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Before the arrival of the "barbarians," warfare in Japan was exemplified by noble samurai fighting one-on-one battles with each other. This ideal of individualism began to decline with the arrival of the Portuguese in 1542. The introduction of the arquebus changed the face of war for the samurai and brought about a change to the tactical arts. This change would mirror European styles and in some aspects surpass it. This paper will explore the samurai war machine; organization, weapons, dress and land tactics.

In Japan, there was no set organization for samurai armies, such as had been the case in Europe with the use of battalions and regiments. The basic unit was the Daimyo's (lords) army, which was raised by means of a "koku" system. Koku was the measure of rice needed to feed a man for a year. Samurai would be classed
based on the wealth of their fief. Those with an income of 10,000 or more were classed as Daimyo. Those with incomes between 100 and 9,500 koku, were classed as Hatamoto (leaders), while those below 100 were classed as Go-kenin (followers).

In terms of manpower, each of the classes would be required to supply troops based on their wealth. The tables of supply were changed in 1616, 1632, and 1649, however, while this does not have any reference to the actual time of conflict in Japan, it is doubtful if other tables were different. Using the 1649 table, a hatamoto with an income of 300 koku would be required to supply personal service, one samurai (go-kenin rank), one spearman, one armor-bearer, one groom, one sandal bearer, one hasamibako-bearer and one baggage carrier. A hatamoto with an income of 2,000 koku had to supply personal service, eight samurai (go-kenin), two armor-bearers plus one reserve, five spearmen plus one reserve, four grooms, four baggage carriers, one sandal-bearer, two hasamibako-bearers plus one reserve, one archer, two arquebusiers, two fodder-bearers, one no-dachi-bearer, two ashigaru (infantry) leaders and one rain-hat carrier. Soldiers in non-combat roles would be armored and supplied with arms.

The ratios were not always standard amongst the other Daimyo. At certain times a vassal may be called upon to supply more or less men to their lord, depending upon the situation. Around the time of Hideyoshi's conquest of Kyushu, the defender, Shimazu, required his vassals to supply men based on a Cho of land (a cho is 30 koku). For every cho of land a vassal was to supply two men, follower and servant; two cho, three men, and eleven men for ten cho. When Korea was invaded in 1592, Hideyoshi required the lords of Kyushu, who were closer to the invasion starting point, to supply six men per hundred koku and lesser amounts from those on Honshu. Around the time of Sekigahara and Osaka the ratio is about three men for every hundred koku.
Some Daimyo did have organization in their armies. Hojo Ujiyatsu organized his Go-hatamoto (bodyguard) into 48 squads, each commanded by a captain. These squads were organized into seven companies; six had seven squads and one had six. In each squad were 20 men. Tokugawa Ieyasu's elite, the O-ban (great guard), originally consisted of three companies. By the time of the Korean invasion it had rose to five. By 1623 there was twelve companies. In each company there was one captain, four lieutenants and fifty guardsmen. Another unit created by Ieyasu was the teppo hyaku-nin-gumi--25 squadrons of 100 mounted men armed with guns. In other armies, arquebus units were organized between 30-50 men, with one captain between every ten men.
Specialty troops during this period were mounted samurai, archers, spearmen and arquebusiers. It was up to the Daimyo what types to employ in strength. Some had preferences such as Takeda Shingen, who liked cavalry, and Oda Nobunaga, who preferred arquebuses.

In 1542, a Chinese vessel carrying three Portuguese traders was shipwrecked on the island of Tanegashima. The lord of the isle saw the device carried by these strange men and grew exited:

In their hands they carried something two or three feet long, straight on the outside with a passage inside, and made of a heavy substance…Its shape defies comparison with anything I know. To use it, fill it with powder and small lead pellets. Set up a small white target on a bank. Grip the object in your hand, compose your body, and close one eye[,] apply fire to the aperture. Then the pellet hits the target squarely…

The lord bought the two objects and gave them to his swordsmith to copy. However, he was unable to figure out how to close the breech of the barrel. When another Portuguese vessel arrived, he gave up his daughter for lessons on gunmaking. Soon he was producing guns as good as the originals. This spread to other parts of Japan.

