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Samurai Fact #2: The Ways to Test a Sword
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Gets stuck into the action without getting bogged down with too many details or fancy descriptions - just enough to give the feel of the setting. David has, however, studied a lot about this period, and his knowledge of weapons gives the story credibility. One of the nice surprises was the character, Yanama, a girl forced into becoming a ninja. You can't trust her and she throws some fantastic spanners and tiny poisoned darts into the works. The two other book Great action adventure set in Japan. The two other books in the trilogy are a must read. View 1 comment.

Sep 06, Barry rated it liked it Shelves: read-reviewed Jan 30, Allen Reesor rated it liked it. Good start The book is based in the history of the Japanese Shogunate. Although the story is interesting, it is a bit choppy. Maybe the second volume will flow better. Deborah Heasman rated it liked it Jan 06, Ray Berard rated it liked it Oct 07, Edward H. Spain rated it it was amazing Jun 06, Norbert rated it did not like it Jun 05, Katie rated it it was amazing Jan 09, Tim rated it liked it May 01, Rosemary rated it it was amazing Mar 04, Thomas Maclaine rated it liked it Jan 22, Richard Steiner rated it really liked it Feb 26, Stefan Flod rated it really liked it Oct 09, William Clark rated it it was ok Nov 22, Rachael Lynn rated it liked it Mar 25, Victor Jones rated it liked it Dec 25, Andrew rated it really liked it Feb 27, To finance the system, Toyotomi Hideyoshi introduced a rice taxation system under which every samurai warrior received a certain amount of rice depending on his rank.

The samurai warriors had an ethic code of behavior called bushido , meaning "way of the warrior". The central point of the bushido was complete loyalty towards the lord, the daimyo. Seppuku is a ritual suicide and considered as an honorable death. Seppuku was part of bushido. Hara-kiri means literally "stomach-cutting" and was the practiced form of seppuku. When done outside a battle, it was performed in a formal ceremony. Spectators attended the event. The act was a painful one. The person doing hara-kiri had to slice up his abdomen. When finished he stretched out his neck.

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An assistant was waiting behind him and had to behead the suicide with one stroke of his sword. Reasons for committing seppuku were connected to honor and disgrace. One occasion for committing seppuku was the death of the lord. It was an expression of grief at one's master's death and was the utmost form of loyalty to the lord. Other reasons were punishment. Seppuku could also be a way of showing a disagreement with one's master. A frequent reason for committing hara-kiri was in a lost battle to avoid the disgrace of falling into the hands of an enemy.

The ritual suicide was actually not supported by all high-ranking Japanese.

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In and again in the practice was largly forbidden. But it continued nevertheless. The idea that an honorable death is better than a life of disgrace continues in modern Japan. Japan has the highest rate of suicides in the world. Japanese kill themselves for failing in business or for not passing an exam. During the Tokugawa shogunate from to the Edo period the country lived in peace.

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The samurai warrior class had basically nothing to do. Now they took other tasks, in the bureaucracy for instance.

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In the last shogun resigned and the emperor was reinstalled as the formal leader of Japan. In the old feudal system and the privileges of the Japanese samurai class were officially abolished. The daimyo had to return the land to the emperor for which they received pensions by the Japanese state. Historians estimate the percentage that belonged to the samurai class at 8 percent of the overall population of Japan.

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The abolishment of the samurai class caused severe social problems. Many samurai did not know how to make a living and survive. There were cases of samurai wives who sold themselves to brothels to support the family. But Samurai history had not yet ended. Many samurai were desperate with their situation and the loss of their former status.

They gathered under Takamori Saigo , a samurai and statesman who had worked for the local clan leader of Satsuma in the southern region on the island of Kyushu.

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Saigo had served the new Meiji government well in leading positions and had carried many of the Meiji reforms. But after several years he became dissatisfied with the directions the Meiji government took. Major issues of disagreement were the far-reaching measures to abolish the old samurai privileges and the refusal to invade and occupy Korea as proposed by Saigo Takamori.

He quit and gathered around his Kyushu residence an army of samurai warriors hostile towards the central imperial government. In it came to open military conflicts.

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The rebels were lead by Saigo Takamori. It was a clash of brave fighters equipped with inferior weapons against a modern army with Western technology and trained in modern Western warfare. After several lost battles Saigo and die-hard samurai had retreated to the hills of Shiroyama near their hometown of Kagoshima.

Exhausted and without ammunition and food, the last samurai knew that they had no chance. In the morning hours of September 24, the artillery shelling by the government forces began. Samurai swords are known to be some of the sharpest in the world, but not every sword was made equal in feudal Japan. So to test their swords, they had different methods. One common way was to make 16 cuts through a dead body hanging from a tree. Another was to test the sword on a live convicted criminal.

It was a heartless practice, but that could be the difference between life or death in their next battle. And since their servant was always by their side, they always had a very cooperative witness. Yes, you heard well!

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  7. These relationships would mostly be between young apprentices and the masters who trained them, and though they would always marry a woman, they could keep up sexual activities with men at the same time. It was common at the time in many countries for men to pay a dowry fee to the family of a woman they wanted to marry. But there was an exception. Indeed, if a woman from a lower class wanted to marry a samurai, she would have to pay him. In addition to this, these wives were expected to kill themselves by ritual suicide along with their husband in case he decided to do so.

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    The women would cut their neck instead of the abdomen like men and tie their legs so they would be found in a more dignified pose. Ronin have been somewhat glamorized in movies and books, but they were in fact fairly ridiculed in Japanese society, seen as the equivalent of homeless people. They often kept their pride and refused to work normal jobs though. Samurai were often much hairier than normal Japanese people, with lighter skin and a European nose shape as well.

    This has led some people to believe that they may have been descendants of the Ainu, a minority that originated from the Northern Japanese island of Hokkaido.