top of page

The Samurai lose there masters and become Ronin

The realization of the preciousness of life in the now was also strong among the Samurai, who had to take into account that they could die in a fight at any moment. The Samurai had a strong culture of their own, including their typical code of honor and much attention for poetry, music and other arts. The way of the Samurai - the Bushido - was strongly linked to meditations on life and death. Many writings on the wisdom of the samurai have survived, such as those of Musashi (1584-1645) or Tsunetomo (1659-1719).

The Samurai used to be a strong class in Japan. Before its unification, there were many clans with their own castles and their own Samurai who fought each other periodically. However, as soon as he comes to power, Tokugawa forbids the leaders of the clans to have Samurai making them superfluous. Now they no longer have a master and therefore no means of support. So they look for work in the city, become farmers or they go roaming through the country: these are the so-called Ronin. Some of them become robbers who extort farmers, others try to survive by offering their services as a guard or bodyguard. These Ronin have inspired most of the stories and movies about the Samurai. Kurosawa's masterly films The Seven Samurai and Yoyimbo show something of the fate of the Ronin. Because the Samurai had their own culture and code of honor (Bushido), which can be compared to that of our medieval knights, many of them could not imagine a different way of life. They wanted to continue their Samurai tradition, including its strong meditative and aesthetic elements. Some of them established schools that focused on the transmission of traditional knowledge and techniques with different accents, such as self-defense with the bare hand (ju jitsu), dueling with a (bamboo) sword (kendo) or practicing with a real sword (jai do). These techniques were not to be shared with others and remained the secret of the school run by a master.

bottom of page