Arquebusiers soon became a common site on the battlefields. At Kajiki in 1549, they were first used in battle by Shimazu Takahisa. Uesugi Kenshin and Takeda Shingen used them in their periodic battles a

Kawanakajima, as did the Mori against the Sue at Miyajima in 1555. Oda Nobunaga made an order for 500 arquebuses in 1549 and by 1575 his armies contained 10,000. Takeda Shingen grew so fond of the weapon that in 1569 he issued a proclamation to his troops:

Hereafter guns will be the most important. Therefore decrease the number of spears and have the most capable men carry guns…

The popularity of the arquebus grew as the size of the armies did. One reason was that it was simple to learn. It took years to become skilled in the use of bow, but in a short time a peasant could be taught to fire an arquebus "with all the accuracy which the weapon was capable of."

Another reason for the popularity was the superior range it had over the bow. While the Japanese bow had a maximum range of 380 meters, the arquebus had a range out to 500 meters, though hitting a target was slim to none. Effective killing range for the bow was only 80 meters, whereas the gun had a range of 200 meters.
The greatest triumph for the arquebus was at Nagashino in 1575. Nobunaga had positioned 3,000 gunners behind a palisade. When the Takeda cavalry charged they were mowed down. Many Daimyo heeded the lesson of Nagashino, equipping their armies with more guns. By 1582 most armies contained one-third arquebuses. Still, even with the power shown by the gun, many samurai looked down upon them because it took away from individualism.

Cannon arrived in Japan in 1551. Otomo Yoshizumi was presented two of them by the Portuguese as a gift.
Like the arquebus, there were attempts to copy them. However, the Japanese never learned how to produce them to the quality found in Europe. Instead, foreign ships provided much of the cannon for the samurai armies; the types usually sakers or culverins. Cannon found limited use and were rare on the battlefields of Japan. However, they showed up many times in sieges. At the siege of Osaka, 300 cannon were used by the Tokugawa.

Spears were the basic shock weapons. There were two types, naginata and yari. Naginatas consisted of a long curved blade set upon a shaft. They were the typical polearm of the samurai and ashigaru. By the time of Sekigahara the majority had been replaced by the yari. Yari came in various lengths of which the longest were called nagae-yari and over 4 meters. Many Daimyo had preferences for their length. Takeda Shingen equipped his troops with 4.8 meter-long yaris, as did Uesugi, Hideyoshi, Tokugawa and the Date. The longest preference was 5.6 meters, used by Oda Nobunaga. Oda appears to have recognized the longer spears potential early in his career. In 1553 there is mention of 500 (5.6) meter yaris in his inventory. The shape of a yari's lancehead varied. Some were made with a long triangular section. The most common were the L-shaped or cross-shaped lanceheads, which were useful in pulling victims from the saddle. Spears were second only to arquebuses in most armies. There was a varying degree of use between armies. Oda's spears made up 27% of his force, compared to the Uesugi who had ten for every gun.

Archers began to decline with the arrival of the arquebus. As stated before, the con side was that the range of a bow was less than a gun and it took longer to master. On the pro side the bow was more accurate and its rate of fire was greater than the gun. However, the cons prevailed over the pros. Archers would find a use as skirmishers and sharpshooters in later armies. Some clans would maintain special elite groups of archers such as the Shimazu.

Cavalry consisted of only samurai, fully armored and equipped with lance. In earlier times they would be equipped with bow alone. With the rise of longer spears, there came a solution to the elite archer, which was to send dozens of long spears upon the horseman. To fight off spears a cavalryman was equipped with a spear. There were two basic types of lances, te-yari (hand spear) and mochi-yari (held spear). Lengths normally varied from 3.2 and 4 meters, with 4.3 being the upper limit. The use of the lance gave the mounted samurai versatility in offense or defense.

