The 10 most famous samurai in the history of Japan

Japan's most famous samurai

Would you like to know who the most famous samurai of the history of Japan? Like the struggles that occurred between empires across Europe in the Middle Ages, the Japanese Empire also had their own battles.

The warriors who stood at the head of armies of the emperors were known as samurai.

Thanks to the study of the history of the most famous samurai in Japan, today more is known about an ancient tradition that has remained practically intact until the most recent centuries.

Although the history of Western wars are known worldwide, there is still a great mystery between the fights of the ancient clans of the land of the rising sun.

Among the Japanese samurai are some of the best swordsmen, skilled fighters and military strategists that have ever existed on the face of the earth. Their stories will surprise you greatly.

the best samurai ever

Not all Japanese fighters were considered samuraiUnlike the ninja warriors, these fighters faced their enemies as a group or leading large armies.

Then, What is the true definition of samurai? How has the samurai figure evolved throughout the country's history? Today, they are reflected in the world of cinema, anime, manga ...

Discover all the details and secrets about these ancient fighters, and which have been the most famous samurai in the country that are currently part of the most important warriors in the history of Japan and also from all over the world.

In this article you will find ...

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    What are samurai warriors?

    Samurai warriors, from Japanese ' samurai', they were fighters belonging to the military elite of the different clans formed in the Japanese country.

    The origin of the samurai is uncertain, although it is estimated that the first denomination was made in the 10th century, with the first expert fighters in the art of the sword, establishing the term officially during the Genpei wars that took place in the XII century.

    samurai left in japan

    In the beginning, the most famous samurai in Japan were experts in the use of the bow and other more rudimentary weapons.

    Over the centuries, swords, more specifically japanese katanas, were gaining more importance among the Japanese warriors who began to train hand-to-hand fighting.

    However, not all fighters were considered samurai. These they held the highest positions, being more experienced warriors at the service of a lord, acting as a military leader to lead armies of greater or lesser importance.

    where to see samurai in japan

    Among the tasks of the samurai, in addition to leading the army in battles, was also that of training the men under their charge, as well as preparing military attack and defense strategies.

    Only the wisest and bravest They came to occupy positions of great importance, and for this reason, when it comes to the most famous samurai, there are very few names that have survived in history to the present day.

    History of the Japanese samurai

    Between the 10th and 12th centuriesJapan was under the rule of an Emperor who ruled over all the lands of the country.

    However, the different lords disputed the conquests of the territories, reaching a point where they themselves, thanks to the skill of their armies and the commanders who led them, came to take power away from the emperor of Japan himself.

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    It was in the Sengoku period that the highest number of fights between clans.

    Still, it continued until the later Establishment of the Tokugawa shogunate in the 17th century, who returned to regain the power of the entire country becoming the highest authority.

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    In this time of the reign of the different 'shogun', the samurai warriors were left relegated to the background, reducing the social status of the warrior class to avoid confrontation that could take away the total control of the leader.

    During this time the most famous samurai trained and worked privately, since it was considered a profession with little prestige.

    the best warriors of japan

    In the Meiji restoration that took place in the XIX century, the emperor regained his old power over the government of the country.

    Slowly, the figure of the samurai became more unnecessary, due to the lower number of war conflicts and the use of new firearms that came to the country to replace traditional bows, spears and swords.

    The most famous samurai in the history of Japan

    In a time when the whole country was at war, the samurai trade was one of the most desired among young people who dreamed of carving out a career and making themselves known.

    Between the legendary samurai from the history of Japan there are members of the best families of the time, but also boys and girls who became samurai warriors from more modest castes.

    life size samurai statue Kusunoki Masashige

    And yes, you read that right, famous samurai were not only male, there were also women fighters that became very popular handling certain techniques in combat such as the use of the bow or knives.

    Let's see what are the legendary warrior names that are part of the history of the Japanese Empire, and why they have become great fighters for their defense and attack skills. They will surprise you!

    Minamoto no Tametomo (1139-1170)

    The first warriors in the history of Japan were not the greatest experts in the use of the Japanese katana, if not in the bow, and more specifically in the art of archery on horseback.

