Bushi (武士, mononofu, samurai) existed from the 10th century to the 19th century and was a member of a family community whose top was the master of Soke (the head family) and whose profession was a warrior. The bushi who emerged during the late ancient times finished the ancient times by force, played a leading role in medieval society and established the social system in the early-modern times. The concept of bushi slightly varies depending on the periods and it is difficult to express it in one word, but the common theme through the periods is that they were members of a private army group of armed fighters. However, all the private army groups of armed fighters are not said to have been bushi and it must be emphasized that they were not approved as bushi without the social authorization as the bearer of public military police.
Musha, musa or bushi as synonyms
And there are several theories about the origin of bushi and there is no conclusive one yet. The academic study on the origin of bushi began after the Meiji period.
The study on the origin of bushi is closely related to 'Discovering the medieval times in Japanese history.'
First, the classical theory on the origin of bushi by 'kaihatsu-ryoshu' (local notables who actually developed the land) will be described below, followed by the recently popular theory on the origin of bushi by 'samurai function.'
The theory of emergence of bushi by 'kaihatsu-ryoshu'
The study of the origin of bushi is closely related with discovering the medieval times. Historian Hiroyuki MIURA and so on in the Meiji period 'discovered' that medieval times also existed in Japan. In the history study of Europe and America in those days, the medieval times were peculiar to Europe and America and indispensable in developing into the modern age. Asia and Africa were still in the ancient societies (in those days) and were not able to develop into modern societies like Europe and America. MIURA and so on noted that medieval Europe was supported by the knights who were 'armed suzerain' emerging on the frontier by the Great Barbarian Invasion of Germanic peoples, positioned the bushi, who flourished in the frontier society centering on Togoku (the eastern part of Japan, particularly Kanto region) from the middle of Heian period in Japan, as 'armed suzerain' who were the same as the knights, 'discovered' that there also existed medieval times in Japan, which was the only country in Asia, and insisted that Japan could be modernized. The bushi were the kaihatsu-ryoshu of shieiden (private lands directly governed by powerful families) and they originally came from 'armed planters' to counteract subservient serfs and interfering zuryo (the head of the provincial governors). This classical theory was widely accepted and also after the war became mainstream in the academics. Influenced by the materialist concept of history, Tadashi ISHIMODA and others positioned the bushi as the reformer who pushed out the ancient governing class such as the aristocrats and religious power of influence and brought on the medieval times.
The theory on the origin of bushi by 'samurai function'
However, all the emergence of bushi could not be explained by the 'kaihatsu-ryoshu' theory. In particular, the high-ranking bushi originating from the members of major bushi groups such as the Minamoto clan, the Taira clan, the Fujiwara clan and so on or the bushi who were closely linked with influential families such as the Imperial Court, the cloister government and so on can not be explained.
And Shinichi SATO, Masataka UWAYOKOTE, Yoshimi TODA, Masaaki TAKAHASHI and others proposed the theory on the origin of bushi by 'samurai function' that the bushi originally came from the bushi staying in Kyoto.
The difference between military officers and bushi
Generally, bushi refers to 'a service member who is a master of military art and battle or a military strategist,' but by this definition, the difference between the 'military officer' under the Ritsuryo system (a system of centralized government based on the ritsuryo code) before the Heian period and the bushi is not clear. For example, the seii taishogun (literally, "great general who subdues the barbarians") SAKANOUE no Tamuramaro, who was famous as a military officer, was an excellent military officer but is not said to have been a bushi. And the difference between a 'military officer' in China and Korea and bushi is not clear, either. In China and Korea, 'military officer' existed but those who were similar to 'bushi' in Japan did not exist. In terms of the eras, those who are said to have been bushi appeared during the formative period of the Kokufu Bunka (Japan's original national culture) in the middle of the Heian period of the tenth century. That is, those who were involved with military affairs before this period were military officers, but not bushi.
So, what is the difference between military officer and bushi?
