Number of samurai in Japan?

Mar 2015
781
Europe
#11
Depends on the period and circumstances. In the Edo period, no - you were born a samurai, and that was it.
But to be a samurai involved receiving specific remuneration (rice stipends or salary) from a daimyo, and obeying discipline and taking specific assignments and postings.
Was there any formal ceremony whereby an adult son of a samurai became a retainer and employee of the daimyo, in receipt of his own stipends and liable to report to his own duties, rather than a minor dependent supported out of father´s stipends and with no duties towards father´s employer?
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
31,318
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#12
But to be a samurai involved receiving specific remuneration (rice stipends or salary) from a daimyo
Not necessarily. You could be an unemployed samurai in the Edo period. Daimyo had no obligation to take you into their service, and many daimyo didn't have the means to o so. Samurai were paid in rice, and although a daimyo might have a domain worth, say, 50,000 koku, that was only a nominal value - it didn't mean the daimyocould take 50,000 men into his service. A poor harvest could mean a much lower income, and the rice had to be sold to pay for all the domain's other expenses.

Obviously, if your family was already in the employ of a daimyo, you stood a much better chance, of getting a job, but an unfavoured third or fourth son might have to go job hunting in another domain. There were plenty of ronin wandering around, acting as bandits or mercenaries - merchants and yakuza werealways looking for sellswords.

As for a samurai being accepted into a lord's service, yes, there would have been a formal acceptance, depending on the stipend and the rank, and if land was involved. I've seen depictions in tvarious media, but I'm not sure how accurate they are. Most of the ones I've seen are set in the Edo oeriod. During the Sengoku, it was much easier - after a battle, there was a head viewing ceremony, when the achievements of each man was read out. If you'd taken a few heads, you could be hopeful of a reward, which included being raised to the status of a samurai there and then.
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
31,318
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#13
If a samurai family produced a dull witted son who had physical defects of some sort, that son would be considered a samurai from birth in the Edo period?
Yes absolutely. The family might shut him away out of shame or pack him off to a temple to become a monk, but he was still a samurai. The Japanese didn't hold to the principle of primogeniture, so another son could become the heir, or failing any other sons, the samurai could adopt someone and make him the heir. That was, in fact, another way to become a samurai - you could be adopted into a samurai family. Merchants sometimes paid a poor samurai to adopt them, giving them the status of a samurai, with the "father" only being a few years older or very close to the same age as the "son".

I heard during one period that most samurai didn't even know how to use the swords they carried anymore, that they were mostly bureaucrats. Is that true or over simplified?
I don't know about most, but it's certainly true up to a point. It's not like there was any need to prove one's martial prowess if one was hired to be a daimyo's estate manager or accountant, and becoming a student at a dojo cost money, something many samurai were perpetually short of. The film "tasogare no seibei" (The Twilight Samurai) has an excellent depiction of a penniless samurai who was forced to literally sell his sword - he walked around with a hilt sticking out of a scabbard to keep up appearances.
 
Mar 2015
781
Europe
#14
Not necessarily. You could be an unemployed samurai in the Edo period. Daimyo had no obligation to take you into their service, and many daimyo didn't have the means to o so. Samurai were paid in rice, and although a daimyo might have a domain worth, say, 50,000 koku, that was only a nominal value - it didn't mean the daimyocould take 50,000 men into his service. A poor harvest could mean a much lower income, and the rice had to be sold to pay for all the domain's other expenses.
Nor did the nominal value mean 50 000 men at average harvest!
Nominal value of 50 000 koku meant that the domain could normally feed about 50 000 mouths - men, women, children and elders, including and mostly consisting of the peasants who grew the food, and their families. Only a small fraction of that rice could be taken by the daimyo, and it had to feed not just the men in is service but their families.
Checking up and recapitulating the results of 1873 census, Japan had 33 million mouths in total, just under 2 million of them (about 6 %) were samurai and their families, of whom the men family heads in service seem to have been under 400 000.
 
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#16
The Daimyos came together with their armies when Japan was threatened by an outside force, such as the Mongols


Normally,The Daimyos were at each others throats . Tokugawa Ieyasu unified Japan and imposed peace when he became the first Shogun in 1603. This long period or peace and prosperity is called the Edo period. (1603-1868) It lasted until the Meiji restoration in 1868

. After the restoration, the entire social class system of Japan was re arranged, The samurai received a government the stipend, until 1876, when samurai lost the right to carry swords.
 

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
31,318
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#17
The Daimyos came together with their armies when Japan was threatened by an outside force, such as the Mongols


Normally,The Daimyos were at each others throats . Tokugawa Ieyasu unified Japan and imposed peace when he became the first Shogun in 1603. This long period or peace and prosperity is called the Edo period. (1603-1868) It lasted until the Meiji restoration in 1868

. After the restoration, the entire social class system of Japan was re arranged, The samurai received a government the stipend, until 1876, when samurai lost the right to carry swords.
Ieyasu wasn't the first shogun - he was the first shogun of the Edo period, but the first ruling shogun was Minamoto no Yoritomo in the 12th century (there were earlier sei'i'tai shouguns, such as Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, but they were just generals).
 
Last edited:
Oct 2018
1,209
Adelaide south Australia
#18
Ieyasu wasn't the first shogun - he was the first shogun of the Edo period, but the first ruling shogun was Minamoto no Yoritomo in the 12th century (there were earlier sei'i'tai shouguns, such as Sakanoue no Tamuramaro, but they were just generals).

Ah ,didn't know that, thanks. Is the rest of my post correct-ish?
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Naomasa298

Forum Staff
Apr 2010
31,318
T'Republic of Yorkshire
#19
Ah ,didn't know that, thanks. Is the rest of my post correct-ish?
Yes, pretty much. Although the daimyo only emerged during the Sengoku period, from the mid 15th century onwards. The samurai class itself developed from the landowning warriors of the 12th-13th century, when they began to supplant the aristocracy as the de facto ruling class.
 
Last edited:
Likes: bboomer
Mar 2015
781
Europe
#20
Yes, pretty much. Although the daimyo only emerged during the Sengoku period, from the mid 15th century onwards. The samurai class itself developed from the landowning warriors of the 12th-13th century, when they began to supplant the aristocracy as the de facto ruling class.
Landholding. Of course the question is what to call the class before. Was Taira no Masakado a samurai? And was he called a samurai by his contemporaries?
How many samurai existed in Japan in 1183 and fought on the sides of Minamoto and Taira combined (plus the Oshu Fujiwara)?
 

Similar History Discussions