Samurai were the military-nobility and officer-caste of
medieval and early-modern Japan. In Japanese, they are usually referred to
as bushi (武士?, [bu.ɕi]) or buke (武家?). According to translator William Scott
Wilson: "In Chinese, the character 侍 was originally a verb meaning "to wait
upon" or "accompany persons" in the upper ranks of society, and this is also
true of the original term in Japanese, saburau. In both countries the
terms were nominalized to mean "those who serve in close attendance to the
nobility", the pronunciation in Japanese changing to saburai. According to
Wilson, an early reference to the word "samurai" appears in the Kokin Wakashū
(905–914), the first imperial anthology of poems, completed in the first part of
the 10th century. 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 were usually
associated with a clan and their lord, were trained as officers in military
tactics and grand strategy, and they followed a set of rules that later came to
be known as the bushidō. While the samurai numbered less than 10% of then
Japan's population, their teachings can still be found today in both everyday
life and in modern Japanese martial arts.
Fundoshi - 褌 (Fundoshi?) （ふんどし）is the traditional
Japanese undergarment for adult males, made from a length of cotton. Before
World War II, the fundoshi was the main form of underwear for Japanese adult
males. However it fell out of use quickly after the war with the introduction of
new underwear to the Japanese market, such as briefs and trunks. Nowadays, the
fundoshi is mainly used not as underwear but as festival (matsuri) clothing at
Hadaka Matsuri or, sometimes, as swimwear.
Hakama - Hakama (袴?) are a type of traditional Japanese
clothing. Trousers were used by the Chinese imperial court in the Sui and Tang
dynasties, and this style was adopted by the Japanese in the form of hakama
beginning in the sixth century. Hakama are tied at the waist and fall
approximately to the ankles. They are worn over a kimono (hakamashita). There
are two types of hakama, divided umanori (馬乗り, literally horse-riding hakama)
and undivided andon bakama (行灯袴?, lit., lantern hakama). The umanori type have
divided legs, similar to trousers. Both these types appear similar. A "mountain"
or "field" type of umanori hakama was traditionally worn by field or forest
workers. They are looser in the waist and narrower in the leg. Hakama are
secured by four straps (himo): two longer himo attached on either side of the
front of the garment, and two shorter himo attached on either side of the rear.
The rear of the garment has a rigid trapezoidal section, called a koshi-ita
(腰板?). Below that on the inside is a hakama-dome (袴止め) (a
spoon-shaped component sometimes referred to as a hera) which is tucked into the
obi or himo at the rear, and helps to keep the hakama in place. Hakama have
seven deep pleats, two on the back and five on the front. The pleats are said to
represent the seven virtues of bushido, considered essential to the samurai way.
Although they appear balanced, the arrangement of the front pleats (three to the
right, two to the left) is asymmetrical, and as such is an example of asymmetry
in Japanese aesthetics.
Kyahan - Kyahan (脚絆（きゃはん）)are cloth leggings worn by the
samurai class and their retainers in feudal Japan. In Japanese the word is
also used for western soldier's gaiters. Kyahan were worn as padding
underneath the samurai greaves (suneate). Some types of kyahan could be covered
with mail armour (kusari kyahan or kyahan suneate), these were worn by foot
soldiers ashigaru or by samurai as protection. Kyahan were worn by
ordinary travelers as protection from cold, insects and underbrush. Kyahan
are often made of linen, but other materials such as cotton can be employed.
Kyahan components depend on the season. When tying kyahan, the inner cords are
shorter than the outer ones; it is also advisable that the cords are tied on the
inner side of the legs instead of on the front or outer area. This helps prevent
discomfort when the stiff greaves are placed over the kyahan.
