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Japan

Samurai

Samurai armour, made of metal or leather plates Samurai armour, made of metal or leather plates The samurai were brave Japanese warriors. Originally farmers and landowners, the samurai first emerged in the 8th century. At this time, Japan was beset by many wars between rival clans, led by daimyo, or lords. The samurai fought for their local daimyo. In 1192 a samurai leader, Minamoto Yoritomo, became Japan's first shogun, military dictator. He had even more power than the emperor, the official ruler of Japan. Because Japan was made up of hundreds of islands, it could be difficult to govern, so the shoguns relied on the samurai warriors to maintain law and order all over the country. Although samurai only ever numbered about one out of every ten people in Japan, their code of honour, bushido, was very influential.


Castles

Himeji Castle, a samurai castleHimeji Castle, a samurai castleSamurai and daimyo who were loyal to the shogun were rewarded with land on which they could build grand castles. Proud samurai landowners built many castles throughout Japan. To deter attacks from rival samurai groups, rebels or invaders, their castles were built with strong defences including high walls, barred windows and a moat. To show off the samurai’s power, the tenshu (central building) was several storeys high, with beautiful painted woodwork and roof ornaments. Inside there were courtyards and gateways.

Samurai armour inspired Darth Vader's costume in the Star Wars films.

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