    Minamoto no Tametomo is known as 'the infallible archer', one of the most famous samurai names of the great Minamoto clan.

    minamoto no tametomo samurai warrior

    In the mid-12th century, he fought skillfully using the bow and arrows as his main weapon, eventually becoming the most prestigious warrior of all country.

    According to a legend, with a single arrow shot he sank an entire ship of the Taira clan, in addition to winning different battles, in which he was always at the head of the battalion.

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    It was of the most feared Japanese samurai of the time by the enemy sides, and his name became known in all corners of the country.

    Fought with his father, the also famous Minamoto no Tameyoshi, and his two brothers, he being the one who had the greatest skill with the bow.

    japanese samurai warriors minamoto no tametomo

    The last fight in which he participated was the Hogen Rebellion of the Ryukyu area, in which his clan lost and both the lords like the warriors had to flee.

    No one knows exactly where young Tametomo ended up, but They say he made it to Okinawa, where he founded his own kingdom starting from scratch.

    Honda Tadakatsu (1548-1610)

    Expert in the use of different weapons, the favorite weapon of this Japanese warrior was the lance tonbo-giri, one of the three deadliest Japanese spears, with an extremely fine and sharp point.

    He was known on the battlefield for wearing very light armor that allowed him total freedom of movement, matching a helmet adorned with a deer antler.

    Honda Tadakatsu Japanese Onomastic

    This warrior from ancient Japan fought in the late 16th century, at a time when samurai lost the glory they had in previous centuries.

    However, he knew how to honor his trade, becoming one of the historical warriors most remembered in legends.

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    Many stories are told about Tadakatsu, such as the one that says that overcame more than 100 contests without having suffered a single wound or scratch.

    It is known as the warrior who overcame deathAlthough this may be due to the great admiration that both his lords and his enemies had for him.

    Honda Tadakatsu Sengoku Basara

    Job under the orders of the Tokugawa ruler Leyasu, fighting until the beginning of the same Edo period, which allowed to have more information about his exploits.

    He was one of the great generals of his army, sometimes occupying the front in the fight in the place of his superiors, always accompanied by his horse Mikuniguro.

    Miyamoto Musashi (1584 - 1645)

    Also from the Miyamoto clan, Musashi was the greatest master swordsman of the time, considered among the five most deadly and murderous samurai in history.

    He fought at the end of the 16th century and until the middle of the 17th century. It is said that he was one of the pioneers in teaching the use of swords for later ninja warriors.

    Miyamoto Musashi anime manga

    He is a famous samurai because learned as a child to fight together with his parents and grandparents.

    The sword was an extension of his arm, fighting for the first time at just 13 years old, in a fight to the death that led to the greatest of his victories.

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    Coming from a noble family, participated in 6 battles, although he had a much quieter life than other samurai. He was not one of the most powerful samurai.

    However, he devoted his entire life to sword study and training, specializing in one-on-one combat in which he put his learned martial arts techniques to the test.

    miyamoto musashi samurai champloo

    Thanks to this, he had time to dedicate himself to teaching, creating his own fighting school that still lasts to this day, Niten Ichi Ryu school. Perhaps he is the best samurai in the entire history of Japan.

    It is also the author of several books he made as an adult, among which stands out 'The book of the five rings', which consists of one of the most complete martial arts treatises that analyzes the history of Japanese fighting through the centuries.

    Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536-1598)

    Along with Oda Nobunaga and Tokugawa leyasu, Toyotomi Hideyoshi was the samurai warrior belonging to 'the three great unifiers of Japan'.

    He was a fighter that did not come from any important clan, not even from a noble family. He rose from a lower caste to become Oda Nobunaga's trusted man, standing out above the rest of the generals.

    legendary samurai warriors toyotomi

    He proclaimed himself as 'the Taiko', being a very well received mention by his followers.

    Started at the lowest rank in the army, as a ashigaru, to gain the respect of his superiors and lords, as well as the fear of his enemies on the battlefield.

