Were there Samurai equivalents in Korea or China?

Were there Samurai equivalents in Korea or China?

Considering that the Samurai class had its distant roots in Chinese political structure, did China or Korea have a similar warrior class?

In China, there were warriors similar to ronin - the xia. As a link, I found only those regarding their philosophy or literature about them. GURPS Martial Arts (it's no solid historical work and I didn't manage to find any better source) states they were more like Robin Hood than Lancelot - they were not upper class like samurai.

Korean Hwarang are approximation of Samurai from the other side - they were upper class young men probably serving as warriors, but it's not their defining feature. In GURPS Martial Arts they are presented as very similar to Samurai, but when I consider what is written in Wikipedia, it might be just a myth.

There is a Chinese saying (in pinyin), "Hao tie bu da ding, hao ren bu dang bing." (Good iron is not used to make nails. Good men do not become soldiers.)

For most of Chinese history, soldiers were vilified, rather than honored. Hence, they would not generally be regarded as members of the upper class, which was occupied by landowners and philosophers.

Most of Korea, whose culture is more similar to China's than Japan's felt much the same way.

Korea had a Yangban class which might be compared with samurai status but was closer to the Chinese scholarly ruling class. Most historians hold that the scholar class achieved power in China (or Chinese dynasties of whatever race, except perhaps the Mongol Yuan one) while the warrior class gained power in Japan. During the late 17th, 18th and early 19th centuries, this warrior class became a scholarly administrative class, or at the lower level a parasite class who lived off peasants' labour through small stipends from their clan lords. A few clans, notably, Satsuma, allowed samurai to also engage in horticulture, but they were the exception rather than the rule.

Before China was unified there was a warrior class(mostly noblemen), until the warlords realized that they could hire peasants with a cheap price and give them cheap weapons to expand their army. After that, most noblemen became scholars or military commanders, because of the change in the tactics of warfare(the ceasing of chariot warfare and agreed warfare,and the start of surprise attack which were considered treacherous by the noble warrior class but was promoted by Sun Tzu and so on.)

In Korea (gojoseon goguryeo baekje shila Balhae goryeo joseon etc) you were either commoner, slave, yangban (rich gentlemen class?), scholar, or a warrior called Muin or Musa. 2 of the ways of getting a government position were to become a scholar or a muin thru tests.

A warrior class like the ninja came about because commoners wanted to fight upper class. There wasn't really a situation like this in Korea. Those who wanted to fight became musa and just killed or simply payed back. But there was "Gaema Budae", "Gemma Squad" or Chulgap busae. These were squads of warriors who were fully armored in the strongest metal armor and even their horses were fully armored.

Chulgap was made with small plates of metal about inch x 2 inch large that were stitched together like fish scales. This made the armor lot more flexible unlike plate armors used by rest of the world, it was very light like leather but stronger than plate armors. Armors made with plates like used in china and rest of the world can be pierced by strong Metal tip arrow but chulgap was nearly impossible. All goguryeo armors were made in fish scale style. Later other parts of world did the same.

Studies found out Korea was first to use this style of advanced armors which were one of lightest and strongest. Also their shoes were embedded with spikes on the bottom to kick and stab enemies who were too close while fighting on horse. This was also found to be first invented in Korea. Yes there were other armies who were fully armored head to toe in other parts of world but not like goguryeo. Also GGR was one of if not the first to fully armor their horses since the bc times.

There were monks who learned to fight (like Shaolin) but studied secret Korean martial arts strictly for quickest killing silent as possible. They had the simplest armor that only covered the most vital area to increase their speed. One way their were called were JoEuiSunIn. When country was in trouble they worked as mercenaries. They weren't part of any body of government nor any army but them selves. They would sneak into enemy territories and burn their supplies and murder the leaders.

In Korea warrior classes were more separated by style of martial arts they studied than creating whole new class like Japan. There were many more martial arts in Korea than just tae kwon do hapkido taekyun etc.

Not a myth, a fact. For 1800 years in the Silla kingdom, aka Slusa, they pre-date samurai. By the examples I've seen in writings, their armor looks as if the samurai copied them. In fact, they have code of 5 rules of conduct governing them from Buddhist and historical archives.

The Qing Dynasty were not truly "Han" so while I would not call them Samurai in the sense of a "way of being" to say they weren't militaristic would be an understatement. You would have to do your research on this matter to devise your own conclusions. The only thing I recall is that the "Manchu's" had a highly advanced form of communication that allowed them to move truly massive Armies over great distances. They weren't considered to be "warrior like" upon ruling the entirety of what we would call Modern China today… but I believe besides being the last Dynasty they also ruled the longest.

of course for example, jinyiwei or dongchang,secret polices of Ming. everything you see from Japan or Korea were from China, ninja is just Japanese version of China Wuxing Taoists.

Brief History of the Samurai

Japan has a history that dates back thousands of years. Scientists 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," which meant "cord pattern." That's because the people made pottery decorated with rope-like designs. Scientists believe a caucasian race called the "Ainu" were the first inhabitants of what is now Japan. The Ainu still exist today, mostly in the northernmost islands of Japan called "Hokkaido." The next major Japanese cultural changed occured about 200 B.C. The people were known as "Yayoi." The Yayoi were mostly farmers. Scientists believe the present-day Japanese closely resemble the Yayoi in appearance and language.

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." 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, Jimmu Tenno became head of a confederation of warlike clans. Tenno was known as "The Divine Warrior." He led his people from Kyushu to the Kinki region and conquered the people there. Tenno settled in the area of Yamato. This eventually gave rise to the Yamato dynasty and state. The leaders of Yamato believed themselves to be of divine origin.

