Samurai refers to the warrior class which existed during pre-industrial Japan. This group is composed of men who serve the nobility in close attendance. In time, it became synonymous to the upper class echelons of warrior. There are four main things that differentiate a samurai from the other warriors. These are skill, having a daimyo or master, membership in the elite class, and living by the warrior code known as Bushido.
Bushido is the main thing that differentiates a samurai. It is the code of ethics by which a samurai lives and dies. There are people who see in this code a certain contradiction as it contains principles that do not seem to agree such as “obedience to authority” and ” duty first even in violation of law”. Even then, a samurai is expected to find his way when the situation calls for it. Translated to the “Path of the Warrior” , the code emphasized loyalty to master and death rather than dishonor.
Being a samurai goes beyond wearing armors, wielding swords, and enjoying prestige. In fact, it is more about mental bearing rather than physical skill. Even if the Samurai warrior existed a long time ago, there is a way that Samurai ethics can be practiced in modern times.
A samurai warrior trains hard to master his skills. Before, it was the mastery of combat skills while present times require mastery in more current skills. This is still true to day since it would be difficult to attain expertise and mastery without proper training. Training may take years but it is part of the true way of a warrior. Even in the absence of war, the Samurai way provides important lessons in hard work and patience.
A samurai warrior keeps his integrity. Death was considered desirable than dishonor. Integrity is probably the most difficult to maintain in the highly materialistic environment of the world today.
A samurai warrior never lets his sword rule. The weapon was considered a means to achieve a noble cause. Authority is not established by threats nor weapons but rather by the strength of spirit that others will see and recognize.
A samurai warrior commits to his purpose. In the olden times, the purpose was to serve a master. Today, the purpose can be any goal that requires full commitment to be achieved. This commitment is required in the face of extreme challenges and obstacles. The will to serve however, remains.
Teresa is a researcher-writer who covers a wide range of topics in search of useful information.
Posted March 30th, 2013 by Teresa Martinez+ | Comment (0)
For a highly developed country, it is quite surprising why Japan does not have its own army. The reason points to history and events that Japan has tried to make amends for. However, the country does have its Japan Self-Defense Forces.
Under its 1947 Constitution, particularly under Article 9, Japan has ” forever renounced war as an instrument for settling international disputes and that it will never again maintain land, sea, or air forces or other war potential”. This decision is rooted on the deep impact of the Second World War on the Japanese people in particular and the world in general. Up to this day, there are still countries awaiting reparation for the war atrocities that were supposed to have been committed by the Japanese military.
The Mutual Security Assistance Pact provides that US forces stationed in Japan will take care of any external aggression against Japan while the Japanese forces will address internal threat and natural disasters. Whatever semblance of military forces there are in Japan today are considered mere extensions of the country’s Police Force.
Being the direct recipient of the effects of nuclear weapons, Japan expressly abhors the use of it in any destructive form. It has to be noted though that Japan has several nuclear plants existing. Its is believed that the country is capable of developing its own nuclear weapon when the need arises.
Japanese troops have seen action in others countries mainly as peacekeeping agents. Only time will tell if there will be changes with regards to the role of the Self-Defense Forces.
About the Author:
Teresa is a researcher-writer who covers a wide range of topics in search of useful information.
Posted February 28th, 2013 by Teresa Martinez+ | Comment (0)
We all know for what purpose fans are used but there is a kind of fan in Japan that is primarily a signaling device. It is actually a fan designed for warfare. It can also be used as a weapon and it is called thew war fan.
There are three basic types of war fans consisting of the gunsen, tessen, and the gunbai. The gunsen fan is a folding fan usually seen hanging from a warrior’s breastplate. The tessen is often used as a throwing weapon and an effective means of fending darts and arrows. The gunbai is quite flexible even in its stationary form of being a large and solid fan.
It could be easy to imagine how wars can provide a semblance of art with the use of war fans. Instead of swift confrontation, the use of the Japanese war fan requires observing rituals, practices, and protocols. Commands can be given to soldiers through the use of war fans which in turn can be passed on to other participants.
