love-of-history:

The Origins of the Samurai
Before 646, Japan was undergoing a series of reforms called the Taika reforms. This included heavy taxation and land redistribution in order to support an empire. Unfortunately for the poorest in society, it meant selling their land and working as tenant farmers, creating a powerful and wealthy class of landowners, similar to the feudal system in medieval Britain. The need for protection led to the creation of samurai soldiers; samurai warriors had to be solely loyal to their master. Some were members of this class of landowners, while others were hired and financially dependent on their master.

love-of-history:

The Origins of the Samurai

Before 646, Japan was undergoing a series of reforms called the Taika reforms. This included heavy taxation and land redistribution in order to support an empire. Unfortunately for the poorest in society, it meant selling their land and working as tenant farmers, creating a powerful and wealthy class of landowners, similar to the feudal system in medieval Britain. The need for protection led to the creation of samurai soldiers; samurai warriors had to be solely loyal to their master. Some were members of this class of landowners, while others were hired and financially dependent on their master.

Feudalism in Japan and Europe: Comparison of the Feudal Systems

ka-tagory9:

Although Japan and Europe did not have any direct contact with one another during the medieval and early modern periods, they independently developed very similar socio-political systems. Often, these systems are labeled as feudal.

What is feudalism? The great French historian Marc Bloch defined it this way: “A subject peasantry; widespread use of the service tenement (i.e. the fief) instead of a salary…; supremacy of a class of specialized warriors; ties of obedience and protection which bind man to man…; [and] fragmentation of authority - leading inevitably to disorder.”

reginasworld:

Samurai Warrior Circa 1860
Photograph by Felice Beato
Samurai is the term for the military nobility of  pre-industrial Japan. By the end of the 12th century, samurai became  almost entirely synonymous with bushi, and the word was closely  associated with the middle and upper echelons of the warrior class. The  samurai followed a set of rules that came to be known as Bushido. While  they numbered less than 10% of Japan’s population samurai teachings can  still be found today in both everyday life and in martial arts such as  Kendo, meaning the way of the sword. [Source: Wikipedia]

reginasworld:

Samurai Warrior Circa 1860

Photograph by Felice Beato

Samurai is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. By the end of the 12th century, samurai became almost entirely synonymous with bushi, and the word was closely associated with the middle and upper echelons of the warrior class. The samurai followed a set of rules that came to be known as Bushido. While they numbered less than 10% of Japan’s population samurai teachings can still be found today in both everyday life and in martial arts such as Kendo, meaning the way of the sword. [Source: Wikipedia]

(via bludhavenbird)

HomeWreckers: HomeWrecker: Tomoe Gozen

biahomewrecker:

Tomoe Gozen is a legendary fighter during the Genpei  war. Some call her the only true female samurai, though the term “onna musha” or “onna bugeisha” is a more accurate description. Her skill with the sword, naginata, bow and arrow, and intense loyalty have made her the most famous female fighter in Japan. She was said to have been “well respected by men.” So much so that she led soldiers for her daimyo as one of his senior captains. (Dr. Masaaki Hatsumi)

Second to her ability in combat was her beauty. In the Heike Monogatari (The Tale of the Heike, translation by Helen Craig McCullough), Tomoe Gozen is described to be “especially beautiful, with white skin, long hair, and charming features.” Some legends tell that she was the vicious reincarnation of a river goddess.

In any case, her military exploits are recorded in the Heike Monogatari. During the Genpei War, the powerful Minamoto no Yoshinaka conquered Kyoto, sparking a civil war within his clan. He had many retainers and loyal samurai that distinguished themselves earlier in the war, when he conquered the Heike, one of which was our skilled Onna Bugeisha. He called them to fight for him once again, this time, however, they were outnumbered. During this battle, the Battle of Awazu, Tomoe took heads to present to her master, and fought valiantly. However, the events concluded in a famous scene: Daimyo Minamoto is cornered on the riverbank with only a fear men left. Before a final, desperate confrontation, Tomoe’s master tells her to flee, because dying next to a woman would shame him. She does as told.