The Yamato clans conducted many military campaigns on the Asian mainland. The targets included Korea and China. These campaigns led to the importation of Korean and Chinese culture, technology and martial arts.

Legend says that Emperor Keiko was the first person with the title of "Shogun." The word meant "Barbarian-subduing General." Legend continues that Keiko had a son named "Prince Yamato." He was cunning, fearless, strong and a great martial artist. Many believe that Yamato was a role model for future Samurai.

Ancient Yayoi warriors developed weapons, armour and a code during the ensuing centuries that became the centerpiece for the Japanese Samurai. Early weapons included bows, arrows and swords. Armour included a helmet that protected head and neck, a breasplate that protected the chest, arm and shoulder protectors, and a belly wrap. Later armour included protection for the legs and thighs. Armour changed as the type of battles changed. A big change occured in the 5th century when horses were introduced to Japan. Another change occured in the 15th century because of the constancy of war and the introduction of guns into battle. The code developed from the Chinese concept of the virtues of warriors doing battle to the Samurai code of chivalry known as Kyuba no michi ("The Way of Horse and Bow") to the Bushido ("Way of the Warrior") code.

"Bushido" means "Way of the Warrior." It was at the heart of the beliefs and conduct of the Samurai. The philosophy of Bushido is "freedom from fear." It meant that the Samurai transcended his fear of death. That gave him the peace and power to serve his master faithfully and loyally and die well if necessary. "Duty" is a primary philosophy of the Samurai.

The Samurai rose out of the continuing battles for land among three main clans: the Minamoto, the Fujiwara and the Taira. The Samurai eventually became a class unto themselves between the 9th and 12th centuries A.D. They were called by two names: Samurai (knights-retainers) and Bushi (warriors). Some of them were related to the ruling class. Others were hired men. They gave complete loyalty to their Daimyo (feudal landowners) and received land and position in return. Each Daimyo used his Samurai to protect his land and to expand his power and rights to more land.

The Samurai became expert in fighting from horseback and on the ground. They practiced armed and un-armed combat. The early Samurai emphasized fighting with the bow and arrow. They used swords for close-in fighting and beheading their enemies. Battles with the Mongols in the late 13th century led to a change in the Samurai's fighting style. They began to use their sword more and also made more use of spears and naginata. The Samurai slowly changed from fighting on horseback to fighting on foot.

The Samurai wore two swords (daisho). One was long the other short. The long sword (daito - katana) was more than 24 inches. The short sword (shoto - wakizashi) was between 12 and 24 inches. The Samurai often gave names to their swords and believed it was the "soul" of their warriorship. The oldest swords were straight and had their early design in Korea and China. The Samurai's desire for tougher, sharper swords for battle gave rise to the curved blade we still have today. The sword had its beginning as iron combined with carbon. The swordsmith used fire, water, anvil and hammer to shape the world's best swords. After forging the blade, the sword polisher did his work to prepare the blade for the "furniture" that surrounded it. Next, the sword tester took the new blade and cut through the bodies of corpses or condemned criminals. They started by cutting through the small bones of the body and moved up to the large bones. Test results were often recorded on the nakago (the metal piece attaching the sword blade to the handle).

Legend of Amakuni

The Creator Of The First Katana

As we all know, perfection takes a bit of practice, which is why the first katana didn’t have the familiar curved silhouette. The first known katana sword was a straight, double-edged iron blade inspired by Chinese swords. At the end of the 10th century, the Japanese severed cultural ties with the Chinese and went on to establish their own class divisions within their society. The military warriors guarding the society became the first samurai and the Japanese began to make their way toward creating the famous katana.

Although there isn’t solid evidence as to who improved the design of the samurai sword, transforming it from a straight sword to a curved, killing beauty, legend has it Amakuni was the swordsmith who forged the first single-edged longsword with a curvature in the Yamato Province around 700 AD. He noticed half of the samurai came back from the battlefield carrying broken swords, especially after battling Mongolian invaders, leading him to redesign the samurai sword so that it would be nearly indestructible. Finding the best iron sand ore, he built the katana with a curve, making it optimal for slicing through the enemy. The myth states Amakuni’s death is not known and he earned immortality from all the blood his blades absorbed.

10 Oldest Swords Ever Discovered

Swords are some of the coolest weapons both in history and in TV and movies. The weapon has a long history, spanning several millennia and still fascinates people today. The swords on this list are not only some of the oldest swords ever found, but they are also some of the most notable. A few of the swords are part of various European royal ceremonies and have legendary histories.

10. Sword of Saint Galgano

Age or Year Created: c.12th century
Location: Montesiepi, Tuscany, Italy
Made Out Of: Iron
Used By: Saint Galgano Giudotti

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The legend of King Arthur and the Sword in the Stone is one of the most famous stories in the world, but both Arthur and the sword don’t actually exist. However, there is a real “sword in the stone” in Tuscany and it’s been deemed authentic by researchers. The Sword of Saint Galgano actually does date back to the 12 th century and is embedded into a piece of stone at the ruins of the Abbey of Saint Galgano.

The sword was placed in the stone by Saint Galgano, who had visions of the Archangel Michael while traveling to Montesiepi. Galgano was asked to give up his material possessions and to prove that that would be as easy as splitting a rock, he plunged his sword into a stone and it has remained there since then.

Did You Know?

Only the hilt, grip, and about 3ft of the blade of the Sword of Saint Galgano are visible and all the pieces have been dated to the 12 th century and come from the same artifact, which means it has never been tampered with.