Simply speaking, military officers were 'government officials (espcially one of low to medium rank) who were armed and a full-time government [public] employee-like officials trained under the Ritsuryo-system,' while the bushi were 'the people who consisted of a 'lower ranking nobles,' 'lower ranking government officials' and 'people from powerful or medieval families' who regarded the new military art established during the 10th century as their iegei and were officially authorized to be armed by the Imperial Court or kokufu (provincial office)' and they did not acquire the military art of the Ritsuryo-system style in the training institution of the organization of the government according to the Ritsuryo codes. However, the bushi were in the armed group which were professionally involved with military affairs as government officials.
And those who were privately armed were not recognized as bushi. During the period when this point was not fully clarified in historical studies, bushi were sometimes seen as gang groups who were privately armed outside of the nation's control. It is certain that the behavioral principle of bushi society, which were an armed group, is significantly similar to the behavioral principle which is characteristically seen in a gangster organization like yakuza and so on in modern society.
The system of the dynasty state during the Heian period outsourced the Imperial Court's administrative organizations such as military affair (military art), accounting (calculation) and legal work (Myobo [law]) to the 'ie' (family) of the official for practical works who had succeeded various iegei (family's specialty) from a government official who was trained in the Ritsuryo-system organization. And those who handled military affairs and were in the 'ie' authorized by the nation were bushi.
In the system of the dynasty state, lower-ranking nobles who were officials for practical works appointed to the zuryo and who were promoted up to shii (Fourth Rank) or goi (Fifth Rank) were called shodaibu (aristocracy lower than Kugyo) and the technical officers and kenin (retainers) who were promoted up to rokui (Sixth Rank) and served upper-ranking nobles or shodaibu were called samurai (warrior) and they were in charge of administrative affairs. Technical officers who did the practical work of military art were divided into these two statuses and the military aristocracies such as Seiwa-Genji (Minamoto clan) or Kanmu-Heishi (Taira clan) and so on, who were staying in Kyoto, were in the shodaibu status and the majority of local bushi were in the samurai status. In local societies, the zuryo who reigned in kokuga (provincial government office) was in the shodaibu status and those who served them and formed the dynasty were in the samurai status. We can see a part of these situations in the description, where distinctively, 'samurai' refers to nobility and 'bushi' a military officer, in the Vocabvlario da Lingoa de Iapam (Japanese-Portuguese dictionary, published 1603-1604) during the early 17th century, some centuries after the time of bushi's emergence.
It is more accurate to say that the majority of bushi, except for upper-class bushi, formed a part of the samurai status, rather than that the bushi who were recognized as those who served the aristocrats were called samurai, as they say.
And the iegei of a family in a shodaibu or samurai class such as bushi was inherited from parent to child from the cradle by special education, or was inherited to those who were accepted as having the talent and became disciples or roto (retainer), and if they were excellent they were adopted. The families officially authorized as bushi were considered to have increased like this.
The real image of bushi was, so to speak, a military affiliated entrepreneur licensed by the nation. And the Imperial Court or kokuga called up the people who belonged to a bushi family and made them cope with disputes and so on, if necessary.
And apart from this, until the early medieval times, those who could have the right of enforcing sanctions to others on their merits, including the kugyo (the top court officials) class, were called 'bushi.'
This is clear in the name list of Hokumen no bushi (the Imperial Palace Guards for the north side), who were active under the cloister government, in which many Buddhist priests, Shinto priests, and others not of the samurai status were included.
The origin of bushi by 'samurai function'
As for the origin of bushi, the theory that the class of emerging local lords were armed because of a need for self-defense was traditionally mainstream, but recently a theory proposed that its origin is the warrior status which consisted of the military aristocrats such as Seiwa-Genji (Minamoto clan) or Kanmu-Heishi (Taira clan) or lower-ranking government officials and they were linked with the owners of shoen (manor in medieval Japan) or kokuga from the formation period of shoen koryo sei (the system of public lands and private estates) and developed into the managers of the shoryo (territory).
During the Heian period, with the move to the system where the reins of power were concentrated on the zuryo who were hitto-kokushi (the head of the provincial governors) in the Imperial Court's governance of the local regions, the class of rich farmers' attacks against the deprivation by zuryo happened frequently. The Ezo (northerners) group, that is, barbarians, who were in custody as prisoners in each region after the war for conquest of the north-east region, were first made by zuryos to be the private armies who were in charge of suppression and good at cavalry attack. However, as the friction between barbarians and the local society became fierce, they were sent back to the north-east.