To give some impression on the reliance placed upon these specialist troops, the Shimazu clan in 1592 sent an army to Korea consisting of 1,500 archers, 1,500 arquebuses and 300 spears. Matsuura Kakemono's army for the Korean campaign consisted of 120 mounted samurai, 450 foot samurai, 370 arquebuses, 110 archers, 150 spearmen 120 officers, 800 hatamoto and 880 non-combatants. In Date Masamune's hatamoto that same year were 50 archers, 100 arquebuses and 100 spears. Later in 1600, Date would send an army to Ieyasu which included 420 mounted samurai, 200 archers, 1,200 arquebuses, 850 spears and 330 non-combatants. The ratio of mounted to foot was noted by the Jesuit Francois Caron:

He who hath a thousand koku yearly, must bring into the field, whenever he is in command, twenty foot soldiers and two horsemen…

Dress for most armies consisted of a do (armor). Prior to 1450, armor was box-like and hung from the shoulders. Soon the cuirass was made closer fitting to the waist and the weight transferred from the shoulders to the hips. Armor was usually made of metal strips laced together, but, as time went on, many craftsmen developed armor consisting of solid plate. The most important development was the okegawa-do. His style grew increasingly popular. The armor was made efficiently and cheaply and provided a tough surface, which became important with the increase of firearms.

Another type of armor that grew in popularity was the tatami-do (folding armor). It consisted of card-sized or hexagonal shaped metal strips which were attached to mail. This armor, like the okegawa-do, was cheap, easy to make and lightweight. Many Daimyo equipped their ashigaru with this type.

Samurai helmets were made in six different shapes, each multiplated in construction and ribbed--each plate overlapping the other. Many samurai decorated their helmets. The fanciest designs were worn by the Daimyo; Honda Tadatsugu had large antlers on his, Ii Naomasa had golden horns, Date Masamune had a gold half-moon. Hosokawa Tadaoki wore a huge peacock feather, Toyotomi Hideyoshi wore a "sunburst" crest, while Kuroda Nagamasa wore a helmet that commemorated the battle of Ichi-no-tani, representing the hill Yoshitsune rode down. Some Daimyo, like Kato Kiyomasa and Maeda Toshiie, wore helmets with a built-up cone. The latter's shape made into the tail of a catfish.

The footsoldiers helmet was the typical jingasa (war hat). It was made of metal or hardened leather and conical-shaped. The advantage of an iron helmet was that it could double as a rice cooker. Those unfortunate enough to not receive a helmet, protected their head with a hachimaki (mail sewn on to a band).
To finish out the armor, samurai wore a pair of suneate (shin guards) and haidate (thigh-guards), and a kote (armored sleeves). Some samurai wore a mempo (face mask) as well. Ashigaru, too, might receive a kote or pair of suneate.

Armor was lacquered to protect it from the elements. Colors were black, brown, gold and red. Sometimes the armor might be finished in russet iron. Lacing was done in various colors, however, the heavy lacing of old years was discouraged since it tended to freeze in winter, fill with mud and rain and become a haven for ants and lice. In addition, more lace retained more arrows than repelling them.

The ultimate proof of the armor was its ability to deflect bullets and many armor makers tested their armor by firing at it. If the armor failed it would be penetrated, if not, a dent would be left marking its proof. This type of armor was known as tameshi gusoku (bullet tested armor). However, this type of armor was expensive and heavy.

