Historical Context Edit
Until the ‘ashigaru’ (peasant) infantry were armed with muskets, the samurai (“those who serve in close attendance”) dominated warfare and politics in Japan for nearly a thousand years. Although the roots lie in the Nara period, it was during the Heian period c. 800 AD that bushido (“the way of the warrior”) was codified and a number of noble clans adopted its philosophies. By the time of the Heiji Rebellion of 1160, the samurai clans dominated the landscape, with various factions fighting over the shogunate, defeating the Mongol invasion, and otherwise building an impressive historical legacy of fact and myth. Throughout the Edo period, Japan was unified and at peace, and so the samurai became refined - writing poetry, trimming bonsai, and occasionally practicing ritualistic suicide (seppuku) when dishonored. Unfortunately, the Emperor Meiji instituted a number of reforms in 1868 – including the end of the shogunate and abolition of the samurai class.