In popular culture, samurai are often portrayed with a mixture of romanticism and chivalric honour. They are presented with a strict code of honour that’s thought of as heroic, but in reality, the life of a samurai was far more complex. The absolute devotion they had to their code could make them ruthless and cruel to the people they considered to be beneath them.
In many ways, a samurai was a walking contradiction. A warrior who was expected to draw their sword at a moment’s notice, but was also meant to compose haikus, arrange flowers and be the living embodiment of Japanese virtues. This complexity is on full display in Ghost of Tsushima, a game I’ve been waiting to play for a long time and that allowed my inner history geek to run free.
Japan is known for having some of the most unique art in the world. Building on centuries of feudal culture, Japanese art has its own style. A famous example of Japanese art is jizai okimono, which translates to ‘move freely decorative object.’ Jizai okimono involves the crafting of articulated sculptures. Beginning in 17th century Japan, the art form is highly specialised and fascinating.
Ninjas are undoubtedly one of the most well-known tropes in Japanese pop culture. As practitioners of ninjutsu, the warriors who followed this path were referred to as shinobi. But it would be incorrect to assume that the role of black-clad assassin was reserved solely for men.
Samurai have earned a reputation for being honourable and stoic warriors. They have come to represent the spirit of Japan. Portrayed across countless mediums, the image of the samurai has fascinated scholars, writers and fans of popular culture.
A traditional Japanese tea ceremony is one of the most important aspects of Japanese culture. A celebration of harmony and the transience of life, the tea ceremony can be a transformative experience, and like many traditions, the ceremony was a crucial part of the samurai lifestyle.