9. Curtana

Age or Year Created: c.11th century CE current sword from 17th century CE
Location: United Kingdom
Made Out Of: Steel
Used By: Edward the Confessor now only ceremonial

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

Curtana is part of the Crown Jewels of the United Kingdom and one of the five swords used for the coronation of British kings and queens. The original Curtana dated to the 11 th century CE and was supposedly used by Edward the Confessor, who reigned from 1042–1066. However, the current Curtana is a replica created in the 17 th century for Charles I’s coronation in 1626.

Did You Know?

Curtana is also linked to Tristan, the hero of the Arthurian legend Tristan and Iseult. According to legend, Ogier the Dane, one of Charlemagne’s (King of the Franks) paladins, inherited Tristan’s broken sword (Curtana has a square tip) and called it “Cortain.”

8. Joyeuse

Age or Year Created: c.10th to 13th century CE
Location: Paris, France
Made Out Of: Iron
Used By: Charlemagne

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

La Joyeuse, which translates to “joyous”, is the only sword that has ever been used as the coronotion sword of the Kings of France. Although no one knows for sure, La Joyeuse supposedly belonged to Charlemagne (Charles the Great), King of the Franks in the 8 th century. The earliest known record of the Joyeuse sword housed in the Louvre dates to only 1271 CE when it was used during the coronation of Philippe III the Bold. Today, La Joyeuse is a composite of several different pieces dating from various periods of France’s history.

Did You Know?

La Joyeuse was last used to crown a French king in 1824 at the coronation of Charles X.

7. Sword of Saints Cosmas and Damian

Age or Year Created: c. late 10th or early 11th century CE
Location: Essen, Germany
Made Out Of: Iron and gold filigree
Used By: Unknown sword became ceremonial around the 10th century

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Sword of Sains Cosmas and Damian or the Sword of Essen dates to sometime around the late 10 th century CE. It is believed that the sword was actually used in combat before it was later decorated to commemorate the martyrdom of Saints Cosmas and Damian, the patron saints of Essen, Germany. Reportedly, the Sword of Essen was a gift from Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor to Essen Abbey, which is where the sword still resides.

Did You Know?

Silver locket mounts showing images of Saints Cosmas and Damian were added to the Sword of Essen in the 15 th century, along with an inscription that reads GLADIVS CVM QVO DECOLLATI FVERVNT NOSTRI PATRONI (“the sword, with which our patrons were beheaded”).

6. Sword of Saint Peter

Age or Year Created: c.10th century CE (possibly as early as the 1st century)
Location: Poznań, Poland
Made Out Of: Iron
Used By: St. Peter

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The 10 th century CE sword at the Poznań Archdiocesan Museum in Poland is claimed to be the sword of Saint Peter cut off the right ear of the high priest’s servant at the time of Jesus’ arrest in Gethsemane. However, as is the case with any holy relic, there is some controversy over authenticity. The sword in Poland only dates to the 10 th century, long after the time that Saint Peter lived. This is because the sword is most likely a replica, but newer research suggests that sword could have been made as early as the 1 st century CE. Regardless of what you believe, the sword of Saint Peter is treated like a holy relic and revered by its visitors.

Did You Know?

Although the Sword of Saint Peter may not have actually been used by the saint, it is the oldest documented sword in Poland.

5. Kogarasu Maru

Age or Year Created: c.8th century CE
Location: Japan
Made Out Of: Steel
Used By: Unknown

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Kogarasu Maru is a unique Japanese sword that bridges the gap between the earliest Japanese swords (which were double-edged and based on the Chinese jian) and the traditional tachi used by samurai, which evolved into the katana. Although the Kogarasu Maru has an incomplete signature it is strongly believed that the sword was created by legendary Japanese swordsmith Amakuni, who created the first curved Japanese sword – the Kogarasu Maru has a curved double-edged blade.

Did You Know?

Not much is known about the Kogarasu Maru publicly besides its connection to the Taira family and that the sword’s name means “Little Crow” in Japanese. There are various legends about how the sword got its name.

4. Seven-Branched Sword

Age or Year Created: c.369 CE
Location: Isonokami Shrine, Nara Prefecture, Japan (sword was made in Korea)
Made Out Of: Iron
Used By: N/A, sword was ceremonial

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Seven-Branched Sword or shichishitou in Japanese and chiljido in Korean originated in Korea sometime around the 4 th century CE. The sword was a gift from the king of Baekje (a kingdom in southwestern Korea) to a ruler from Japan’s Yamato period. There is an inscription inlaid with gold on the central blade of the Seven-Branched Sword that describes the relationship between Japan and Korea.

Did You Know?

The real Seven-Branched Sword is kept safe at Isonokami Shrine in Nara Prefecture and is not on public display. Only replicas of the sword are in museums in Japan and Korea.

3. Sword of Goujian

Age or Year Created: c.771 to 403 BCE
Location: Hubei, China
Made Out Of: Bronze
Used By: Unknown

photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The sword of Goujian is one of the most impressive ancient swords on this list because of it’s impeccable condition. Despite being buried in a waterlogged temple for more than one thousand years, the sword of Goujian is untarnished and still sharp enough to do some damage! The chemical composition of the Goujian sword – copper, tin, lead, and trace amounts of sulfur and arsenic – are the reason why the sword has remained in pristine condition.

Did You Know?

In 1994, the sword of Goujian was damaged while on loan to Singapore for display. Since then, China no longer allows the sword to leave the country and it is currently owned by the Hubei Provincial Musuem.

