The four most common mistakes about the mysterious samurai.
For Honor is out and there is a good chance that if you bought this game you will start with the samurai class. Not very strange since the warriors have been shrouded in mysterious stories about honor and their magical katanas for centuries. This image is reinforced by films such as The Last Samurai with Tom Cruise, but what if that image is not quite right?
Many children used to dream about the epic fights between samurai and ninja and plastic katanas can still be found as prizes at the fair to this day. But as Marco Borsato once so aptly sang it: most dreams are deception. There are many misunderstandings when it comes to the life of the samurai and the weapons they fought with. Chances are that at least one of these things will be surprising to you, but of course that’s exactly the point. Even the new sword fighting game For Honor makes some mistakes, according to experts, but that might be a topic for another day. Samuel reviewed the game for us.
Only pure-blood Japanese could become samurai
Samurai are not only an elite warrior group of the richest and purest Japanese, but also a social class of their own. The word samurai originally meant simply: ‘those who serve the nobility at close range’. It is estimated that about 10 percent of the population belonged to this class and many Japanese believe that everyone still living in the country today has some samurai blood running through their veins. Samurai were also not very strong super soldiers, but rather small and slim. The Japanese people are still one of the smallest populations on earth to this day and in the time of the samurai it was no different with the average height of the warriors being estimated at 160 to 165 cm. Although they were not officially called samurai, but bushi, there were also women who took similar training and competed alongside their male opponents. There are even foreigners who have been given the title of samurai. This includes, for example, the Dutch Jan Joosten van Lodensteijn, who was awarded the social title and two ceremonial samurai swords for his good trade relationship with the country. Lodesteijn was also a colleague of adventurer William Adams, the character that you control in the game Nioh and who was also the very first Westerner to receive that honorary title.
Samurai lived according to the written Bushido code of honor
That samurai lived an honorable life is a myth. The code of honor called bushido is very similar to European chivalry and was more of an unwritten and unspoken guideline for samurai to aspire to. However, it was not the case that you would be punished immediately if you did not live by these guidelines, nor was a samurai better if he treated his opponents more honorably. The well-known seppuku, in which the samurai puts a short sword through his belly as an attempt to commit suicide, was also no punishment for not pursuing the bushido. While it was a way to die with honor, it almost never happened on the battlefield, but in extremely traditional political ceremonies. The samurai was given his last supper with a sword in his stomach for dessert. The battlefield did not only consist of honorable duels, but it was fine for a samurai and often even better to bombard his opponents with arrows from a distance. The honor was more in winning than the way it was won.
The samurai’s main weapon was the katana
When you think of a samurai, you automatically think of the katana. The sword is known for being razor-sharp and could cut everything straight in half. But did you know that the samurai didn’t use this sword as a main weapon at all? The katana was not very important to the samurai for a long time, but only became so towards the end of the feudal period in Japan when the country was increasingly influenced by stories of knights and swords in Europe. For this the samurai mainly used the yumi, Japanese for bow and arrow, and the naginata, a kind of combination of a sword and a spear. Before the katana there was also the odachi, a much longer version of the famous sword. In addition, samurai always went to battle on horseback, where a longer weapon like the naginata or the odachi came in very handy. Before its rise in popularity, the katana was more of a weapon for when the warrior was thrown off his horse and had to fight in a crowded or confined space. When gunpowder was introduced to Japan and the warriors began to use guns in combat, the value of the sword in combat dropped dramatically, turning the katana into more of a status symbol than a weapon for a samurai. Of course, this didn’t make them any less badass.
The katana is the best sword ever made
It is true that a katana has tremendous cutting power due to the sharp edge and hard steel it is forged from, but the weapon had as many drawbacks as benefits. For example, the blade of the sword was fragile and a katana often did not last long. They were perfect for cutting softer fabrics, but the weapons just weren’t made for thicker leather and other hard objects. There are many stories of the swords breaking or getting stuck in the opponent’s armor. For example, a European sword is made from softer, thicker steel to last and deliver both pounding on the armor and cutting into the opponent’s flesh. The katana is perfect for what it was supposed to do on the battlefield in Japan at the time, but nowhere near the magical super weapon many people think it is. There were many different types of katanas, short or long and thick or thin, all of which had their own role in the fight.