Instead of this, people with zuryo experience or their children, who had participated in actual fighting or security duties using the barbarians as private armies and were off the career track of the central government and fell from the class of shodaibu who could become zuryo, were recruited to suppress regional conflicts. Then, Emperor Uda and Emperor Daigo implemented a reform of the national administration by recruiting SUGAWARA no Michizane, FUJIWARA no Tokihira, and others and then tumultuous events happened across Japan. In order to return to the class of shodaibu, they improved the Ezo's fighting tactics, wore oyoroi (big armor) and a sword composed of a blade and a hilt, used chokyu (long bow), flourished as cavaliers and firstly and publicly were authorized as families of military arts.
FUJIWARA no Hidesato, TAIRA no Takamochi, MINAMOTO no Tsunemoto and so on are considered as the first generation of bushi; in the local lands they signed contracts for farming the koden (field administered directly by a ruler) with kokuga in the similar way as wealthy farmer class (tato fumyo [cultivator/tax manager]) did and got an economic base as warriors. However, they were dissatisfied with the treatment for their deeds of valor and were disgraced as emerging warriors by kokugas, who forcibly collected taxes from them; also when they interfered with the regional conflicts out of their self-pride as warriors, the kokugas failed to handle the situation well, all of which triggered the revolts by FUJIWARA no Sumitomo and TAIRA no Masakado who was a grandson of TAIRA no Takamochi, and others, namely, the Johei and Tengyo War.
These revolts were quelled by the bushi who came together from across Japan to get the approval of their deeds of valor from the Imperial Court and the families of military art, that is, the family lines publicly authorized as bushi were considered as the descendants of Johei Tengyo kunkosha (people who served with distinguish in the Johei and Tengyo War) and '武' (military affair) became a 'family business' of the aristocrat family and Seiwa-Genji (Minamoto clan), Kanmu-Heishi (Taira clan) and the Fujiwara clan of the Hidesato line were established as military families at this time.
At this point, the bushi were still farm managers who leased public fields from provincial lords and produced agricultural products as their economic bases, but not the managers of shoryo. However during the middle of the 11th century shoens spread rapidly and the armed conflicts between shoen koryos (public lands and private estates) in various provinces often happened, and many bushi were appointed to shokan (an officer governing shoen) of shoen or gunji (district managers), goji (a local government official under the ritsuryo system) and hoji (an officer governing koryo, or public land) of koryo (public lands) as the managers of tax collection, police activity and justice for shoens or koryo such as gun, go, and ho; consequently the bushi were established as the managers of public lands who owned these lands.
Bushi as a family of public entertainment
The bushi can also be defined as a professional status whose family business was the public entertainment of military art as well as social status. That is, the person who was born into a family which succeeded horseback archery and the manners of fighting, can be called a bushi. On the other hand, even if someone excelled in military arts and were high in rank, he could not be admitted as bushi unless they originated from a samurai status. To obtain the samurai status except for this, he had to become a roto of a man with authentic samurai status, receive the instruction of traditional military art in the family and get the right to succeed the iegei, so as to establish a newly independent family. This line increased the descendants and then the family line which belonged to samurai status expanded, except for branch families. And even after the military families were established in medieval times, apart from this, the post corresponding to the military officer in the Imperial Court existed, but he could not be admitted as bushi unless coming from samurai status even though he got the government post. The military families here basically refer to the descendents of Johei Tengyo kunkosha and among them, several schools of the 'Minamoto clan' or the 'Taira clan' and the 'Hidesato school' who are the descendents of FUJIWARA no Hidesato are particularly famous. Except for these, many bushi were from the 'Toshihito school' whose originator was FUJIWARA no Toshihito and from the Utsunomiya clan who were the descendants of FUJIWARA no Michikane; additionally there was the Watanabe clan from Saga-Genji (Minamoto clan) and the Oe clan where OE no Hiromoto was famous; the famous samurai groups originated from one of these family lines. Especially before gekokujo (an inverted social order when the lowly reigned over the elite) became common, such a point of view dominated and thus, like Hideyoshi TOYOTOMI in the Sengoku period (period of warring states) (Japan), a person originating from farmers or from a status not of samurai status could not admitted as bushi by definition. As their families were admitted as bushi because of their ancestors' military renown, they were proud of their family line or famous ancestors.