The use of the Japanese war fan lends a degree of nobility to an otherwise dreadful activity. The use of the tessen is even considered lethal since it is considered quite a weapon in the hands of a real fighter. Many families preserve their war fans to be of use to others. To many however, they preserve theirs as historic specimens which can be brought out time and again for study and comparison. Japanese war fans are considered defense weapons by the samurai which are easily concealed.
Posted December 10th, 2012 by Teresa Martinez+ | Comment (0)
The Rehabilitation Program of Japan in connection with the last destructive tsunami that hit it is now in its Recovery Phase. This rehabilitation phase would more or less focus on community development, disaster preparedness, and livelihood recovery. For many, life went on a few months after the tragedy struck but to some, the present time is just the start towards recovery.
The history between Japan and the tsunami is quite long-existing. Apparently,Japan cannot do much about the tsunami except to prepare always for the worst to minimize loss of lives and property. Japan’s location in the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is the world’s most active earthquake belt, makes it an easy target for the wrath of a tsunami.
The effects of the 8.9 magnitude earthquake showed just how dangerous Japan’s geographical position is in terms of this natural disaster. This earthquake is the strongest quake on record in the area of Japan. It caused such as disturbance in the seafloor to spawn the series of massive waves that attacked Japan.
A tsunami is a natural phenomenon that rarely happens but Japan is a frequent and constant target of this rare occurrence. There is still no exact science to determine when and where a tsunami will strike. The best that scientists can offer are estimates. Although, it is possible to determine when a tsunami will struck after a major earthquake, there is usually little time left to do something about it. The people of Japan do not have much time after the tsunami warning is heard. Most of those who survived stand to go through the same experience in their lifetime not because of any bad luck but because of the country’s very location. The Japanese’s fall and rise in every tsunami is a tribute to their resilience.
Posted November 2nd, 2012 by Teresa Martinez+ | Comment (0)
It’s time for Japanophiles to show just how much they appreciate everything Japanese. In the last days, the whole world has been witness to the earthquakes and tsunamis that have hit Japan. The after effects of the natural disaster are still being felt in Japan, for sure, and we can only do our part in extending a helping hand to those who have been affected.
Millions and millions of people are without things that we consider basic – a roof above their heads, food, electricity, and so on. Even today, many people are evacuating certain parts of Japan due to the risk that some nuclear power plants pose.
The Japanese may be some of the most efficient and strongest people, but in times like these, even they can use some assistance. Whether you’re thinking of prayers, volunteering, donating, or raising awareness – nothing is too small. Here are Geisha Blog, we would like to help in whatever way we can, and we urge our readers to do the same. There are many different ways by which you can donate. We’ve created a Chipin widget which you can use to send your donations. We challenge you to support a worthy cause and give what you can.
Posted March 13th, 2011 by Maki+ | Comments (9)
In a few previous blog post, I talked about my love for the various sentai series that came from Japan. Well, the nostalgia trip didn’t end with writing that post.
I recently went to a toy sale at my local mall and found a whole stash of Kamen Rider 555 action figures. I immediately grabbed a Kamen Rider Kaixa figure (which is one of the coolest figures in the bunch). It was a 12-inch figure that lights up just like in the series — signifying that the armor is powering up.
Getting my hands on a Kamen Rider figure made me think of the other genre that is as popular as Sentai — the Tokusatsu genre. Tokusatsu is a looser grouping, not like the more genre specific sentai. Tokusatsu literally means Special Effects and is actually a contraction of two words tokushu satsuei, which means special photography.
The tokusatsu series runs the whole gamut of subgenres from science fiction, fantasy and even horror and monsters. Some of the most popular tokusatsu series or shows aside from Kamen Rider are the Ultraman series, the Godzilla and Gamera series, and even Doraemon.
The Tokusatsu is another one of those distinctly Japanese pop culture references that make their culture so unique.