2. Nebra Sky Disk Swords

Age or Year Created: c.1600 BCE
Location: Nebra, Saxony-Anhalt, Germany
Made Out Of: Bronze and copper
Used By: Unknown

photo source: Wikimedia Commons via Dbachmann

The Nebra Sky Disk hoard is one of the greatest archaeological finds of the 20 th century, a claim backed by the UNESCO Memory of World Register. Although the centerpiece of the sword is the Sky Disk – a beautiful bronze disk inlaid with gold celestial symbols – two bronze swords as well as two hatchets, a chisel, and spiral bracelet fragments were also discovered.

The bronze swords and the entire hoard were buried around 1600 BCE, but scientists have been unable to date the time of manufacture, meaning the artifacts are probably much older.

Did You Know?

The Nebra Sky Disk swords feature copper inlay and are one of the rare examples of a true inlay technique from this time period outside of the Mediterranean.

1. Swords of Arslantepe

Age or Year Created: c.3300 BCE
Location: Arslantepe archaeological site near Malatya, Turkey
Made Out Of: Arsenic-copper alloy
Used By: Unknown

photo source: tf.uni-kiel.de

Prior to the discovery of a cache of swords at the archaeological site of Arslantepe in Turkey, many archaeologists believed that the earliest swords only dated to around 1600 or 1500 BCE. However, archaeologist Marcella Frangipane of Rome University unearthed nine swords dating all the way back to 3300 BCE – Frangipane declared the swords of Arslantepe the world’s oldest and first swords ever discovered.

The Arslantepe swords are made from an arsenic-copper alloy and were found in relatively good shape. These weapons have a total length of 45 to 60 centimeters (17.7 to 23.6 inches).

Did You Know?

Three of the nine swords of Arslantepe are inlaid with silver and have beautiful designs on their hilts.

Was there a Chinese equivalent to a Samurai or a Knight?

These guys sometimes got translated into English as knights but it wasn't really the same thing.

More of a Zor than You

There was a warrior nobility in the Shang Dynasty that wore rhino hide armor and fought from chariots. That would be the closet direct analog. There was also the Bannerman system during the Qinq Dynasty, basically all male Manchus were required to serve as soldiers. They had to practice with the bow and other traditional weapons a few times a year. As this was in the time of rifles they were pretty shit when the Europeans came stomping about in the Opium Wars.

However for the majority of Chinese History the founation of the the Chinese Army were peasant levies along with some professional soldiers.


I like me some Greek helms

In Confusionism ideology, soldiers were reeeeeeeally near the bottom of social class.

If you were rich and could pick what you wanted to be, you would almost certainly choose scholar. At the very least, you wouldn't want to be seen as a warrior.

Knights didn't have much social chance of cropping in China.


Deadly Serious about Likes


The New Black

Terra Novan

Hope and Despair, now in Rule 63

In Confusionism ideology, soldiers were reeeeeeeally near the bottom of social class.

If you were rich and could pick what you wanted to be, you would almost certainly choose scholar. At the very least, you wouldn't want to be seen as a warrior.

Knights didn't have much social chance of cropping in China.

That said, plenty of scholars turned into badass commanders and generals in time of war.

And many of them probably never had touched arms before.

Anasurimbor Phallus

In Confusionism ideology, soldiers were reeeeeeeally near the bottom of social class.

If you were rich and could pick what you wanted to be, you would almost certainly choose scholar. At the very least, you wouldn't want to be seen as a warrior.

Knights didn't have much social chance of cropping in China.

Yes, this is right. My (admittedly, limited) Chinese history reading is concentrated around the Ming Dynasty and this was certainly the case during that time. Soldiering was seen as a low-class occupation and given short shrift by Chinese society. Often they went unpaid by the state and were expected to support themselves by farming, like peasants. Even high-ranking soldiers were regarded with a mix of disdain and fear by Chinese society because competent generals were thought to pose a threat to social stability. Many Chinese generals of the time were brawlers who went in with the front lines, not masterful commanders.

In Europe and Japan the military elites were also the social elites. A medieval knight or lord is like a mixture of a modern politican, hollywood celeb, pro athlete and army general. Chinese society had no equivalent role.


Trainee of Darkness

What about during the Three Kingdoms period?

Soldiers and military leaders seem more prominent during that time.



What about during the Three Kingdoms period?

Soldiers and military leaders seem more prominent during that time.

Professional soldiery is not the same as a warrior caste, which usually implies some sort of noble or hereditary status. You can't "sign up" to be a knight or samurai if you were a peasant, not without showing some sort of exemplary performance in battle.

For most of Chinese Imperial history, the military was formed roughly similar to how modern nation-states do it. You either sign up or got conscripted, then you got a salary, equipment and training from the state.

The exception to this was the pre-Qin period when China was more feudal, where you did have warrior nobles riding chariots and some sort of chivalric code. Warfare at the beginning of the Warring States period was like this, you'll see references to chariots and such in The Art of War*, though it shifted to proper cavalry by the end.

*Which is what makes The Art of War so special for its time. While we today consider it to be "common sense", it was written in an age of chivalry, when oracles and fortune tellers were consulted as to the outcome of battles. The notion that "all warfare is based on deception" and the use of spies are both distinctly un-chivalrous. And that the outcome of war depended on one's own plans, calculations and preparations rather than what "fate" decrees.


B.B. is watching you

As I understand it, Chinese warfare was typically decided by sheer mass of bodies rather than quality troops, and was particularly brutal in execution and scope.

It's not surprising that they didn't consider soldiery to be a glamorous or desirable lifestyle.