The limitation of the theory on the origin of bushi by 'samurai function.'
The bushi in local regions cannot be explained fully by the theory on the origin of bushi by 'samurai function.'
Certainly the bushi who originated from the aristocrats such as genpeitokitsu (shortened expression of four major families) or the military arts as a technique can be explained, but the explanation of the shoryo as economic base which supported their samurai function or the master-subordinate relationship as a human base is too weak. To overcome such weak points, Tatsuhiko SHIMOMUKAI and so on started to insist that the bushi during the early period were given an economic base as tato fumyo and when the national policy changed to the latter half of the dynasty state during the 11th century, the bushi acquired the lord status as the manager of shoen koryo.
(See the section on the system of the kokuga army.)
The samurai status
According to the theory on the origin of bushi by 'samurai function,' the social class considered as bushi was limited to shodaibu or elite cavalry warriors coming from samurai status, whose family business was military art, during the period when the Minamoto clan and the Taira clan emerged; and later, through the medieval times, the class of 'bushi in a broad sense' came to have the master-subordinate relationship with 'bushi in a narrow sense' and expanded after the Muromachi period. Also among the servants who belonged to the family organization of bushi during the early period, there were the roto who fought as cavalry warriors in the battlefield like bushi or jusotsu (officer's servants) who fought on foot, but in the Muromachi and Sengoku period the samurai status spread increasingly and jizamurai (local samurai), originally coming from the class of farmers, as bushi in a broad sense appeared by having a relationship between lord and vassal through the military service for the class of myoshu (owner of rice fields) of shoryo governed by the bushi in a narrow sense, as well as the master-subordinate relationship of the bushi in a narrow sense.
Likewise, after the Muromachi period, complicated stratification by class formed in bushi, but the expanded range of the samurai status led to the temporarily fixed class system in bushi during the Edo period.
The samurai status during the Edo period is roughly classified as follows. If classified minutely it will be an endless task and depending on daimyo family (feudal lord family) the way to classify or the name vary and thus it will be just a rough guide.
The samurai status is called 'shibun' (samurai class) and the shibun is roughly divided into 'samurai' and 'kachi' (foot guards). This is because the classification was preserved after ages, where whether he was an original bushi or not depended on whether his family business was part of the cavalry fighting or not, even though fighting by group on foot became mainstream and cavalry fighting became relatively limited at the war scenes after the period of the Northern and Southern Courts when the number of recruitments to the battlefield dramatically increased.
The 'samurai' were the original bushi in a narrow sense, had shoryo (chigyo [enfeoffment]) and when the war happened he rode on a horse and had the entitlement of 'omemie' ([the privilege to have] an audience [with one's lord, a dignitary, etc.]). In a record during the Edo period, it was described as kishi (a man on a horse, knight) and compared with kachi. They were also called joshi (superior warrior).
The 'kachi' were given fuchi mai (an allowance in rice), fought on foot and did not have the entitlement of 'omemie.'
They were also known as kashi (noncommissioned officer), keihai (a person of low rank), musoku (without territory) and so on.
Among 'samurai,' those who had about more than 1000 koku (about 180,000 liters) were called taishin (big feudal lord) or hitomochi (big feudal lord) and when war occurred they were appointed to the samurai general and in times of peace they held a post in the magistrate's office and sometimes were selected to sobayonin (lord chamberlain) or a chief retainer of management. The 'samurai' under those were called hirazamurai (lower-ranked samurai), heishi (lower-ranked samurai), umanori (horseback riding) and so on.
Hereafter, specific names will be raised.
The hatamoto (direct retainers of the bakufu, which is a form of Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun) of bakufu were 'samurai' and the gokenin (an immediate vassal of the shogunate in the Kamakura and Muromachi through Edo periods) were 'kachi.'
Among those who worked under the bakufu's office and were nominally hired only in one generation, the '与力' (yoriki, a police sergeant) was originally '寄騎' (yoriki, lower-ranked samurai), that is, they were in the class of cavalry warriors who came from the bushi who established a temporal master-subordinate relationship every time war happened and were 'samurai,' and doshin (a police constable) were 'kachi.'