Posted October 29th, 2010 by Maki+ | Comment (0)
I have always wanted to have a Japanese garden. The Japanese are true masters in turning nearly everything in their culture to an artform, and the garden is no exception. Many of the famous gardens in Japan are located within Zen monasteries, an influence that is often conjectural at best. There must have been important religious influences on early garden design as well, given the significance of natural objects in Shinto beliefs. Although its original meaning is somewhat obscure, one of the Japanese words for gardenâ€”niwaâ€”came to mean a place that had been cleansed and purified in anticipation of the arrival of kami, the deified spirits of Shinto, and the Shinto reverance for great rocks, lakes, ancient trees, and other “dignitaries of nature” would exert an enduring influence on Japanese garden design. The individual elements of Japanese gardens can fill a book, and often has. This includes waterfalls, rocks, bridges, islands, flowers, water and of course, trees. Here are my favourite ones:
The temple of Jisho-ji is more popularly known as Ginkaku-ji, the Silver Pavilion. Both the pavilion and the garden were part of the retirement villa of Ashikaga Yoshimasa, the eighth Shogun of the Muromachi Period, who began construction in 1482. The complex became the very center of Japanese aesthetic concerns during the eight years of Yoshimasaâ€™s residency, particularly in the areas of art collecting, flower arranging, and the tea ceremony.
Popularly known as Kikokutei Hall Garden, this is currently part of the Higashihongan-ji Temple (although separated from it physically). Its landscapingâ€”attributed to Ishikawa Jozan and Kobori Enshuâ€”dates to the Edo Period, but the large pond may originally have been part of the Heian estate of Minamoto no Toru, younger son of the Emperor Saga. It is one of a number of such Kyoto ponds that are all that remain of the great gardens of the Heian aristocracy.
Founded in 1509 by the Zen priest Kogaku Sotan (1464-1548) upon his retirement as abbot of Daitoku-ji. The hojo, his residence, was completed in 1513, and the most famous of the gardens that surround that structure probably dates from the same period. While the theory that other early Zen gardens were intended to imitate Chinese landscape paintings or their Japanese equivalents is open to question, there can be little doubt that this was the intention at the Daisen-in. The garden that flanks two sides of the hojo is a miniature landscape whose vertical rocks suggest the mountains from which a waterfall and its resulting river flow.
Posted September 30th, 2010 by geisha+ | Comment (1)
masks belong to a highly developed theatrical tradition. Its purpose used to be strictly religious but this has long since changed. Of all the Japanese masks the Noh
mask is said to be the most artistic one. The origins of Noh theatre go back to the thirteenth century. At that time a very popular performance was ‘Dengaku no Noh’ which translates as ‘Field-music Performance’ and it had its root in rustic acrobatic and juggling exhibitions. By the fourteenth century, however, Noh had become a kind of opera in which the performers recited while sitting next to each other and then danced. As the fourteenth century went on, another type of Noh, Sarugaku, which used a lot of buffoonery, developed into a serious dramatic performance.
In 1647 the shogun Tokugawa Iemitsu (the Shogun was the Japanese military ruler) ordered that no variations were allowed in Noh performance. At that time stage directions were written down, costumes and masks were clearly defined and actors were allocated fixed positions on stage.
Elaborate costumes are a very important part of creating a striking performance. If a play begins rather slowly it is likely that the audience will get bored, therefore the Noh actors choose bright and colourful costumes. Costumes can also help to communicate a special context, so a broad-brimmed hat made of bamboo would suggest country life. These expensive costumes were often gifts to a famous actor by his admirers, something that still happens today.
Stage props on the other hand were hardly needed at all. More important than the costume was the Noh mask. Masks are only worn by the main character, his mask would stylise the person it represents and show them in a truer light than reality could do by depicting only the absolutely essential traits of character. There are five categories of Noh masks: gods, demons, men, women and the elderly.
The masks used in Noh theatre generally show a neutral expression so it is up to the skill of the actor to bring the mask to life through his acting. The parts are all acted by men, so the task of performing as a young woman is one of the most challenging for any actor. The masks are comparatively small and they only cover the front of the face having only small holes for eyes, nostrils and mouth.
Noh masks have to be very light because they are worn throughout a performance that lasts for several hours. They are carved from one piece of cypress wood. After the masks has been carved to the desired thickness, holes for eyes, nose and mouth have been cut, it is then coated with layers of gesso mixed with glue. This coating is then sanded down, giving the mask its final shape. Finally it is painted in the colours prescribed for the particular character and some parts of it might be gilded. Some of the masks’ eyes are inlaid with metal leaving a tiny hole. The hair and the outlines of the eyes are traced with black ink.
