Tradition in Japan prizes grace, tranquillity and harmony with nature. But tradition also celebrates the fierce warrior of Japan; the samurai. Sometimes wandering alone, more often fighting in Japans complex civil wars, the samurai may have been history’s most effective and terrifying warriors. Legends, movies, popular fiction, books in Japan and all over the world picks the samurai as the most lethal swordsman that has ever lived. Was he that lethal? Yes. Was it pure technique, mere mastery of the sword that made the samurai so deadly, or was it near magical powers that came from their harmony with beauty and nature?
For the samurai death had to be something beautiful and honourable. Was this the way they could fight with such intensity because they where unrestrained and un-distracted by the fear of death? “If one is to fight bravely, he must not be held back by the silly nonsense of survival stuck in his head. ” -Hagakure, The Book of the Samurai. All warriors in every culture are trained to be brave in the face of death. What made the samurai unique was he often choose to die. If defeated in battle or disgraced in some other way, honour demanded suicide.
Tradition demanded a grizzly ritual sometimes called seppuku, sometimes hara-kiri. The samurai plunged his blade into the side of his abdomen, pulling it to the other side and finishing with an upward pull of the blade. This was extremely painful and it could take hours, even days to die. So another, usually a friend, would act as a second and at any sign of hesitation would cut of his head. That way he kept his honour. When cutting of the head the second would leave a tiny piece of skin on the throat so the head wouldn’t roll around and insult people.
The word samurai means “to serve” and that’s how it began, as warriors serving the emperor. Divided by steep mountain ridges Japan was a difficult land for a central government to rule. The emperor needed mounted warriors who could move swiftly to enforce his authority in even the most remote villages. In the 8th and 9th century they started as rough and tough tax collectors that could shake down the peasants and collect the emperors taxes. Eventually the emperors warrior servants realised they could be the masters. By the year 1300 the samurai had taken the provinces they had once administrated for the emperor.
The samurai built castles and created hierarchies where samurai warriors served samurai generals, who in turn served samurai lords, daimyos. Having established themselves the daimyos began fighting each other with samurai armies. The samurais fought for their lord to expand his land and to increase his power. There was, however, always something else at stake: the warriors’ personal honour. Nothing was more important than honour. Not his own life or his family’s or friends life. Not even loyalty. But how far would the samurai go to preserve his honour?
For over 300 years, beginning in the 14th century, Japan was racked by civil wars. But even large battles often consisted of simultaneously individual duals. The samurai declared their merits before the battle so they could be properly matched. That way they could preserve their honour. Then they fought to the death. But why were they so obsessed with honour? Samurai status was inherited, but trough most of Japanese history anyone could declare themselves samurai. But to get hired they had to establish a reputation and maintain it.
Their armour wasn’t only for protection but also to make them look even more fierce. It hade to say “this was a warrior to be reckoned with! ” If killed in battle or committing seppuku, death always included beheading. Before going to battle the samurai would burn incense in his helmet so if his head was taken as a trophy the smell would please his victor. Often both sides witnessed the duels and both applauded when the beheading was done. The taking of the head may seem barbaric, but the reason is simple: a head is proof that an enemy has been slain and his lord often rewarded the samurai for the heads.
To prepare for battle the samurai carried a small arsenal of weapons: bow and arrow, a lethal variety of spears, lances and knives. Even a fan, the very symbol of delicacy and frailness, was made with steel ribs and used to parry attacks. But it was the sword that was the ultimate weapon for the samurai. Being so important the sword was crafted with great skill. The secret behind it’s great flexibility, strength and blinding sharpness was because of it’s special creation: the steel was heated to the colour of the morning sun, then pounded and folded over and over again.
Some of the finest swords contain as much as a million layers. After a lifetime of training the goal was that when the training was needed they didn’t think of what to do. They just did the movements and fighting on instinct. Many samurai was deeply troubled by the killing. Many where Buddhists and there lay a wrenching dilemma. Buddhism preaches circles of life each depending on the virtues and sins of the life before. Here they where doing the most despicable thing to do, to kill, and therefore believed they had to be reborn to a terrible new life. Indeed a samurai saying was that they where to be reborn as a samurai.
Much about the samurai confounds normal expectations about a warriors life. Many westerners believe that the samurai was this violent killer, always. But it is not so. They where very cultured people who studied, read and wrote poems. In fact it was common to calmly compose a poem before going to battle or committing seppuku. The devotion to both martial arts and fine arts where very common. Indeed the samurai made little distinction between the two. This is why even the ritual of arranging flowers where regarded as a martial art. It trains one’s eye, one’s hand, one’s mind set to become one with the flowers.
The same way they would become one with their sword. Within this world of beauty and bravery was another world, a shadow world, where all values where reversed. It was inhabited by men who moved in silence. The Ninja. Although there usually where a distinction between samurai and ninja, they usually where in fact samurai serving as spies and assassins. Other than that little reliable information exists. How big a role did the ninja play in the raise and fall of the samurai households? And how many deaths explained as disease and accidents was the work of the ninja?
The truth will probably never be known. Long after China and the rest of Asia became known to the Europeans, the remote islands of Japan remained forbidden and mysterious. Then in 1542 a Chinese ship arrived in the south of Japan. The ships crew included Portuguese sailors, the first Europeans to arrive in Japan. Everything about these strange visitors fascinated the Japanese, especially their weapons. The lord in the area bought two muskets and set his chief sword maker to duplicate them. At first many samurai refused to use muskets and considered it the tactics of cowards.