Ashigaru (common foot soldier) were not included in the class of shibun (bushi). Ashigaru were called sotsu (lower soldier). They were regarded as those who were the same class as the jusotsu who helped the bushi in the early times in battle. However, as time went by, they were treated as lower-ranked samurai who were the same as kachi.
Okakae (retainer) was hired only in one generation, but in fact was often inherited, and among many of keihai some of them were professional and in the class of samurai. In addition to ashigaru or buke hokonin, there existed yoriki, doshin, tedai (clerk) in the magistrate's office and so on. Many scholars, doctors and so on were also hired as retainers.
The bearer of the official authority
Bushi were firstly in the class which guarded the Emperor and aristocrats and suppressed the conflicts as symbolized in 'samurai,' but when the Kamakura bakufu was established through the Taira clan government by TAIRA no Kiyomori, bushi developed into the official authority which were in charge of military affairs and police activities against the Imperial Court, kokushi (provincial governors) and shoen which were traditionally ruling powers. And each bushi was increasingly in charge of regional government practices as kokushi or the lords of shoen.
Bushi as civil officers
In the formation process of the Edo bakufu through the Muromachi, Sengoku, and Azuchi-Momoyama period, the area where the bushi were in charge of the official authority gradually and continuously increased.
After the Edo period bushi spread across all of society, many of them came to work as 'civil officers,' though they were traditionally in charge of duty positions corresponding to warriors or 'military officers.'
The field of performance of the bushi after the Edo period moved from military affairs to culture. Also in this point, the difference between bushi and military officer can be seen.
During the Edo period, the bushi corresponding to a civil officer was called 'yakugata' and the bushi corresponding to a military officer 'bankata.'
The kabuki-mono (the crazy ones, dandy), who followed their master to the grave with the moral tone of bushi during the Sengoku period, were forbidden for the maintenance of public order during the generation of Ietsuna TOKUGAWA and the Edo bakufu authorized Shushigaku (Neo-Confucianism) of Confucianism as public scholarship and thus the bushi should emphasize the faith, justice and loyalty and behave nobly. For this reason, the morality of samurai was born, which was the ideal for bushi and the philosophy of the ruler and later led to the concept of bushido, for example the bushi put their honor before money and so on.
However, some evoked the traditional bushi identity, opposing Confucius morality of the samurai which formed during the stable Edo period. One such bushi, the feudal retainer of the Saga clan Tsunetomo YAMAMOTO talked on this and the contents were edited in the description called 'bushido' in "Hagakure" (the book of Bushido), but they did not spread in the society of bushi.
Tesshu YAMAOKA published "Bushido" in 1860 during the latter days of Edo bakufu. According to this, 'it is not Shinto, not Confucianism, not Buddhism, but the concept which mixes these three and since ancient and medieval times it has excelled only in military art; Tetsutaro (Tesshu YAMAOKA) called it bushido' and at least from the viewpoint of Tesshu YAMAOKA, it had existed since the medieval times but he said that it was not called 'bushido' until he named it.
Bushido and the modern awareness
In the Meiji period, the class system such as bushi and so on disappeared. Later, Inazo NITOBE wrote "Bushido (Inazo NITOBE)" to introduce bushido to American people, but after the Sino-Japanese War, it was reimported to Japan and formed the ethical framework for military officers, mixing with the ethics which the military officers of the Empire of Japan should have, and on the other hand it appeared as aesthetic in various forms in the world of literature or entertainment.
The words on bushi
Samurai are people who conspicuously use a toothpick even when they do not have something to eat.
Bushi way of business (this expression is usually used to mean a poorly-run business as it gives the impression of someone engaging in something that is not their specialty, meaning that they will most likely fail because of inexperience)
Bushi should have compassion for the weak. Bushi should help each other and have compassion for each other. Bushi does not cancel what he said before. Bushido is the way of death. Hold hard. When it comes to a showdown or if an emergency arises.
The three hobbies of bushi:
Gardening, fishing and learning.
The words and so on concerning military warriors
Mushae (ukiyoe prints of warriors) : Pictures which depict military warriors or battles.
Mushaoshi : Military warriors march in array.
Mushagaeshi : In a samurai residence, the stone which was put at every step on the brink of the outside dike of the row house along the main street.