With the growth of mass armies, identification became a problem. To solve this, many samurai and ashigaru wore a sashimono (personal banner) on the back of their armor. The sashimono varied in size and color. Upon its field, was usually painted their commander's mon (family crest). Some sashimono took the form of three-dimensional objects. The Shimazu family from Kyushu supplied sashimonos to their troops in black and white. In the center was the family mon painted in the opposite color--a cross in a ring. Nobunaga had several designs one of which was a "melon," painted white on a red background. Toyotomi Hideyoshi had a white flag with a red "paulownia" on it. Takeda Shingen's personal messengers were identified by a black flag with a white centipede on it. Tokugawa's special messenger corp had a white flag with the letter "five" on it in black, while his main flag was white with a black "hollylock". The Hojo's 48 bansho had the "fish scales"-a triangular shaped design on flags of yellow, black, blue, red and white. Often a ashigaru's cuirass and helmet would have their commanders mon lacquered on it.

Other forms of identification was the use of a longer vertical flag called a nobori. These flags were larger versions of the sashimono. The uma-jirushi (horse insignia) was a broader version of the nobori. It was used to identify the place of a general. Samurai having an income of 1,300 koku were entitled to a small flag, while those over 6,000 were entitled to a large flag--which required three persons to hold it. Some examples of the uma-jurushi was Uesugi Kenshin, who had a blue flag with a red sun on it. However, some Daimyo chose objects for their standard. Hideyoshi had a famous "thousand gourd" standard and Ieyasu a golden fan with a red sun on it.

Some Daimyo made attempts for uniformity in their armies. Ii Naomasa is the best example of this. He uniformed all his troops, samurai or ashigaru, with red-lacquered armor. In addition, his samurai wore red sashimono with their names written on it in gold, or their family of birth in white. This "uniformity" was on a suggestion from Ieyasu, who commented about Takeda Shingen's vassal, Yamagata Masakage, and his use of red-clad soldiers for "psychological effect." Ii's troops became known as the "red devils." Another form of uniformity was by Date Masamune, who equipped all his troops in a bullet-proof armor called yokinoshita-do. In Hojo Ujiyasu's 48 bansho, each company wore on their colored flag a Japanese character. When they were in formation the characters would tell a poem:

Colors are fragrant, but they fade away. In this world of ours none lasts forever. Today cross the high mountain of life's illusion, and there will be noshallow dreaming, no more drunkenness.

The art of tactical doctrine was spurred by the arrival of the arquebus. Prior to the arrival traditional warfare was set on the individual. In a battle, both sides would line up a few hundred yards from one another. The silence would be broken by a signaling arrow, then one samurai would go forward, fire an arrow and proclaim his name, challenging the enemy for a duel. After they fight the process would continue, but there would be increasing numbers of participants. Eventually the field will be swarming with chaotic melee.

Most of the change in tactics can be attributed to the battles of Uesugi against the Takeda at Kawanakajima, which were fought five times over the period 1553-1564. The wide expanse of terrain allowed for testing of formations and troop movements, which both side developed and tested.

At first, many samurai distrusted the ashigaru; they were kept in reserve and in many cases never committed to battle. It was Oda Nobunaga who took the first steps towards a modern army. He recognized the importance of drill and saw to it that the ashigaru were drilled constantly and equipped with armor. Over time they would become the backbone of his army.

Nagashino, fought on June 29, 1575, is recognized as a turning point in samurai warfare. In the battle Nobunaga would introduce two new tactical innovations. The first of these was volley fire. The universal problem was that the reloading time of an arquebus was to slow; generals wished a way to increase the rate-of-fire. While this problem had not been solved in Europe it had already been solved in Japan in 1570. On one of Nobunaga's campaigns against the warrior monk sect at Ishiyana Hongan-ji, the defenders counter-attacked his fortresses of Kawaguchi and Takadono. The attack was sudden and included 3,000 musketeers. The monks used a primitive form of volley fire which forced the Oda to retreat. Nobunaga remembered the lesson and perfected it.

At Nagashino, Oda had some 32,000 men of which 10,000 were arquebusiers. Knowing that the strength of the Takeda was their cavalry, he detached 3,000 of his gunners and organized them in three ranks of a thousand each behind a high palisade. He ordered his men to fire at short range and to shoot the horses first. When Takeda Katsuyori launched his 12,700 men against the Oda positions they were mowed down by the first rank of musketeers. Just as the Takeda renewed the attack, the second rank shot, then the third. The Takeda grew disorganized and became easy prey when the Oda counter-attacked. Some 10,000 Takeda troops lied dead in the field, 67% of the army.