The end of her tale is shrouded in some mystery, and this is where the romance abounds: a popular ending says that she gives up the sword and becomes a nun in Echizen. A more Arthurian ending explains that she was defeated by military commander Wada Yoshimori, after which she was inclined to marry him. My favorite ending, the one most befitting of a Japanese warrior denied death in combat, is that she gathered the heads she had collected and drowned herself in the ocean.

Tomoe Gozen shows up in anime, movies, and video games today. For a list of some of her appearances, reference Wikipedia.

Yoshu Chickanobu Tomoe Gozen

Women Warriors of Japan:


The stories of women warriors defending their homes and their  families became means to define a woman’s role in society. They trained  with the naginata less to prepare for combat than to instill them with  the idealized virtues necessary to be a samurai wife. A women’s work was  unremitting service to the males of the household and tireless effort  to teach proper behavior to her children, who were legally considered to  be her husband’s alone. However, unlike the upper-class women of  Victorian England, who were expected to be subservient and frail, the  bushi women were expected to be subservient and strong. Their duty was  to endure.

Via.

Women Warriors of Japan:

The stories of women warriors defending their homes and their families became means to define a woman’s role in society. They trained with the naginata less to prepare for combat than to instill them with the idealized virtues necessary to be a samurai wife. A women’s work was unremitting service to the males of the household and tireless effort to teach proper behavior to her children, who were legally considered to be her husband’s alone. However, unlike the upper-class women of Victorian England, who were expected to be subservient and frail, the bushi women were expected to be subservient and strong. Their duty was to endure.

Via.

A Woman Worth a Thousand: Legend of the Female Samurai (By Rebecca "Bonks" Rothschild)

Remember my post awhile back on the Gay Samurai of Japan? Well the Onna Bushi women were as close as you can get to “female Samurai”. Take a look:

sugargamers:

With the huge success of Shogun 2 came spoilers of all the achievements and unlockables from the blogosphere. One in particular caught my eye, the Onna Bushi, once you’ve gained some serious XP you can unlock a unit of female samurai. I was immediately intrigued as I had thought the Samurai to be to be strictly a boys club.  However, Total War games are always steeped in historical fact, and the Onna Bushi are no myth.  

After extensive research, I learned the term “female samurai” isn’t technically correct but for the sake of explanation I’m gonna go ahead and keep it.  Armor clad samurai women certainly did exist.  Japanese women took on the role of defending their homes while their men were away at war. Not a bad idea as Sun Tzu says, “Invincibility lies in the defense; the possibility of victory in the attack.”  Onna Bushi were trained in the same elaborate Samurai tradition and discipline as the men.  Often armed with a naginata (the weapon in the above picture) or on occasion a bow these ladies were ready to rock should anyone dare attempt to assault their home or kingdom.

It was a very rare occurrence that these women saw battlefield action, but there is heavy documentation of a certain Onna Bushi said to be “worth a thousand (soldiers)” on the battlefield.  Her name was Tomoe Gozen, said to have a gorgeous porcelain face and long black hair.  She was a skilled and revered archer said to be fearless and elegant.  

I had a feeling our Sugar Gamer ladies who weren’t aware of this little historical tidbit would be elated.  It’s a great reminder that a warrior spirit can reside within anyone be it male or female.

