Fascinating Samurai in Japan’s History

Samurai were a fascinating part of Japan’s history. Their strict adherence to their code of honor (bushidō) is awe-inspiring. Their cunning skills in swordsmanship and warfare tactics truly made them exceptional military nobility of medieval and early-modern Japan.

Here are two notable samurai:

Oda Nobunaga (織田 信長)  1534 – 1582, was a powerful samurai daimyo warlord of the late 16th century. He is remembered for initiating the unification of Japan at the end of the Warring States period as well as being one of the most brutal figures in history. Oda Nobunaga’s life consisted of continuous military victories that eventually led to conquering a third of Japan before his death. He is also considered one of Japan’s greatest rulers only to be betrayed by one of his own people, Akechi Mitsuhide, in a coup d’état.

Portrait of Oda Nobunaga painted by Giovanni Nicolao.

Takeda_HarunobuAs the story goes, Mitsuhide may have heard a rumor that Nobunaga would transfer Mitsuhide’s fief to his trusted and favored page, Mori Ranmaru, with whom he was believed to have been in a homosexual relationship with (a ritualized form of patronage at the time known as shudō). Unprepared for the surprise attack, Nobunaga and the few men he had at his watch were quickly overcome. Nobunaga took his own life by seppuku (stomach-cutting) in one of the inner rooms at Honnō-ji temple with his faithful page by his master’s side. Once Nobunaga had carried out his final deed, Ranmaru also killed himself in the same way.

Portrait in silk of Takeda Shingen.

Takeda Shingen (武田 信玄)  1521 – 1573, is also known as “The Tiger of Kai” for his prowess in the battlefield. As a young man, Shingen’s first act was to gain control of his surrounding area. With his cunning tactics, the major daimyos of the Shimano region came unprepared and were easily defeated by Shingen. This victory set the stage for expanding his domain. Shinen’s skills in the battlefield was believed to be the only match for Oda Nobunaga’s desire to rule over all of Japan. Shingen temporarily stopped the advance of Nobunaga’s men in the Battle of Mikatagahara. The cause of his death remains uncertain up until today. Some accounts say he died of pneumonia, a sniper, or an old war wound.