How far back does Japanese samurai history go?

Question:

How far back does Japanese samurai history go?

Samurai: A Hereditary Class?

Over the course of Japanese history, the samurai class was more or less accessible to men of extraordinary martial skill based on the political stability of the country and the need for soldiers. During periods of stability such as the Tokugawa Shogunate, the samurai were more involved with the administration of the state than the fighting of battles, and entry into their ranks was nearly impossible. In periods of breakdown like the Warring States period which preceded the Tokugawa, skilled men could become samurai through military service, thus expanding their ranks to meet military needs.

Answer and Explanation:

Japan, having imported many of its earliest governing institutions from China, originally had a Chinese-style conscript military. However, in 792 as the emperor Kanmu was facing down a rebellion, a famine, and a draft-dodging crisis, he devolved responsibility for arming and equipping soldiers down to the provincial level. The roots of the samurai lie in the period following this decision, as local notables hired their own military and security forces in the absence of national protection. These hired soldiers serving in individual retinues were called bushi and would eventually come to be known as samurai. The development of the samurai as a class with a sense of their own identity took place shortly before the establishment of the Kamakura Shogunate, a military government which had supplanted the Emperor as the locus of political power in 1192. The samurai would remain a privileged warrior caste serving the shogun and local lords called daimyo for the next seven hundred years.


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Japanese Military Society & Samurais in the 12th Century

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Chapter 13 / Lesson 7
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Learn what a samurai is. Explore the rise of the shogun, the history of the samurai, what training samurais underwent, and what the samurai code of Bushido is.


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