The “Beautiful Way” of the Samurai - Gay relations in the Japanese Samurai Class.
[Image: Man and youth, Miyagawa Isshō,  ca. 1750; Panel from a series of ten on a shunga-style painted hand  scroll (kakemono-e); sumi, color and gofun on silk. Private collection.  Note that the youth on the left is wearing a distinctly feminine kimono (red/pink color, double-wide obi belt). The shaved pate and long sleeves  open on the inside denote the boy’s wakashū age status.]
Whatever the arguments for America’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy have been, Gay men in highly militarized scenarios are neither new nor unusual. As with many things, I stumbled across this fact when researching for a character I was writing - I knew my character was gay, and I knew he was an ex-soldier. What I wanted to know was how those things could be approached together in a slightly fantasy setting. The answer was fairly easy, and I looked at major military cultures around the world. Greece is a standout - Athens wasn’t the only city-state where men loved men, Sparta is well known for much of the same, and every single one of their men was a soldier. (Suppose you don’t see women until you come of age, and it’s not very surprising that not all the Spartan men were attracted to just their women.) The Sacred Band of Thebes is also worth mentioning, if only because we get the reasoning from Plutarch that:
”- if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army  should be made up of lovers and their beloved, they would be the very  best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonour, and  emulating one another in honour; and when fighting at each other’s side,  although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. For what lover  would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved,  either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be  ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this. Or who would  desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of danger?”
Basically, they used Gay couples as a way to strengthen their military. Because who better to serve together on the field than people who love each other more than anything? Then of course, I ran across the Amazons, who, let’s face it, probably had a high number of lesbians among their ranks. Then I ran into the Samurai - the warrior class of Japan, and I ran into something very similar to the relationships that existed in Greece.

Known also as wakashudo, “the way of the youth”, it was a practice engaged in       by all members of the samurai class, from lowliest warrior to       highest lord. Indeed it has been said that it would never have       been asked of a daimyo, “lord”, why he took       boys as lovers, but why he didn’t. This last is not a question       that would have troubled, for example, the three great shoguns       who unified Japan, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, or Tokugawa       Ieyasu, nor for that matter Miyamoto Musashi, the author of “The       Book of Five Rings.”(2)

Samurai often had younger male lovers who were apprenticed to them in order to learn how to become Samurai.

he older partner, in the role of nenja, would teach the wakashū martial skills, warrior etiquette, and the samurai code of honor, while his desire to be a good role model for his wakashū would lead him to behave more honorably himself; thus a shudō relationship was considered to have a “mutually ennobling effect”.[10] In addition, both parties were expected to be loyal unto death, and to  assist the other both in feudal duties and in honor-driven obligations  such as duels and vendettas. Although sex between the couple was  expected to end when the boy came of age, the relationship would,  ideally, develop into a life-long bond of friendship. At the same time,  sexual activity with women was not barred (for either party), and once  the boy came of age, both were free to seek other wakashū lovers.

The history is roughly as follows:

In the 1100’s we see the       first mentions of Kukai as the father of nanshoku. Kukai, or       as he was known after his death, Kobo Daishi “the great       master from Kobo”, was the founder of the Japanese branch       of Vajrayana Buddhism, founding the esoteric Shingon school in       the year 816 at Mount Koya after his return from China where        he received the teachings and transmission from the sixth Patriarch.       Great as his religious and linguistic achievements were (he also       translated the sacred texts from Chinese into Japanese, and devised       the first Japanese alphabet), we have no basis to credit him       with the introduction of male love as well. Nonetheless legend       has it that he learned about the joys of nanshoku in China (universally       renowned from ancient times for its rich homoerotic tradition,       ranging from imperial favorites at the court to sanctioned boy-marriages       for the commoners) and then implanted the practice in Japan upon       his return. Indeed, Mount Koya became synonymous with shudo in       the poetry and prose of medieval Japan.(9)

Eventually I’ll post about homoeroticism in China, but I thought I’d start with the samurai. As a side note, I had wondered where the Seme/Uke divisions had started in Japan, and when looking it up, I got this: “Aleardo Zanghellini suggests that the martial arts terms have special  significance to a Japanese audience, as an “archetype” of male same-sex  relationships are those between samurai and their companions.[4]” Which given that we know that Samurai homosexual relationships were strictly structured, might make a whole lot of sense.
Resources:
Gay Love in Japan
Homosexuality in Japan

The “Beautiful Way” of the Samurai - Gay relations in the Japanese Samurai Class.

[Image: Man and youth, Miyagawa Isshō, ca. 1750; Panel from a series of ten on a shunga-style painted hand scroll (kakemono-e); sumi, color and gofun on silk. Private collection. Note that the youth on the left is wearing a distinctly feminine kimono (red/pink color, double-wide obi belt). The shaved pate and long sleeves open on the inside denote the boy’s wakashū age status.]