    From his warrior origins, his rise to power led him to participate in political decisions. He made proposals for political reforms that laid the foundations of the later shogunate Tokuyama In XVII century.

    He went from the battlefield to a post as a diplomat in a very few years, although he never completely gave up his fighting training.

    toyotomi hideyoshi story

    In the middle of the 16th century Hideyoshi he married a young woman from an aristocratic family, and continued to work as a military strategist.

    Through bribes and favors managed to separate and defeat different enemy clans, proving that the worth of a samurai is not always shown in his handling with the bow or sword.

    Takeda Shingen (1521-1573)

    Shingen was one of the best warriors in the history of the Japanese country, who participated in the battles for control of the empire during the Sengoku period.

    It was known as 'the tiger of Kai', and his greatest rival on the battlefield, Uesugi Kenshin, was 'the dragon of Echigo', two enemy animals also in Buddhist mythology.

    the best samurai warriors takeda shingen

    Young Shingen was born as son of the chief of the Takeda clan, which gave him since childhood the great honor of receiving the best training with different weapons.

    This status was also reflected during his lifetime in the quality and type of armor he wore, with a extraordinary decorations that differentiated him from the rest of the leaders of the armies.

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    His constant disputes with his father in his youth led him to wrest control of the clan, putting him in the lead throughout a series of victories, most against the enemy Uesugi clan.

    It was before this army that the Takeda clan was finally removed, losing control for many years.

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    After the death of the leader, his son Takeda Katsuyori took over as clan chief, trying to raise again the glory of his family.

    It wasn't until generations later that recovered the importance they had, with a combatant leader such as the famous samurai Takeda Shingen.

    Tomoe Gozen (1157-1247)

    Although among the many warriors in the history of Japan there were many female sex characters, most of their names are not remembered today.

    Tomoe Gozen is one of the few samurai warriors that stand out from this period, participating in the Genpei Wars of the late 12th century.

    female samurai warriors tomoe gozen

    The female warriors were known as onna bugeisha, and they were just as important as men on the battlefield.

    Tomoe specifically was one of the girls who better handled both the bow and the katana, fighting on his horse with incredible skill.

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    This girl was described as a very beautiful young woman, beautiful, with long black hair, white complexion, and a very small and slim body.

    Under her heavy armor she became a bloody warrior, moving quickly dodging the blows of the enemies, while killing everyone around her decked out with her bow and a sword bigger than herself.

    famous samurai woman

    He fought alongside the Minamoto clan until his death at the Battle of Awazu in 1184.

    However, there are different legends that They claim that Tomoe did not really dieIf not, he was one of the only 5 people who finished the battle alive, and after this he retired to a remote place, leaving his weapons forever.

    Minamoto Yoshitsune (1159-1189)

    Another member of the Minamoto clan who fought alongside Gozen in the Gerras Genpei It was Yoshitsune.

    He became one of the great leaders of the clan when part of his family died during the Heiji Rebellion, and some of his brothers were exiled.

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    During his childhood he was under the care of monks north of Kyoto, to join the armies first with the Taira clan. He began by winning several battles that allowed him quickly rise through the ranks.

    This restored the honor to her family, recovering after the failures that had set her aside. Yoshitsune raised his last name to the top again, becoming the ruling clan in the whole country.

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    His role in each of the battles he participated in was primarily as a commander for mobilize troops.

    More than a feared warrior, he was one of the best strategist samurai in history, although he always kept his sword in the front row on the battlefield, showing great courage.

    japanese samurai warriors Minamoto no Yoshitsune

    At the end of the war, it was chased by his brother Yoritomo, which ended his life with only 30 years.

    About his fateful death there are many legends that today are part of Japanese folklore. The figure of both warriors appears in many series, movies and even in video games.

    Date Masamune (1566 - 1636)

    A role similar to Yoshitsune was played by Masamune in the war conflicts that took place in Japan just before the beginning of the Edo Period.

    Lived between the 16th and 17th centuries, descending from a noble family from which he learned to lead on and off the battlefield.

    blind samurai Date Masamune

    At just 14 years old, he began to help his father carry out his first war campaign. At 17 he replaced him in command of his army, conquering much of the country, and joining with other lords of different clans to join forces against the enemy.

