(Tom Cruise in "The last Samurai" has provided a modern introduction to the way of the Samurai - Discuss here.)
Samurai were expected to be cultured and literate, and over time, samurai during the Tokugawa era gradually lost their military function. By the end of the Tokugawa, samurai were essentially civilian bureaucrats for the daimyo with their swords serving only ceremonial purposes. With the Meiji reforms in the late 19th century, the samurai were abolished as a distinct class in favour of a western-style national army. The strict code that they followed, called bushido, still survives in present-day Japanese society, as do many other aspects of their way of life.
Etymology of samurai
The word samurai has its origins in the pre-Heian period Japan when it was pronounced saburai, meaning servant or attendant. It was not until the early modern period, namely the Azuchi-Momoyama period and early Edo period of the late 16th and early 17th centuries that the word saburai became substituted with samurai. However, by then, the meaning had already long before changed.
During the era of the rule of the samurai, the earlier term yumitori (gbowmanh) was also used as an honorary title of an accomplished warrior even when swordsmanship had become more important. Japanese archery (kyujutsu), is still strongly associated with the war god Hachiman. [continues]
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