Posted September 24th, 2010 by geisha+ | Comment (0)
Nihon-cha (Japanese tea) contains catechin (giving astringency), caffeine (giving bitterness), and tannins (giving sweetness). Tea is said to be effective in preventing colds and cancer. The tea used in the tea-ceremony is called matcha. From the sprouting of the new buds in mid-April, the whole tea field is covered so that the leaves can grow protected from direct sunlight. Owing to the protection from direct sunlight the nutrients from the roots collect in the leaves, and unique types of amino acids called tannins (which only green tea possesses) increase. You can see this kind of tea field in Yamashiro Area of southern Kyoto. Ordinary tea is called sen-cha, with the soft tips of the leaves being brewed to make tea. Aside from the ryoku-cha (green tea) mentioned above, the free tea served in some restaurants called houji-cha is made from soft stalks and hard leaves.
Posted September 17th, 2010 by geisha+ | Comment (0)
I have been craving for more Japanese food so after some feasting at my local haunts, I headed for the Japanese supermarket with a mission: to create an authentic tempura- which is an archetypal Japanese food. All the essential qualities of Japanese cuisine are reflected in its preparation: the use of absolutely fresh ingredients, the artful presentation, and the perfection of technique by a skilled chef. The result is one of the triumphs of Japanese cooking — a fried food that is light and fresh-tasting rather than heavy and greasy. It’s a cooking style in which the essence of the ingredient itself completely defines the taste.
It comes as a surprise to most foreigners to learn that tempura was not originally a Japanese dish; it actually owes its origins to the visiting Portuguese missionaries of the sixteenth century. But tempura, like many imported ideas, gradually adapted itself to Japanese needs and tastes. By the late nineteenth century tempura was a popular fast food in Tokyo, sold from sidewalk stalls and roaming pushcarts, and today’s modern tempura (made by deep-frying vegetables, fish and shellfish) is no longer a foreign food at all, but a completely Japanese cuisine.
Seafood and vegetables are the raw materials of tempura, and only the freshest specimens are used. It’s not unusual to see live shrimps jumping around on the preparation counter, or buckets of slithering eels being carted through the kitchen. In addition to using the freshest ingredients, the next most important factor in good tempura is the quality of the batter, which is made from eggs, flour, and ice water. The batter shouldn’t be mixed too thoroughly, but should be lumpy and full of air bubbles. To achieve this consistency the batter is made up in small batches immediately before it’s used, and each batch is thrown away when it starts to settle.
The vegetables and seafood are cut, washed, dried, and dipped in the batter to give them a thin, almost transparent coating. After this they’re dropped one at a time into the oil (a combination of vegetable and sesame oil), which must be constantly kept at exactly the right temperature. Finally, the tempura must be cooked for just the right amount of time, pulled out of the oil the precise moment it’s done. If all goes well, the final product is perfect tempura — crisp, golden brown, hot, and delicious.
A few tempura restaurants offer variations on the basic recipe, adding extra ingredients to the batter to change the texture or flavor. One variation is to add chopped noodles to the batter for a rougher and crisper coating.
As you can see, making tempura is a delicate process, and lots of things can go wrong. It’s possible to find many different levels of quality in restaurant tempura, ranging from fairly bad (too greasy) to absolutely perfect (heavenly). As a general rule, tempura tends to be better at specialty restaurants rather than at all-purpose Japanese restaurants.
Before you dig in, remember some etiquette. The first rule of eating tempura is to get it while it’s hot. If you’re sitting at the counter, the chef will transfer each piece directly from the vat of hot oil to the counter in front of you, placing it on a sheet of white paper to drain off the excess oil. Even if you’re sitting at a table, every effort will be made to get your tempura to you as hot as possible. You can show your appreciation by eating it as soon as you can (although you might want to wait a minute or two to avoid burning your mouth).
When you use the dipping sauce, it’s a good idea to dip the tempura quickly and avoid lengthy soaking. The sauce may come with a small mound of grated radish, which can be mixed in. Some tempura fans forgo the dipping sauce entirely, using just a bit of salt or lemon for seasoning.
Posted September 13th, 2010 by geisha+ | Comment (1)