History of the Samurai

  • By Rima Chaddha
  • Posted 10.09.07
  • NOVA

For more than 800 years, the samurai helped to lay the foundations of Japan's culture. Their reverence for honor, duty, and service remains ingrained in Japanese society even today. Together with their renowned martial capabilities, these characteristics made the samurai what historian Stephen Turnbull calls "the knights of old Japan." In this interactive time line, familiarize yourself with the samurai and their challenges, and learn how the warrior class evolved.

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In this time line, follow the millennium-long story of these legendary Japanese warriors.

This feature originally appeared on the site for the NOVA program Secrets of the Samurai Sword.



(samurai in battle gear)
Courtesy Bennett, Terry. Early Japanese Images. Rutland, Vermont: Charles E. Tuttle Company, 1996, 75, 139, pl. 35/wikipedia.org
(Taira no Shigemori)
Courtesy wikipedia.org
(samurai battles beast)
Courtesy Kuniyoshi, Utagawa/wikipedia.org
Courtesy Takehara Shunsen/wikipedia.org
(Masashige's statue)
© Anthony Collins/istockphoto.com
(battle during Sengoku period)
Courtesy wikipedia.org
(Toyotomi Hideyoshi)
Courtesy wikipedia.org
(photo of samurai)
Silver print by Felice Beato, 1860s/Courtesy wikipedia.org
(WWII soldiers)
Courtesy U.S. National Park Service

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