassion and never miss the opportunity to be of help to others and if he does not have the opportunity, the samurai does everything to find one.

礼, Rei: Dear Courtesy
Samurai have no reason to be cruel and don't have to prove their strength. The samurai is kind, even with his enemies and if he doesn't know how to show respect he is considered the worst of warriors. A samurai is not respected for his strength in battle but for his kindness to others.

誠, Makoto or Shin: Complete Sincerity
When a samurai wants to perform an action, it is to be considered already completed, however nothing prevents him from completing the intention of that same action. The samurai does not need to "give a word" or "promise". Talking and acting are the same thing for him.

名誉, Meiyo: Honor
There is only one judge of honor for a samurai: himself. Every action or decision is a consequence, a reflection of what one really is. You can hide from everyone but not from yourself.

忠義, Chugi: Duty and Loyalty
For the samurai, performing an action or expressing something means becoming the owner of that something or that action. He takes full responsibility for it by accepting every possible consequence. The samurai is loyal to those he protects and defends and always remains faithful to them.
The sakura (or cherry tree), today taken as a symbol of all martial arts, was in ancient times adopted by the samurai as an emblem of their belonging warrior class.

The cherry tree for the samurai represents the beauty and transience of life: in the flowering it shows a splendid show in which the samurai reflects the grandeur of his figure as a great warrior but a storm is also enough for all the flowers to fall to the ground exactly like the samurai in battle.

An ancient verse says:

Hana wa sakuragi, hito wa bushi which means among the flowers, the cherry tree, among men, the warrior!
Incredibly, the structure of the original samurai armor hasn't changed much over the centuries. Traditional construction required hundreds of small iron or leather plates (kozane) to be tied with silk or leather ribbons. This construction was later simplified with the use of larger plates riveted to each other or still tied in silk as in the most ancient armors. The iron was often coated with lacquer to prevent rust and this use remained unchanged for six hundred years. Bamboo, contrary to what is often read, was never used for the original samurai armor, being reserved for training armor.
Feudal Japan was structured in regions controlled by a daimyō. Depending on the importance and wealth of this daimyō, there may or might not be a school of gunsmiths specific to the fief. Some types of samurai armor are therefore immediately recognizable as specific to certain areas, but most of those made in the Edo period were produced by independent shops that sold their products in the capital and were bought there by samurai from all over Japan.
Most of the samurai armor we see around date from the Edo period (1615-1867) and were never used for a fight since the last battle that was fought in samurai Japan was that of Sekigahara, in 1600.

However, among the impositions of the shogunate during the Edo period, the most important was certainly the forced residence in Edo, the sankin kotai, an ingenious invention aimed at impoverishing and at the same time controlling their own feudal lords (daimyō). This imposition in fact provided that periodically all the daimyō went to Edo - and did so with expensive and sumptuous processions (daimyō gyoretsu) - to supply the shogunate with soldiers and to leave their families there as hostages. The double residence between the capital and its own fiefdom and the social need to lead a luxurious life during the stay in Edo, therefore led to the emptying of the coffers of the various daimyō, to the benefit - among other things - of a production of samurai armor very elegant, sumptuous and extravagant. This relaxed climate of political stability in fact leads the armor to be an important symbol of social status and no longer a means of defense; for this reason, during the Edo period (1603-1867) the skill of blacksmiths moved more towards aesthetic characteristics than towards functional ones. Starting from the mid-18th century, the splendor of lacquers and colored bindings, the use of chiseled and gilded borders and ornaments on the entire armor and the continuous search for unusual decorations are the true characteristics of the armor of this period. Some gunsmiths then specialized in embossing techniques (uchidashi) producing dô, menpo and kabuto of extraordinary quality. In this period the ô-yoroi and dô-maru of the rich medieval style came back into vogue, with large sodas and complex binding that emphasized the skill of the gunsmith, and some of the most beautiful armor ever made was produced.
In the 19th century, wars are now a very distant memory and although the tendency to imitate ancient models in a luxurious key does not seem to diminish, however, the truly talented gunsmiths begin to disappear, those who were first of all masters in iron working and who knew how to build helmets and masks that were works of art.

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