However tradition gave way to technology. Within 50 years they where making more guns than any country in Europe and using them. In the year 1600 the lord Tokugawa won the final battle because of the guns. He would rule Japan finally united and at peace. To protect their new stability Tokugawa declared the land closed and sealed to the outside world. Almost all foreigners where expelled. Foreign religions, ideas and weapons where banned. Soon the making of guns ceased almost entirely. This new era would last for 250 years. Generation after generation would live and die without knowing war.
What role would the samurai play in a Japan at peace? The fierce, but educated warriors served as administrators. They oversaw rise production, wrote laws and sometimes served as judges. There was however to be an even more profound transformation. A new and great idea would be created. They tried to define themselves and created a code how they should act and live. The code was called Bushido, The Way of the Warrior. The concept of honour would be enlarged and would include taking care of society’s well-being as a hole. The new idea would eventually be severely tested.
On July 8th 1853, after 2- century with closed borders, a small fleet of ships from the US Navy sailed boldly into Tokyo harbour. The Americans delivered an ultimatum: open Japan to trade or suffer the consequences. The samurai was helpless against modern ships and guns. Faced with western domination the samurai knew that Japan had to become powerful by becoming modern as quickly as possible. To clear the way for modernisation the samurai, who as individuals had always been ready to face death, now faced the death of the entire samurai class. Traditional dress was discarded, ancient privileges surrendered.
Japan would be like other countries, with a constitution and a monarch. The emperor was restored as the head of the government. The samurai would disappear, but their legacy would reappear in a terrible new form. In the early 20th century the samurai traditions was discarded as old relics of the past. As Japan plunged into modernism the government dreamt of conquering a vast overseas empire. When in 1931 Japan invaded Manchuria and then China army officers carried swords like the samurai had used. As they swept through Asia the swords was now used to slaughter civilians and prisoners of war.
With nazi Germany dominating Europe the Japanese thought there was only one power that could stop them from conquering all of Asia. The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour was supposed to destroy America’s ability to fight in the pacific. As the Americans turned to the offensive and the tide of war was turned against Japan, an old relic from the pate reappeared. Many Japanese was captured but many, like the samurai, choose death and took their own life. By 1943 suicide had become a form of combat. Inspired by patriotism and the samurai ideal they where called Kamikaze-pilots, pilots of the Devine wind.
Their mission: to attack, not with bombs, but with themselves. Deliberately they crashed their planes into the American ships. Finally in August 1945 the Americans unleashed the weapon that brought the war to an abrupt and terrible end. After the war the Japanese people did not look on Bushido very well. It represented a lot of war trauma and also failure. But as Japan rebuilt itself the samurai status was restored. The samurai tradition of courage and honour had been forged through nearly 800 years of warfare. Then in the centuries of peace it was formed into a code of service and justice.
World War II had seen it tragically misused. What role will the proud legacy play in the future? Tiger Sharks Essay written by Giovani Alzugraray Description of Tiger Sharks Information about Tiger sharks is rare in books so most of this paper will be about sharks in general. The Tiger Shark’s Latin name is Galeocerdo cuvier. Sharks are a member of the fish family. There are over 350 species of sharks. Sharks can be as big as 49 feet long (whale shark) and as short as 6 inches (cigar shark). Sharks’ bodies do not have bones, but have cartilage instead.
They have pointed heads with five gills behind it. Sharks have very sharp teeth that are replaced whenever they lose teeth. Sharks’ skin can be reddish brown, bronze, metallic blue or nearly black, although most of them are gray. Some have spots, bands and marbling. Their skin is leathery and covered with small pointed scales which are so sharp that if petted in the opposite direction can actually hurt your hand. Sharks have great senses. Their eyes are sensitive and can even see in dim light. Their sense of smell is outstanding. They also have senses that humans do not.
Sharks can feel when other things are around them. Also, they have organs on their snouts which tell them when other fish are around. Sharks are known to eat every creature in the sea including their own kind. Some sharks eat only plants and plankton. Others prefer live food. People have found very unusual things in sharks’ stomachs such as hooves of cows, horses, dogs, cats, goats and human corpses. Unlike bony fish which lay hundreds of eggs at one time, sharks litters are much smaller. Some sharks have as few as two offspring at a time. Bony fish babies are born small and puny.
Shark “pups” are born fully developed and are ready to eat the foods that full-grown sharks eat. Some of sharks’ behavior is interesting and understood. Other behaviors are still mysterious. For example, sharks attack when they are hungry. But why they attack when they are not hungry, we do not know. They may attack for defense, because they think humans are food, because they smell blood or because they smell or sense chemicals that are interesting to them. While people may think that all sharks are dangerous, only about 30 species are considered dangerous, including the Tiger Shark.
Even when sharks do attack, the victims usually do not die anyway. Where Sharks Live Sharks are found in all of the world’s oceans although most of them prefer to live in tropical waters. A very few species live in waters as cold as the Antarctic Ocean. Sharks live at all depths of the oceans. Because sharks are so adaptable there are many of them all around the world, living in all of our oceans. Interesting Facts About Tiger Sharks Shark eggs have stings attached to them. The strings hook onto corals or seaweed so the egg will not drift off. All baby sharks are called pups.
Sharks are one of the older species of animals and have been on earth for about three million years. Sharks’ only natural predator is sharks. Unlike bony fish, sharks do not have air bladders and so if they stop swimming , they will sink to the bottom. The largest organ in the shark’s body is its liver. Sharks can survive without food for long periods of time because they can live off of the oil of their liver. People use many products that come from sharks such as oil, vitamins, fertilizer and leather. Some people also like to collect shark teeth and jaws. Shark meat is becoming a more popular food in the United States.