Mr. Happy


As I understand it, Chinese warfare was typically decided by sheer mass of bodies rather than quality troops, and was particularly brutal in execution and scope.

It's not surprising that they didn't consider soldiery to be a glamorous or desirable lifestyle.

Constant Dreamer

Low-key Lunatic

Professional soldiery is not the same as a warrior caste, which usually implies some sort of noble or hereditary status. You can't "sign up" to be a knight or samurai if you were a peasant, not without showing some sort of exemplary performance in battle.

For most of Chinese Imperial history, the military was formed roughly similar to how modern nation-states do it. You either sign up or got conscripted, then you got a salary, equipment and training from the state.

The exception to this was the pre-Qin period when China was more feudal, where you did have warrior nobles riding chariots and some sort of chivalric code. Warfare at the beginning of the Warring States period was like this, you'll see references to chariots and such in The Art of War*, though it shifted to proper cavalry by the end.

*Which is what makes The Art of War so special for its time. While we today consider it to be "common sense", it was written in an age of chivalry, when oracles and fortune tellers were consulted as to the outcome of battles. The notion that "all warfare is based on deception" and the use of spies are both distinctly un-chivalrous. And that the outcome of war depended on one's own plans, calculations and preparations rather than what "fate" decrees.

As I understand it, Chinese warfare was typically decided by sheer mass of bodies rather than quality troops, and was particularly brutal in execution and scope.

It's not surprising that they didn't consider soldiery to be a glamorous or desirable lifestyle.

Were there Samurai equivalents in Korea or China? - History

At the end of the war, Japan had 3 million troops overseas. 2 million in China, 100,000 in the Marianas, 72,000 in the Solomons, 14,000 in New Guinea. Many Japanese soldiers, sailors and air men were bypassed by advancing forces and left stranded in many different island groups in the Pacific. They went into hiding, waiting for attacks that never came and messages from commands that had long since been disbanded. Short of supplies and lacking communication with Japan, and often without their commanding officers in the immediate area, many hid from Allied mopping up patrols in the thick jungles and mountains of the islands they occupied. It was months and in some cases years before these men realized the war was over.

The Bushido mentality of Japanese soldiers
During World War II, Japanese society was a volatile combination of feudalism and nationalism that concluded in a national acceptance of military rule during the war years. The Japanese armed forces were a highly nationalistic, well established modern fighting force. Their doctrine was the Bushido code of feudal Japan permitted the fighting code of Japan's servicemen. Bushido, the code of the Samurai warrior extolled the offensive, created a lust of battle and condemned weakness. It demanded bravery, loyalty, allegiance to orders and forbade surrender. It was believed that death in combat was honorable. In combat, this code was used to rally troops into suicidal banzai charges, or to encourage encircled troops to take their own lives with grenades before they could be captured. Surrender was disgraceful not only to the soldier, but to his entire family. There are documented accounts of soldier's wives driving themselves to disgrace or death because of rumors that their husband dishonorably surrendered. Even after decades after the war was over, Japanese holdouts wept openly when they heard the war was over, refused to surrender to anyone other than their commanding officer, or apologized for not serving his majesty to satisfaction.

The Pacific - A Vast Battlefield
The vastness of the Pacific created 'holdouts' as much as, or more than the Bushido mentality. Thousands of Japanese soldiers were left isolated on remote islands when the war ended. After the war, many of these places became the lonely backwater regions they were before the war. Few outside visitors and the primitive infrastructure that exists in many of these islands made it possible for Japanese troops to go on undiscovered for many years. There are 20,000 islands in the Philippines and Indonesia alone. From the far reaches of the Pacific, stragglers filtered out of the jungle throughout the late 1940's onwards.

Many Japanese Solders Wait For Transport Home
Many former Japanese soldiers had a long road home, even though they were not 'holdouts'. In many regions, thousands of Japanese were collected that were bypassed or had survived the war. Such collection points included: Rabaul and Muschu Island, both in New Guinea, and Fauro Island, Solomon Islands. These soldiers waited until the end of 1945, or in some cases as late as 1946-7 for transportation back to Japan. They waited peacefully, mainly as a function of logistics, as the priority for the Allies were taking their own men home. As they waited, these soldiers performed light labor or other tasks. Many died during this period after the war ended, from disease or malnutrition suffered from the years prior to the end of the war.

Operation "Cherry Blossom"
In 1978 the Japanese government began Operation Cherry Blossom a mission to try and located any additional soldiers hiding in the Pacific. The geopolitical ramifications of the Pacific war continue to this day. Territorial ethnic disputes, war crime prosecution and the search for MIAs still go on. In this sense World War II many never end.

Other Types of Holdouts
There are at least two other types of holdouts that existed, those that were never found, and ex-Japanese soldiers who continued to live or fight in the regions where the war left them.

Holdouts Who Were Never Discovered
There are undoubtedly other holdouts that the world will never know their stories, or exact numbers. Each of the spectacular holdout stories, like Hiroo Onoda were not single holdouts, but the only survivors of groups of Japanese, who over the decades died from disease, wounds or accidents. There were other small groups of holdouts that had no survivors, or the last holdout was never 'discovered' before their death. This also accounts for reports from villagers about Japanese that were never found, or later seemed to disappear.
[ Examples: Rabaul, 1975 | Vella LaVella Rumors 1965, 1989 ]

Ex-Japanese Army Soldiers Who Never Went Home
Certainly, there are many ex-Japanese soldiers who never returned to Japan after the war for shame or by choice. They went on to live their lives in the countries where they served, married locally, or joined other military factions. Although they are not true 'holdouts', living in isolation believing the war was still happening, they are interesting stories.
[ Examples: China 1940's | Two Japanese in Thailand, 1990 | Private Nakamura Teruo, 1974 ]

Remaining Holdouts?
Are there any Holdouts in the Pacific left today? Any Japanese veterans in hiding today would be in their late seventies / early eighties. It is unlikely that any exist that are still alive, or still in isolated regions. Certainly, there are some ex-Japanese soldiers living in areas where they fought to this day, but they are not 'holdouts' in the strictest sense, that they believe that Japan is at war.