Whatever the arguments for America’s Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy have been, Gay men in highly militarized scenarios are neither new nor unusual. As with many things, I stumbled across this fact when researching for a character I was writing - I knew my character was gay, and I knew he was an ex-soldier. What I wanted to know was how those things could be approached together in a slightly fantasy setting. The answer was fairly easy, and I looked at major military cultures around the world. Greece is a standout - Athens wasn’t the only city-state where men loved men, Sparta is well known for much of the same, and every single one of their men was a soldier. (Suppose you don’t see women until you come of age, and it’s not very surprising that not all the Spartan men were attracted to just their women.) The Sacred Band of Thebes is also worth mentioning, if only because we get the reasoning from Plutarch that:

”- if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their beloved, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonour, and emulating one another in honour; and when fighting at each other’s side, although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this. Or who would desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of danger?”

Basically, they used Gay couples as a way to strengthen their military. Because who better to serve together on the field than people who love each other more than anything? Then of course, I ran across the Amazons, who, let’s face it, probably had a high number of lesbians among their ranks. Then I ran into the Samurai - the warrior class of Japan, and I ran into something very similar to the relationships that existed in Greece.

Known also as wakashudo, “the way of the youth”, it was a practice engaged in by all members of the samurai class, from lowliest warrior to highest lord. Indeed it has been said that it would never have been asked of a daimyo, “lord”, why he took boys as lovers, but why he didn’t. This last is not a question that would have troubled, for example, the three great shoguns who unified Japan, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi, or Tokugawa Ieyasu, nor for that matter Miyamoto Musashi, the author of “The Book of Five Rings.”(2)

Samurai often had younger male lovers who were apprenticed to them in order to learn how to become Samurai.

he older partner, in the role of nenja, would teach the wakashū martial skills, warrior etiquette, and the samurai code of honor, while his desire to be a good role model for his wakashū would lead him to behave more honorably himself; thus a shudō relationship was considered to have a “mutually ennobling effect”.[10] In addition, both parties were expected to be loyal unto death, and to assist the other both in feudal duties and in honor-driven obligations such as duels and vendettas. Although sex between the couple was expected to end when the boy came of age, the relationship would, ideally, develop into a life-long bond of friendship. At the same time, sexual activity with women was not barred (for either party), and once the boy came of age, both were free to seek other wakashū lovers.

The history is roughly as follows:

In the 1100’s we see the first mentions of Kukai as the father of nanshoku. Kukai, or as he was known after his death, Kobo Daishi “the great master from Kobo”, was the founder of the Japanese branch of Vajrayana Buddhism, founding the esoteric Shingon school in the year 816 at Mount Koya after his return from China where he received the teachings and transmission from the sixth Patriarch. Great as his religious and linguistic achievements were (he also translated the sacred texts from Chinese into Japanese, and devised the first Japanese alphabet), we have no basis to credit him with the introduction of male love as well. Nonetheless legend has it that he learned about the joys of nanshoku in China (universally renowned from ancient times for its rich homoerotic tradition, ranging from imperial favorites at the court to sanctioned boy-marriages for the commoners) and then implanted the practice in Japan upon his return. Indeed, Mount Koya became synonymous with shudo in the poetry and prose of medieval Japan.(9)

Eventually I’ll post about homoeroticism in China, but I thought I’d start with the samurai. As a side note, I had wondered where the Seme/Uke divisions had started in Japan, and when looking it up, I got this: “Aleardo Zanghellini suggests that the martial arts terms have special significance to a Japanese audience, as an “archetype” of male same-sex relationships are those between samurai and their companions.[4]” Which given that we know that Samurai homosexual relationships were strictly structured, might make a whole lot of sense.

