Knights and Samurais

Many people often see little similarity between the country of Japan and Europe. However, there are actually several similarities between these two countries. In fact, Reischauer and Jansen note that Feudal Japan had departed so far from East Asian norms that it was more similar to medieval Europe than it was to China. Thus, the knight of Europe and the samurai of Japan despite a lack of contact with one another shared several common elements. This was a result of many similarities social and cultural influences experienced by the two distant countries. Japan has a history that dates back thousands of years. Researchers believe the Japanese people descended from many groups that migrated to the islands from other parts of Asia, including China and Korea. As early as 4500 B.C., the Japanese islands were inhabited by fishermen, hunters and farmers. The early culture was known as “Jomon,” named after the “cord pattern” pottery crafted by the people at the time. Major Japanese cultural changes occurred about 200 B.C. The people were known as “Yayoi.” The Yayoi were mostly farmers. It is believed that the present-day Japanese closely resemble the Yayoi in appearance and language. Ancient Yayoi warriors developed weapons, armor and a code during the ensuing centuries that became the centerpiece for the Japanese samurai. War played a central part in the history of Japan. Warring clans controlled much of the country. A chief headed each clan; made up of related families. The chiefs were the ancestors of Japan’s imperial family. The wars were usually about land useful for the production of rice. In fact, only 20% of the land was fit for farming. The struggle for control of that land eventually gave rise to the Samurai. One of the important dates in the history of the Japanese warring class is 660 B.C. That’s when, according to legend, Emperor Jimmu became head of a confederation of warlike clans. Emperor Jimmu was known as “The Divine War…

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