It’s so much more than Seppuku.
Samurai, the infamous Japanese warriors from the Middle Ages and beyond, are among the most famous soldiers in the world and an integral part of Japanese culture and history as seen through western eyes.
Today, both ninjas and samurai are deeply engrained in popular and niche culture, from video games and movies to history and literature, representative of the covert and honorable warfare of a time gone by. In their own ways, both castes represent the peak of warfare in past ages.
But how much do you know about the samurai, really? And how much of it is actually myth?
Master your samurai skills here!
Before a sword was deemed ready for use, it had to perform a tameshigiri or “test cut.” In many cases, this could be carried out on a straw mat in order to demonstrate that the newly-forged blade was suitable for a warrior, but in other cases, the tameshigiri was much more frightening.
For wealthy clients, the test cut was sometimes carried out on people, namely cadavers or even condemned criminals who would either lose a limb or be entirely cut in half to show the power of the new sword. Yikes!
One example of the aforementioned test cuts is the practice of tsujigiri, a way of testing a sword’s effectiveness specifically by attacking live, often unsuspecting passersby who were unprepared to defend themselves. These random murders typically happened at nighttime, and were ultimately prohibited by the Edo government in 1602 to prevent total anarchy.