    He was always surrounded by soldiers twice his age, proving to be a young man very advantageous for the tactics of war in battle and siege.

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    One feature that differentiated it from the rest is that it always wore a bell-shaped helmet with a large crescent moon on top.

    It was known as 'the one-eyed dragon', because curiously as a child he lost the sight of his right eye due to smallpox, although this did not prevent him from having the best vision for the conquest.

    japanese samurai names

    In addition to building many palaces in the region where he reigned and found the city of Sendei, He also worried about sending ships to distant lands.

    He was one of the forerunners of the inclusion of the Christian religion in Japan, and of the culture brought from Europe and Colonial America of the time.

    Oda Nobunaga (1534 - 1582)

    Son of a minor lord, Oda Nobunaga became a daimyo, or Japanese feudal lord, of great relevance on its own merits.

    His family was divided in the middle of the 16th century, and after the death of his father, fought against other members to take control, taking even his brother ahead.

    famous samurai ancient oda nobunaga

    This forcefulness it was the one that characterized him throughout his military career.

    Since the beginning of his mandate founded a small army with only 3000 soldiers, together with whom he began to conquer large territories.

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    The swordsmanship and their military strategies they were his best weapons.

    Although he is not well known in the rest of the world, in Japan he is one of the most famous samurai because he was one of the forerunners of the unification of the different territories of the country to restore its former status of Empire.

    famous samurai japanese warriors oda nobunaga

    He led alongside his vassals the ancient city of Kyoto, with a great sense of honor that was praised even by his enemies.

    However, honor was what ended his life, leading him to suicide. When your The most trusted general Akechi Mitsuhide betrayed him, set fire to the temple where he lived, then took his own life with the solemn technique of the harakiri.

    Hojo Masako (1157 - 1225)

    Although many of the most famous samurai have been part of Japanese history, one of the most influential women It was Hojo Masako.

    Japanese warrior of great beauty and political leader of the main regions of the country from the end of the twelfth century to the beginning of the thirteenth, he fought alongside the Minamoto clan, establishing the shogunate.

    famous samurai woman hojo masako

    Is onna bugeisha, or warrior woman, was trained by her own father from childhood. He learned to ride a horse, the art of traditional hunting and fishing, the handling of the katana, Japanese long saber or naginata, and other traditional weapons.

    He also had the honor of participating with his father in the political decisions and military strategies, acquiring the character of a leader that led him to stand out above other men of the clan.

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    Masako was a very calculating and strategic samurai woman, both in fighting on the battlefield itself, and in politics.

    This led her to conquer a large part of the lands of Japan leading her army, along with Minamoto no Yoritomo, his right hand, against the Taira clan.

    famous samurai women hojo masako

    Hojo Masako is one of the most important samurai in Japan because was the first woman in front, with a power that no other military has ever had.

    Along with Yoritomo and Tokimasa, both brothers from the Minamoto clan, shared the absolute power of the country for many years.

    Other relevant samurai warriors

    Although we have seen the 10 most famous samurai warriors in Japan, in the history of this country there are others names that are of great relevance for the role they had in the conquest of the territories.

    most famous samurai of japan

    Some of the more interesting that you should also know are as follows:

    • Ishida Mitsunari (1560 - 1600)
    • Kusunoki Masashige (1294-1336)
    • Akechi Mitsuhide (1528-1582)
    • Sanada Yukimura (1567 - 1615)
    • Saigo Takamori (1828 - 1877)
    • Torii Mototada (1539 - 1600)
    • Hojo Ujimasa (1538 - 1590)
    • Uesugi Kenshin (1530 - 1578)
    • Nakano Takeko (1847 - 1868)
    • Tokugawa leyasu (1543 - 1616)

    And you, did you know these warriors from the history of Japan? Who is the best warrior in the history of the Japanese country for you? Of the most famous samuraiWhat is the one that surprises you the most because of its trajectory and combat techniques? Share your opinions!

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