Holdout Fame
What happened to the Holdouts after they went home to Japan? This is an untold part of the story. Over the decades, the reaction of the Japanese public was very different. Initially, it seems the Japanese public was unprepared about how to present or deal with holdouts, at first they were oddities. Later, they became famous and regarded as heroes.

Initial Reactions
At first, holdouts were regarded as oddities or freaks, producing headlines like: ""Tarzan lifestyle in the jungle: five years on mice and potatoes." [ 1949 Newspaper Headline, related to New Guinea Holdouts ]. Socially, the reason why holdouts were not highly regarded was because most adult men in Japan were ex-military, and were struggling in the immediate post-war years. There are countless stories of former soldiers who used their army boots well into the 1940's due to the depressed economic conditions and hardship in the bombed out and destroyed Japanese home islands. In immediate post war Japan, 'holdouts' were just another bunch of former soldiers.

Later Reactions
During the 1960's and 1970's holdouts got very different reactions. Maybe enough time had passed since the war to allow holdouts to be regarded more as heroes, and Japan was socially and economically prospering. Also, their discoveries were heavily reported around the world with substantial press coverage, interviews and interest. It seemed everyone was interested in how a soldier could live for decades in the jungle, and even more intriguing, why did they keep fighting, or believing Japan was still at war?

In Japan, some were applauded for making statements, such as Shoichi Yokoi's [ Guam 1972 ] intention to return his rusted rifle to the emperor, and declaration when captured: "I am sorry I did not serve his majesty to my satisfaction. We Japanese soldiers were told to prefer death to the disgrace of getting captured alive." Or, Hiroo Onoda [ Philippines 1974 ] who wept openly when he accepted the fact that the war was over.

Later holdouts went on to write books, lecture, and even return to the places they fought. Some even went onto political careers, or meet famous people like the leaders of the countries where they had previously fought!

The Most Famous Holdout
Of all the holdouts, Hiroo Onoda is the most well know and 'famous', largely due to the amazing features of his story, and that he wrote a popular book, "No Surrender: My Thirty Year War" an autobiography of his 30 year war. This book was translated to english and largely available outside Japan. Onoda remained in the headlines, by moving to Brazil to raise cattle, and then returning to Japan to run a nature camp for children. Also, in 1996 for returning to Lubang Island, where he was a holdout for 30 years, and making a large donation to the island's educaton system.

Return to Main Menu or view Timeline | Registry | History | Links

Who was Yasuke?

When Yasuke arrived in Japan in 1579, he was with an Italian Jesuit named Alessandro Valignano. They came by way of India, and according to Lockley, Yasuke was in service to Valignano most likely as a bodyguard. &ldquoAs a priest he wasn&rsquot allowed to have any soldiers or guards,&rdquo Lockley said of the Jesuit missionary. &ldquoEuphemistically, they had valets&mdashmanservants if you&rsquod like&mdashwho were also versed in weapons.&rdquo In 1581, Valignano headed to what was then the capital city, Kyoto, to meet with Nobunaga and request permission to leave Japan. It was on this trip that Yasuke crossed paths with the feudal lord.

Some have said that Yasuke was a slave, and Lockley acknowledges the theory but disagrees. &ldquoPersonally I don&rsquot think he was a slave in any sense of the word, I think he was a free actor,&rdquo Lockley said. The author speculates that given the circumstances of how the African man arrived at his employment with Valignano, it&rsquos possible that Yasuke was enslaved as a child and taken from Africa to India. There, Lockley said the man could have been a military slave or an indentured soldier, but he &ldquoprobably got his freedom before meeting Valignano.&rdquo

Standing at more than six feet tall and described as having the strength of 10 men, Yasuke left a strong impression on Nobunaga. &ldquoIt seems like he was a confidant, Nobunaga is recorded as talking often with him,&rdquo Lockley said in a follow-up email. &ldquoHe was also a weapon bearer, and probably served in some kind of bodyguard capacity.&rdquo

Lockley also explained that in Yasuke&rsquos time, the idea of a &ldquosamurai&rdquo was a very fluid concept. &ldquoYou don&rsquot have to possess any particular killing skills to be a samurai,&rdquo the author said. &ldquoAnybody who took up weapons on behalf of a lord could technically call themself a samurai, or could be called a samurai.&rdquo

In the years following Yasuke&rsquos service to the feudal lord, it&rsquos possible that hundreds of other foreigners&mdashfrom places including Africa, China, Korea&mdashwere employed in a similar way as the African warrior. &ldquoHe is supposedly the first recorded,&rdquo Lockley explained. The difference is that other foreigners that followed were not in service to Nobunaga. &ldquoThere are several records of Black Africans serving more minor lords, and we don’t know so much about them because the lords they were serving were more minor,&rdquo he said.

china is the home for ninjas and japan is the home for samurai

life_after_2012 ( 1205 />) “Great Answer” ( 4 />)

I am a Ninja and am from neither China or Japan.
I’m not a Ninja.. I just have mad skills

Dr_C ( 14294 />) “Great Answer” ( 3 />)

Life after 2012 are you sure its not the other way around?

zero979 ( 55 />) “Great Answer” ( 0 />) Dr_C ( 14294 />) “Great Answer” ( 1 />)

positive… lets bet some lurve on it.. wouldnt that be pretty fun

life_after_2012 ( 1205 />) “Great Answer” ( 1 />)

The Shinobi (ninja’s) were from Japan along with Samurai. The Shinobi were known for their unorthodox war tactics. They were mercenaries, assassins and such. Samurai were highly trained swordsman that were upholders of the law of the Emperor, the very word Samurai means: To serve.

