In Japan, Samurai were of the military elite during the medieval and early-modern period.
In Japanese, they are known as bushi or buke. By the 12th century, the word samurai became synonymous with bushi. It was closely associated with the middle and upper ranks of the warrior class.
Usually associated with a clan and their lord, the samurai also followed a set of rules that later came to be known as the bushidō. Although the samurai numbered less than 10% of Japan's former population, their teachings are still found today in both everyday life and modern Japanese martial arts.
After hundreds of years of enjoyment of their status, powers, and ability to shape the government of Japan, the samurai came to an end. The samurai class was abolished during the Meiji reforms in the late 19th century, and a western-style national army was established. The Imperial Japanese Armies were recruited, but many samurai volunteered as soldiers and even advanced to be trained as officers. Many soldiers of the Imperial Army class were of samurai origin, and were highly disciplined, motivated, and exceptionally trained.
The samurai culture was influenced by the philosophies of Buddhism and Zen, and to a lesser extent Confucianism and Shinto. Zen meditation became a principal teaching because of the process to calm one's mind.
The Buddhist concept of reincarnation and rebirth swayed samurai to abandon torture and needless killing. Some samurai even gave up violence altogether and became Buddhist monks after realizing how idle their killings were. However, some were killed as they came to terms with these realizations on the battlefield.
The most significant role that Confucianism played in samurai philosophy was to stress the importance of the lord-retainer relationship. It is the concept of samurai requiring to show loyalty to his lord.
Most samurai were bound by a code of honor and were expected to set an example for those below their rank. A notable part of their code is seppuku, which allowed a disgraced samurai to regain his honor by committing his own execution, as samurai were still obligated to social rules.
Samurai warriors described themselves as followers of Bushido, or "The Way of the Warrior". By the Japanese dictionary Shogakukan Kokugo Daijiten, Bushidō is defined as "a unique philosophy that spread through the warrior class from the Muromachi period. From the earliest times, the Samurai felt that the path of the warrior was one of honor, emphasizing duty to one's master, and loyalty unto death".
Tohoku | Aomori | Hirosaki
Hirosaki Samurai District
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Kyushu | Oita | Usuki
Usuki Samurai District
A well preserved samurai district with Edo period architecture close to the ruins of Usuki Castle located in Usuki, Oita Prefecture.
Tohoku | Akita | Kakunodate
Kakunodate Samurai District
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Tohoku | Fukushima | Aizu Wakamatsu
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Chugoku | Yamaguchi | Hagi
Hagi Former Castle Town
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Chubu | Ishikawa | Kanazawa
Nagamachi Samurai District
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Kanto | Tochigi | Kinugawa Onsen
Nikko Edomura (Edo Wonderland)
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Kansai | Kyoto | Kyoto City
Toei Uzumasa Eigamura
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