Japanese Feudalism was similar to European Feudalism. At some points the strength of Japan’s landowners outmatched the strength of its central leaders. Large landowners who lived far from the capital set up their own armies for protection, as the countryside could be quite lawless and dangerous. Smaller landowners without their own resources to raise small armies relied on hiring warlords to protect them in exchange for parts of their land. These conditions gave rise to the knights of Medieval Japan, the Samurai.
Samurai means, “One who serves.” They were loyal warrior bodyguards who protected individual lords in Japan. They adopted a code of behavior, called Bushido, which had expectations of reckless courage, reverence for the gods, fairness, and generosity towards those weaker than himself. Dying an honorable death was judged more important than living a long life. Their reputation as fearsome warriors has become legendary.
In combat, a samurai’s life depended on his skill and equipment. The Samurai’s weapons and armor heavily aided him in battle. His armor is intricate and layered. A samurai wore a kimono with thicker armor made of metal layered on top. He wore chain-mail for protection and wore head and face gear to inspire fear in his enemies. A samurai also mainly used swords carrying at least one or two at a time.
Over time, the samurai secured national power and dominated Japanese government until 1868, far after the end of the Medieval Period of the rest of the world.
The Medieval period was dominated by the feudal system and the role of the Medieval knights and their servants. It was the duty of a Medieval Knight to learn how to fight and to serve their liege Lord according to the Code of Chivalry. But this was an extremely violent era in European and English history. Weapon practice included enhancing skills in the two-handed sword, battle axe, mace, dagger and lance. A Knight would be expected to guard a Castle and support his liege lord in Medieval warfare.
To gain knighthood in Medieval Times was a long and difficult task. Knighthood was not bestowed purely because a young man was the son of a noble. There were many steps to achieving a knighthood, requiring years of training. The steps towards achieving a knighthood started with training as a page and then as a squire, also referred to as esquire.
The Code of Chivalry dictated that a Knight should be brave and fearless in battle but would also exhibit cultured Knightly qualities showing themselves to be devout, loyal, courteous and generous. Various ceremonies were attended and oaths made before a man could become a knight. The qualities expected of a Medieval knight included bravery, courtesy, honor and gallantry toward women from which we get the image of the knight in shining armor.
The Knights role in Medieval Times centred around enhancing their knightly skills in the use of weapons, horsemanship and medieval warfare. The Medieval Knights Armor was extremely expensive to produce. It had to be tailor-made to fit the Knight exactly or the Knight ran the risk of an ill-fitting suit of armor hampering him in battle. A Medieval Knights Armor was a complex series of garments, chain mail and iron plate. A knight’s horse also wore armor.