We all have watched the occasional Samurai drama, or movie that included a Samurai or two or three, haven’t we? Have you ever really wondered what it was like? I mean really wondered what it was like back in those days?
What did it take to become a Samurai?
There was a young man by the name of Mori Ranmaru, a descendant of the Seiwa Genji; the most powerful clan in Japan during the 16th century. He was known for his unusual beauty, talent and loyalty, he was a vassal and close attendant of the first Shogun Unifier of Japan, Nobunaga Oda.
He became a Samurai by the age of 16, dying at the age of 17.
Under Nobunaga, there was also one unusual Samurai. An African man (thought to be from Mozambique or Ethiopia), who had accompanied an Italian Jesuit, for whatever reason, to Japan, and Nobunaga was so taken with this man, he took him into his service and made him a Samurai. And what a Samurai he was also, standing over 188cm tall it was said and though he only served for two years and his actual fate is not known, he still stands out in history.
Williams Adams from England, luckily made his way to Japan in 1600 as a trader, one of only a few of the crew left on his ship due to a series of unfortunate events. Nobunaga also took a liking to him and eventually allowed him to rise up through the ranks and become Samurai. He died in Nagasaki in 1620.
Pretty much, you had to be born into this world of Samurai. It was hereditary, but on the rare occasions that you may have fought in a battle with a sword and proved yourself, or just so happened to get noticed, well you could move in on the job with a referral.
If you ever done anything wrong, well, just say you would have to commit seppuku and split your gut open as a way to die honorably.
If your boss got murdered, you could never go work for another Shogun. You became a Ryonin (Masterless Samurai) and lived out your life as a bounty hunter or in the private sector.
It was a job that you could be proud of but a lot of the men were very pretentious, stuck up and loved to show off. Especially after a few sake’s. No one would ever walk on the left side of a Samurai. If you happen to bump into his sword, well, let’s just say that it would be a bad day for you. This is why it is thought that all Japanese drive on the left-hand side even today, as they would pass the oncoming Warrior on his right side.