Resources:

Gay Love in Japan

Homosexuality in Japan

fyeahhistorymajorheraldicbeast:

[top: Study Japanese History. Study samurai only in passing.
bottom: Hell yes, it’s possible.]
I concentrated on the Heian era and the Meiji Restoration onward, neither of which are big samurai time periods. ;)
coinin.tumblr.com

fyeahhistorymajorheraldicbeast:

[top: Study Japanese History. Study samurai only in passing.

bottom: Hell yes, it’s possible.]

I concentrated on the Heian era and the Meiji Restoration onward, neither of which are big samurai time periods. ;)

coinin.tumblr.com

(Source: )

reginasworld:

Samurai Warrior Circa 1860
Photograph by Felice Beato
Samurai is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. By the end of the 12th century, samurai became almost entirely synonymous with bushi, and the word was closely associated with the middle and upper echelons of the warrior class. The samurai followed a set of rules that came to be known as Bushido. While they numbered less than 10% of Japan’s population samurai teachings can still be found today in both everyday life and in martial arts such as Kendo, meaning the way of the sword. [Source: Wikipedia]

reginasworld:

Samurai Warrior Circa 1860

Photograph by Felice Beato

Samurai is the term for the military nobility of pre-industrial Japan. By the end of the 12th century, samurai became almost entirely synonymous with bushi, and the word was closely associated with the middle and upper echelons of the warrior class. The samurai followed a set of rules that came to be known as Bushido. While they numbered less than 10% of Japan’s population samurai teachings can still be found today in both everyday life and in martial arts such as Kendo, meaning the way of the sword. [Source: Wikipedia]

(via wthellokitty)

Learning Asian History through Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Kyoshi Warriors
This is a trial run, to see if you guys wouldn’t mind the once in awhile post in this style. I hope you enjoy!
The Pictures: Image one is of a painting of a Kabuki actor playing the role of Shibaraku. Image two is a photograph of Geisha performing a dance with fans. Image three is a screenshot depicting the Kyoshi warrior captain Suki, and her fellow warriors. Image four is a screenshot of the Korean drama Queen Seon Duk, depicting Hwarang warriors.
The Kyoshi Warriors from Avatar: The Last Airbender show up in the third episode of the series, and are a team of young warrior women who protect their home island  Kyoshi dressed in the style of their island’s namesake, Avatar Kyoshi. Their style draws its most obvious references from Japan, however, there is a class of warriors from Korea who also employed a make-up style similar to what we see in the third image.
The most obvious, and intentional influences on the Kyoshi design are Kabuki and Geisha makeup. In both instances, makeup is very important to the performers. In Kabuki, red striped makeup “indicate a powerful hero role. The most famous of these roles, and the one which has come to stereotypically represent kabuki in the West, is the hero of Shibaraku. Red symbolizes virtue and power.” [Shibaraku is the image used above, all via Wikipedia.] As for geisha influences, the makeup of an apprentice geisha (a maiko) is usually quite elaborate. A maiko will have their face painted white, with their eyebrows drawn in in black, and their lips painted a bright crimson. It is not uncommon to see a small streak of red painted in above the eyes. In the case of the geisha, the makeup is meant to attract, and in the case of the kabuki actor, the makeup is meant to portray the fierceness of a hero or warrior.
A real historical group of Korean warriors, known as the Hwarang may have had similar warrior’s makeup looks.

The Hwarang were greatly influenced by Buddhism and Taoism ideals. A Chinese official recorded, “They [Silla] choose fair sons from noble families and deck them out with cosmetics and fine clothes and call them Hwarang. The people all revere and serve them.”