The second innovation was use of the ashigaru. For the first time in Japan, peasants were given a place of honor on the battlefield and entrusted with victory. This also showed that strict discipline and training had prevailed. As a result, army sizes grew as Daimyo levied more troops, rising up and beyond the 100,000 mark.

Through the new tactical revolution, warfare in Japan progressed to mirror that in Europe. In Europe the musket and pike revolution had been in use since its invention by Gonzalo de Cordoba in 1503. The theory behind this system was to provide safety and mobility for the musketeers from cavalry. The combination worked, the pikes protected the muskets from being run down by cavalry, in return, the muskets discouraged cavalry from getting close. Soon the ranks in the formations became deeper, resembling squares, such as the 36 plus ranked Spanish "Tercio." In Japan the same principle applied, though no formations approached the size of the Europeans. Lines of arquebusiers took up position in front of the army, supported by lines of spearmen. Archers became skirmishers, firing while the arquebuses reloaded.

The Japanese had several elaborate pre-battle formations. There were 22 formations in all, each named after the image they were derived upon. Some examples are;

Hoshi (arrowhead)--This was a formation for a fierce charge. A dense screen of arquebusiers headed the vanguard samurai and softened up the enemy ranks for them. This formation was made for a fierce attack so the flanks were lightly protected.

Ganko (birds in flight)--This was a flexible arrangement of troops that could be changed as the situation developed. Arquebuses screened the front and rear, but, could move if needed to a flank if the enemy altered their attack.

Saku (keyhole)--This was the best formation for countering the "arrowhead" attack. There were six ranks of arquebusiers and two of bows, angled to receive the attack. The troops in the center were formed to absorb the impact of the charge.

Kakuyoku (cranes-wing)--This formation was noted for being the best to surround an enemy with. The vanguard fixed the enemy in position while the "wings" spreaded out to envelope the enemy. It was used by Takeda Shingen at the Fourth Battle of Kawanakajima.

Koyaku (yoke)--This was considered a good defense against the "cranes wing" and "arrowhead" attacks. The vanguard would hold the enemy long enough to know their intentions. The commander could them react.
Gyorin (fish scales)--This formation was one to adopt if the army was outnumbered. It was intended to work like an "arrowhead," but instead of going all out, the attack concentrated on one sector.
Engetsu (half moon)--This formation was one to adopt for a final stand. The broken units reformed up in cresent-shaped moons, which could react as the situation developed.

Kuruma gakari (winding wheel)--This formation formed in a circle. While moving on the enemy it maintained this composure. When the point of attack was decided units were detached from the circle. Once the unit grew weary, another would be rotated in its place. Fresh units would continue to be sent upon the target until a breakthrough was achieved. This Formation was used by Uesugi Kenshin to counter Shingen's "cranes wing" at Fourth Kawanakajima.

Choda (long snake)--The Front, middle, and back divisions form to contest any enemy advance from the right or left. The middle troops provide support for the front and rear, while the front and rear provide support for the middle. Meanwhile, the vanguard, along with the 1st and 2nd divisions, form together as a reserve to strike where needed most.

Koto (tiger's head)--The formation is considered to be a good defensive formation to use when facing an enemy with equal strength. the tactical use is similar to Ganko.

Garyu (lying dragon)--This is a formation for a side to adopt when fighting on a hillside. The vanguard, 1st, 2nd, and rear divisions are able to move easily to new positions when there is a need to change formation.

Taimo (big illusion)--this formation is used to access the enemies strength on its flanks. Once a weak position is found the middle force is used to penetrate it.