Shitagi - Shitagi (下着?, lit. "under clothing") (also
gusoku shita), a type of shirt worn by the Samurai class of feudal Japan when
they were wearing full armour. The shitagi was the second garment to be
put on, coming second only to the Fundoshi (Japan loincloth). The shitagi was
like a short kimono with a button at the neck and an thin attached waist cord
(obi). There are several different types of shitagi. The shitagi would be
put on as though it were a kimono, the left hand being put first into its
sleeve, and then the right, the neck would then buttoned and the waist cord
finally tied at the back.
Tabi - Tabi (足袋?) are traditional Japanese socks dating
back to the 15th century. Ankle-high and with a separation between the big toe
and other toes, they are worn by both men and women with zori, geta, and other
traditional thonged footwear. Tabi are also essential with traditional
clothing—kimono and other wafuku as well as being worn by samurai in the feudal
Uwa-obi - a type of belt/sash that was worn by the
samurai class and their retainers in feudal Japan. The uwa-obi was used to
attach the sageo (saya cord) of the sword or swords worn by a samurai in order
to secure it, other weapons and equipment would be tied to the uwa-obi as well.
The uwa-obi was made from linen and cloth made of cotton, it would be wound two
to three times around the body when worn. When the uwa-obi was worn with the
attire or armour of the samurai, it would first be folded in two, then twisted
and then a piece of leather was placed within the centre. This method was used
to find the middle of the uwa-obi in a dark area. When putting on the uwa-obi,
it was worn with the center in the front of the Dou (dō) (chest armour), then
the two ends would be wound around the waist area and back to the front, the
uwa-obi would be tied in front rather firmly with the hanamusubi knot.
Waraji - Waraji (草鞋?) are sandals made from straw rope
that in the past were the standard footwear of the common people in Japan.
Waraji were also worn by the samurai class and foot soldiers (ashigaru) during
the feudal era of Japan. Traditionally, the Japanese wear the waraji with
their toes protruding slightly over the front edge. However, there are no set
rules or guidelines on wearing waraji.
A kasa (笠?) is any of several sorts of traditional hats
of Japan. Some of the kasa hats are Amigasa, Jingasa, Sugegasa,
Takuhatsugasa and Sandogasa. Amigasa is a traditional straw hat used in some
Japanese folk dances. When preceded by a word specifying the type of hat, the
word becomes gasa as in the jingasa (war hat). One kind of kasa (Takuhatsugasa)
for Buddhist monks is made overlarge, in a bowl or mushroom shape and is made
from woven rice straw. It does not come to a point like a rice farmer's hat, nor
ride high on the head like a samurai's traveling hat. It is just a big hat
covering the upper half to two thirds of the face. Thus, it helps mask the
identity of the monk and allows him to travel undistracted by sights around him
on his journey. The samurai class of feudal Japan as well as
their retainers and footsoldiers (ashigaru) used several types of jingasa made
from iron, copper, wood, paper, bamboo or leather.
As far back as the seventh century Japanese warriors wore
a form of lamellar armor, this armor eventually evolved into the armor worn by
the samurai. The first types of Japanese armors identified as samurai armor were
known as yoroi. These early samurai armors were made from small individual
scales known as kozane. The kozane were made from either iron or leather and
were bound together into small strips, the strips were coated with lacquer to
protect the kozane from water. A series of strips of kozane were then laced
together with silk or leather lace and formed into a complete chest armor (dou
or dō). In the 1500s a new type of armor started to become popular due to
the advent of firearms, new fighting tactics and the need for additional
protection. The kozane dou made from individual scales was replaced by plate
armor. This new armor, which used iron plated dou (dō), was referred to as
Tosei-gusoku, or modern armor. Various other components of armor protected
the samurai's body. The helmet kabuto was an important part of the samurai's
armor. Samurai armor changed and developed as the methods of samurai warfare
changed over the centuries. The known last use of samurai armor occurring
in 1877 during the satsuma rebellion. As the last samurai rebellion was
crushed, Japan modernized its defenses and turned to a national conscription
army that used uniforms.
History of the
Japanese Samurai Warriors
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