Originally preceeded by a female group called the Wonhwa (원화, 源花, “original flowers”), the Hwarang does not initially appear to have been started as a group of warriors. However, by the 6th and 7th centuries in the Silla kingdom (Korea) trained the Hwarang in more and more martial techniques (archery, swordsmanship, javelins, etc), and their ranks grew in size. While the exact changes are unclear, scholars would suggest that the Hwarang began mostly as a cultural institution, and then expanded into a military power for the use of the Silla court.
It is also worth noting that the Kyoshi warriors are shown using katana (Japanese swords), which are historically associated with samurai warriors in Japan, and tessen/gunbai, types of Japanese war fans. (There are similar fans in both Korea and China. In China, they are known as “铁扇” tiě shàn, literally “steel fan”, and in Korea, they are known as “부채” buchae (simply “fans”), as the Korean fighting fan.
Edit: It’s been suggested I missed the more obvious influence of Chinese Opera aesthetics, and for that I am sorry! Similar makeup styles are certainly found in Chinese operas, although the official Artbook implies a mostly heavy influence from Japan, and shows concept art that I believe could resemble both looks.

Image: Kyoshi Warrior Concept Art, including Suki. Two Kabuki face paint designs for Hero roles, and one Chinese Opera Singer.

Learning Asian History through Avatar: The Last Airbender - The Kyoshi Warriors

This is a trial run, to see if you guys wouldn’t mind the once in awhile post in this style. I hope you enjoy!

The Pictures: Image one is of a painting of a Kabuki actor playing the role of Shibaraku. Image two is a photograph of Geisha performing a dance with fans. Image three is a screenshot depicting the Kyoshi warrior captain Suki, and her fellow warriors. Image four is a screenshot of the Korean drama Queen Seon Duk, depicting Hwarang warriors.

The Kyoshi Warriors from Avatar: The Last Airbender show up in the third episode of the series, and are a team of young warrior women who protect their home island  Kyoshi dressed in the style of their island’s namesake, Avatar Kyoshi. Their style draws its most obvious references from Japan, however, there is a class of warriors from Korea who also employed a make-up style similar to what we see in the third image.

The most obvious, and intentional influences on the Kyoshi design are Kabuki and Geisha makeup. In both instances, makeup is very important to the performers. In Kabuki, red striped makeup “indicate a powerful hero role. The most famous of these roles, and the one which has come to stereotypically represent kabuki in the West, is the hero of Shibaraku. Red symbolizes virtue and power.” [Shibaraku is the image used above, all via Wikipedia.] As for geisha influences, the makeup of an apprentice geisha (a maiko) is usually quite elaborate. A maiko will have their face painted white, with their eyebrows drawn in in black, and their lips painted a bright crimson. It is not uncommon to see a small streak of red painted in above the eyes. In the case of the geisha, the makeup is meant to attract, and in the case of the kabuki actor, the makeup is meant to portray the fierceness of a hero or warrior.

A real historical group of Korean warriors, known as the Hwarang may have had similar warrior’s makeup looks.

The Hwarang were greatly influenced by Buddhism and Taoism ideals. A Chinese official recorded, “They [Silla] choose fair sons from noble families and deck them out with cosmetics and fine clothes and call them Hwarang. The people all revere and serve them.”

Originally preceeded by a female group called the Wonhwa (원화, 源花, “original flowers”), the Hwarang does not initially appear to have been started as a group of warriors. However, by the 6th and 7th centuries in the Silla kingdom (Korea) trained the Hwarang in more and more martial techniques (archery, swordsmanship, javelins, etc), and their ranks grew in size. While the exact changes are unclear, scholars would suggest that the Hwarang began mostly as a cultural institution, and then expanded into a military power for the use of the Silla court.

It is also worth noting that the Kyoshi warriors are shown using katana (Japanese swords), which are historically associated with samurai warriors in Japan, and tessen/gunbai, types of Japanese war fans. (There are similar fans in both Korea and China. In China, they are known as “铁扇” tiě shàn, literally “steel fan”, and in Korea, they are known as “부채” buchae (simply “fans”), as the Korean fighting fan.

Edit: It’s been suggested I missed the more obvious influence of Chinese Opera aesthetics, and for that I am sorry! Similar makeup styles are certainly found in Chinese operas, although the official Artbook implies a mostly heavy influence from Japan, and shows concept art that I believe could resemble both looks.

Image: Kyoshi Warrior Concept Art, including Suki. Two Kabuki face paint designs for Hero roles, and one Chinese Opera Singer.