Koran (dancing tiger)--If the enemy is about to strike from both flanks, this is the formation to adopt. As the leading division strikes the enemies head the rear divisions move to take the enemy in the rear.

Kenran (dancing sword)--This formation is similar to Koran. The rear divisions turn to fight the enemy, and if needed, the Hatamoto as well.

Shogigashira (head of shogi piece)--This is a useful formation when pusuing an enemy. the leading gun units form in a "shogi" type arc, and advance on the enemy. Meanwhile, the flanks, middle, and rear press forward, expanding to the left or right as needed.

Matsukawa (pine trees skin)--This unusual formation places the cavalry, missiles, and lances inside the formation. Its benefit is faster mobility.

Wachagai (interlaced circle)--This formation is used to fight a larger force in the woods.
Seiganchoku (?)--When there is two forces to fight, this formation is used to engage and pin the incoming force while the rest attacks the other.

Bette Naoshi (re-arranged)--The Ganko and Koto formations are best used when there is no enemy in the rear. This formation is formed from the army's reserves; to help in times when there is an enemy.
Ryukei (flowing)--This formation is one to use in a fighting withdrawl.

Unryo (dragon cloud)--This formation is one to adopt when the enemy has advantage in terrain, but not in numbers.

Hicho (flying bird)--Similar to Unryo, but this is used when the enemy greatly outnumbers the force.
Though there were some pre-battle formations, the Japanese did not use formations to achieve specific means in conducting a battle, such as had been the case in Europe with lines and columns. There was no emphasis on maintaining a formation after contact. Battles did not take long to evolve into a massive "tag-team wrestling match, wherein every samurai was striving to decapitate the nearest enemy."
Japanese cavalry units, unlike Europe, contained a mix of foot and mounted, the foot being the mounted samurai's attendants. This greatly effected the cavalry's movement and charge distance, as well as limiting its shock value.

Since a commander-in-chief's army was made up of individual clans, Loyalty and cooperation were essential on the battle. For this reason Daimyo's loyalty was tested often. Methods of controlling the battle were done by use of flags, drums, conch-shells, fire signals and messengers. Daimyo took steps to create elite messenger corps. Tokugawa's and Takeda's have already been discussed. Hideyoshi had 29 messengers, each were identified by a golden sashimono. Nobunaga equipped his with a red or black Horo (cloak-like bag worn on the back of the armor). The commander would keep watch over the battle, his allies, and issue orders, while sitting in his Maku (curtain displaying the Daimyo's mon), but it was up to his messaging system to bring his orders down to the other generals. Without a successful system, there could be no coordination. Several battles were lost because of disloyalty or failure to cooperate. At Sekigahara, Ieyasu won the battle due to Kobayakawa Hideaki's changing sides. At the Battle of Tenno-ji in 1615, Sanada's plan was thwarted by his ronin.

In the end, a battle would have a victor. That victor would celebrate his victory in his maku, rewarding his loyal generals. Then the head-viewing ceremony would begin.

The development of samurai warfare was spurred by the arrival of the arquebus. Since that event, Japan's military doctrine grew more like the Europeans and eventually mirrored their style of warfare, though it had a oriental twist to it. In some case the Europeans were ahead of the Japanese in the military art, but in others the Japanese were far ahead of the Europeans. The greatest achievement of samurai warfare was the introduction and use of volley fire, which would not reach Europe until its introduction by Maurice of Nassau in the late 1580's. Another achievement was the nation's ability to change and adapt to new technology and innovation, and to use it effectively; this helped unite the country. Japan was truly a military power equal to Europe.