Axemusica ( 9467 />) “Great Answer” ( 2 />)

Dammit! @Axemusica just had to come in here with his “facts” and “correct information” and spoil everything!
nice job bro

Dr_C ( 14294 />) “Great Answer” ( 2 />)

Saturday morning cartoons.

dpworkin ( 27050 />) “Great Answer” ( 0 />)

Like almost everything else, ninjas originated in China. Japan borrowed nearly all its culture (painting, literature, bonsai, writing, fighting arts, religion, etc.) from Ancient China. Even the word “ninja” is from the Chinese character “nin-ja” which means “patience”. The Japanese are great modifiers. They are very skilled at borrowing ideas and skills from other cultures and modifying them, making them even better for their own use. The Chinese, on the other hand, are great innovators. They are well-known for their many inventions, from paper to gunpowder, from porcelain to silk, etc.

MRSHINYSHOES ( 13966 />) “Great Answer” ( 2 />)

@MRSHINYSHOES totally worked @Axemusica… fight fight fight!
or not… you know, whatever

Dr_C ( 14294 />) “Great Answer” ( 0 />)

And Sinanju are from North Korea.

mrentropy ( 17193 />) “Great Answer” ( 0 />)

@life_after_2012 You would be wrong. Ninjas were farmers repressed by the samurai. Then later those who excelled in the art of stealth and the arts were later as @axemusica said, hired by the emperor.

Shield_of_Achilles ( 1906 />) “Great Answer” ( 0 />)

@Dr_C well @MRSHINYSHOES has some validity to his response. Most of the orient area of the earth did get their culture by borrowing it from China and Ninja’s even used a lot of the philosophy of the Chinese military. Although, I can’t find any other facts about their actual origin other than the Feudal era in Japan when they were known as Shinobi.

Axemusica ( 9467 />) “Great Answer” ( 0 />)

”. The word itself derives from the Japanese Shinobi-no-mono, which is written with two kanji characters that can also be pronounced as nin-sha, if the Chinese pronunciation is used instead. The first character, nin, suggests concealment, while the second, sha, means person. Ninja: a person who hides his presence. In Japanese, the word is applied to a person who does covert, military operations.” – A site that come up when I googled

“When the claim is made that Ninja arts originated in China, what is really being said is that Sun Tzu’s The Art of War was written there around the fifth century BC, and contains a chapter about the importance of espionage. Some of the tactics described in this book, specifically the espionage chapter, were eventually put into use by the ninja. For this reason, ninja skills are often described as Chinese in origin. On the other hand, there was nothing particularly secret about this book, and the strategems were widely known, once the book finally made it over to Japan sometime in the seventh or eighth century AD. The Chinese often referred to it, and many other books which followed it, when planning for warfare and studying tactics. The Japanese, too, came to use the book and many of its teachings, not just the espionage chapter. Samurai battles used tactics laid out in The Art of War. Yet no one claims that the Way of the Samurai originated in China.” – Ibid

Reading about it now, I’d have to say they were defined as Ninja in japan since it seems like the only real thing that originated from china was Sun Tzu’s The Art of War. The Shinobi utilized the teaching of espionage and used it and other tactics to become the notorious Ninja.

Axemusica ( 9467 />) “Great Answer” ( 2 />) Dr_C ( 14294 />) “Great Answer” ( 0 />)

listen! ninjas are from CHINA and samurai are from JAPAN. Im sure everyoe believes one these countries invented martial arts too. Wrong, If you want to get technical Ninjas and Samurai are from Greece. You better do some homework be for you try to test the waters on this one..

life_after_2012 ( 1205 />) “Great Answer” ( 0 />)

@life_after_2012 Not even close. Go be quiet. BEFORE you make yourself look even worse….

Shield_of_Achilles ( 1906 />) “Great Answer” ( 0 />)

Ninjas were Japanese peasant rebels. They fought against the tyrant samurai ruling over Japan. Ninjas are JAPANESE.

TehRoflMobile ( 780 />) “Great Answer” ( 0 />)

@life_after_2012 wtf seriously. ninja and samourai came from japan. geez. @TehRoflMobile Ninja were NOT peasant rebels. they were monks who were oppressed for their religion so they fled to the provinces of Iga and some other province which i forget the name of. They started ninjutsu in the iga mountains and eventually became assassins for hire. They developed most of their techniques to defend against the samourai. The only thing China contributed to the art of ninjutsu is karate, which means empty hand in chinese. http://www.grandmaster.cc/history/Ninjutsu.php3 i think this is a pretty reliable source. dont just go make things up if you dont have proof. ninjutsu FTW. bit*h.

helloeveryone ( 68 />) “Great Answer” ( 1 />)

The Mongol Hordes vs. The Samurai Warriors

The famous Mongol Hordes were probably the most powerful force on earth by the mid-thirteenth century with a vast empire that stretched from the Danube to the Sea of Japan and from Northern Siberia to Cambodia.

