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A Masterless Samurai
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47 Ronin

A scene from the 47 Ronin, a famous Japanese play


Samurai warriors derived their status and salaries from the daimyo lords they served. When a daimyo died, these warriors became "ronin," masterless samurai.

After Tokugawa Ieyasu became shogun in 1603, samurai military services were no longer required, and many ronin wandered the country seeking employment. As they became increasingly marginalized, their resentment grew, and an uprising in 1651 was narrowly averted. With no wars to fight, some ronin became farmers or monks while others led lives as mercenaries or bandits.

Then and Now
The term "ronin" today refers to high school graduates who have failed their university entrance exams. These students take a year to study, living "masterless" until they have passed.

Top and left: Bato-machi Hiroshige Museum.
Right: Ronin/Shunji Jonoshita


During the peaceful Edo period, ronin became idle and resentful

On the Tokaido Road
View scenes from the Tokaido Road

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