Berg, Richard H. "Shogun Triumphant." Command Magazine, Jul-Aug. 1993, 14-27. ISSN 10595651.
Bottomley, I and Hopson, A.P. Arms and Armor of the Samurai. New Jersey: Cresent Books, 1988. ISBN 0517103184.
Bryant, Anthony J. Samurai 1550-1600. London: Osprey Publishing, 1994. ISBN
- - -. The Samurai. London: Osprey Publishing, 1989. ISBN 0850458978.
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Griess, Thomas E., ed. The Dawn of Modern Warfare. New Jersey: Avery Publishing Group, 1984. ISBN 0895292637.
Nobuyuki, Tamaru., ed. Strategy, Tactics, Weapons: Japanese Age of Battles edition. Tokyo: Gakken, 1994. ISBN 405600482
Turnbull, Stephen R. "Slaughter of the Samurai." Military Illustrated, Jul. 1996, 47-50. ISSN 02688328.
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- - -. The Book of the Samurai. New York: Gallery Books, 1982. ISBN 0831776765.
- - -. Samurai Warriors. London: Blandford Press, 1987. ISBN 071371767.
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- - -. Samurai Warlords. London: Blandford Press, 1989. ISBN 0713720034.
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Final Notes: My footnotes got lost in the conversion of this paper from a TXT file to HTM. If anyone desires a copy of the notes please Email me.


The development of the samurai in ninth-century Japan occurred when the centralized aristocratic government lost power to the local landowners who employed their own armed forces. The heads of these armed forces were known as the "bushi" or "samurai", and were for the most part descended from the old clans (ujis). The samurai gave their society moral values and acted as sentinels of peace. The warriors followed their own code of ethical behavior known as bushido, which remained orally transmitted for generations. The following text was written in the seventeenth century by a samurai who had become a Zen Buddhist monk.

Points to Ponder:
-- As you read the following what aspects of Chinese philosophy and Buddhism can you find?
-- Why might this a warrior's code?
-- Note the sense of fatalism. What might this feeling lead a samurai to do?

"The Way of the Samurai is found in death. When it comes to either /or, there is only the quick choice of death. When pressed with the choice of life or death, it is not necessary to gain one's aim. We all want to live. And in large part we make our logic according to what we like. But not having attained our aim and continuing to live is cowardice. This is a dangerous thin line. To die without gaining one's aim is a dog's death and fanaticism. But there is no shame in this. This is the substance of the Way of the Samurai. If by setting one's heart right every morning and evening, one is able to live as though his body were already dead, he gains freedom in the Way. His whole life will be without blame, and he will succeed in his calling.... Being a retainer is nothing other than being a supporter of one's lord, entrusting matters of good and evil to him, and renouncing self-interest. If there are but two or three men of this type, the fief will be secure. Loyalty is said to be important in the pledge between lord and retainer. Though it may seem unobtainable, it is right before your eyes. If you once set yourself to it, you will become a superb retainer at that very moment.... The person without previous resolution to the inevitable death makes certain that his death will be in bad form. But if one is resolved to death beforehand, in what way can he be despicable? One should be especially diligent in this concern. If one were to say a word what the condition of being a samurai is, its basis lies first in seriously devoting one's body and soul to his master. And if one is asked what to do beyond this, it would be to fit oneself inwardly with intelligence, humanity, and courage. The combining of these three virtues may seem unobtainable to the ordinary person, but it is easy. Intelligence is nothing more than discussing things with others. Limitless wisdom comes from this. Humanity is something done for the sake of others, simply comparing oneself with them and putting them in the fore. Courage is gritting one's teeth; it is simply doing that and pushing ahead, paying no attention to the circumstances. Anything that seems above these three is not necessary to be known. As for outward aspects, there are personal appearance, one's way of speaking and calligraphy. And as all of these are daily matters, they improve by constant practice. Basically, one should perceive their nature to be one of quite strength. If one has accomplished all these things, then he should have a knowledge of our area's history and customs. After that he may study the various arts as recreation. If you think t over, being a retainer is simple. And these days, if you observe people who are even a bit useful, you will see that they have accomplished these three outward aspects.

Source: Tsuentomo Yamamoto, Hagakure: The Book of the Samurai, trans. William S. Wilson (NY: Kodansha International, Ltd., 1979) 17-18, 20-21, 33-34, 66-67.