It covered a landmass of an estimated 33 million square km which equates to 22% of the Earth's total land area and held sway over a population of over 100 million people.

In contrast, Kamakura Period Japan was a small island that was divided by internal conflict with rival warlords fighting amongst themselves for land, privileges and resources.

The Imminent Invasion of the Mongol Hordes

In 1268 the Mongol leader, Kublai Kahn (the grandson of the nation’s founder Genghis) sent his emissaries to Japan to demand acknowledgment of Mongol overlordship. This was denied by the Japanese but there was little immediate response to this defiance as the Kahn was engaged in conflict in China, in which he established a substantial foothold by 1273.

A year later, he turned his attention back to Japan and sent an army made up of Mongol, Chinese and Korean soldiers out to conquer the insolent samurai warriors. The Mongols were a far more powerful army than their enemies in several ways including man power, organisational skills and tactical awareness, something that the 18 year old Shikken (Regent), Tokimune Hojo recognised.

Even at that young age, he was an accomplished warrior and he realised how much danger the country was in so set about ending feuds between rival samurai clans in a bid to get them to unite against a common enemy.

The First Invasion of the Mongols

The first invasion came on November 19, 1274 when the Mongol Hordes landed at Hakata Bay and were met by Japanese warriors from the Kyushu Region. The samurai’s preferred style of combat by the thirteenth century was to charge into battle and challenge opposing warriors to individual combat during pitch battles. However their foreign enemies used a different type of strategy.

They rode towards the samurai firing volleys of arrows laced with poison before retreating to stay out of range of their opponents. These waves of attacks continued relentlessly and were combined with the use of fire bombs that had probably been developed in China and burned not only the samurai warriors but also their mounts. The Japanese were forced to fall back into defensive formation but the Mongols could not build on their advantage and pursue any further due to a shortage of arrows.

They re-boarded their ships and left Hakata Bay with a decisive victory under their belts but as they did so, a storm came that destroyed a large part of their fleet with powerful winds, torrential rains and huge waves. They lost an estimated 13,000 men of a force that had been around 35,000 strong at the start of the fighting and 200 of their 900 ships were lost to the sea.

The Second Attack on Samurai Forces

For the next few years, Kublai concentrated on conquering Sothern China until in 1279, he sent more envoys to Japan demanding the leaders there pay homage to him. The reply was a resounding “no” and the messenger’s heads were returned to the Khan, minus their bodies. Kublai was furious but waited until May 1281 to attempt to exact his revenge.

He raised an army of over 200,000 men and in preparation for the coming conflict, the Japanese constructed a wall 4.5 meters high and 40 km (25 miles) in length along the coast of Hakata Bay. They also assembled a large number of small boats that were designed specifically to fight in shallow waters in a bid to hamper their opponent’s ability to land troops.

The fleet was to attack in two waves, the first of which set out with 900 ships carrying 40,000 men which was to be followed by a further 100,000 soldiers and 60,000 sailors who would be carried in 3,500 ships. The first wave reached Tsushima on the 9th June and despite strong resistance, managed to overcome samurai forces there.

They pushed on to Kyushu in Hakata Bay where the samurai managed to limited their ability to land troops to small numbers and employed night-time attacks on their ships.

The Divine Wind

These tactics frustrated the Mongols who returned to their ships only to realise soon after doing so that they had made the same mistake again by invading Japan during typhoon season. Another storm hit with even greater ferocity than the last and devastated both the first and the second waves of the fleet. These winds, so it was believed by the Japanese, were evidence of intervention from the gods and became known as Kamikaze or the Divine Wind.

Around 4,000 of their ships were sunk and around 100,000 men lost their lives, forcing the fleet to return to China. Once again the Mongol Hordes had been defeated by natural forces which ended any major attempt for them to become the overlords of the samurai warriors.

Further Reading

Cook, H. 1993. Samurai – The Story of a Warrior Tradition. London. Blandford Press.

Gracie, C. [Internet]. 2012. Kublai Khan: China's Favourite Barbarian. The BBC. Available from: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-19850234 [Accessed 10 May, 2013].

Mongol Empire (1206 to 1368). [Internet]. 2013. Find the Data. Available from: http://empires.findthedata.org/l/2/Mongol-Empire [Accessed 10 May, 2013].

Newman, J. 1989. Bushido – The Way of the Warrior. New York. Gallery Books.

Renius, A. [Internet]. 2009. The Mongols, the Samurai and the Divine Wind. Socyberty. Available from: http://socyberty.com/history/the-mongols-the-samurai-and-the-divine-wind [Accessed 10 May, 2013].

Turnbull, S. R. 1987. Fourth Edition. Samurai – A Military history. London. Osprey.

Current Day Katanas

The katana sword is still respected today although it is rare to find a sword smith who can make a Samurai sword with the passion, meaning, art and spirit exhibited by the earlier sword smiths. Katana swords are currently used in martial arts training such as Kenjutsu , Iaido, and others. These swords are mainly used to balance the unarmed nature of this martial art.

There are numerous Kenjutsu masters who believe that the art of Jujitsu was a back-up plan for warriors when their swords got lost or damaged in the battle field. This martial art initially focused on dominating the opponent without using any weapon. However, modern day martial artists often try to gain skills in both fighting styles.

The Samurai sword still carries a strong historical and ceremonial importance in Japan just like the famous Jujitsu style of fighting in modern day entertainment such as Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fighting. The katana sword is considered as the deadliest weapon in Japanese history and culture.

Now that you know the history of the Samurai sword read my article on the history of samurai armor & where to buy it.