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LEGENDS OF THE SAMURAI

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The Japanese defenders recognized the possibility of a renewed invasion and began construction of a great stone barrier around Hakata Bay in 1276. These independent vassals who held land were subordinate to their superiors, who may be local lords or, in the Edo period, the shogun. In 1853 Commander Matthew Perry of the US Navy led his fleet into Yokohama harbour demanding the opening of the trading routes and diplomatic relations with Japan. During the fight, Musashi disarmed Denshichiro with his wooden sword, then killed him with his own weapon. Though he's a popular figure in the public imagination, given his limited effect on Japanese history, Musashi is not as universally regarded (or studied) as the remaining samurai on this list.

While he never held his own lands or served a lord as a formal samurai, as a duelist, none can compare to Miyamoto Musashi (1584? With the ascent of Ieyasu Tokugawa as shogun in 1600, Japan enjoyed more than 250 years of relative peace, broken by sporadic rebellions.Japan's most famous samurai largely emerged from its two most significant feudal conflicts: the Genpei War (1180-1185) and the last years of the Warring States Period (1467-1590).

While the Ashikaga Shogunate nominally ruled Japan during the Muromachi Period (1336-1573), outside of Kyoto the real power came to be held by local daimyo, leaving the nation regionally fractured. The feudal lords were forced by the Shōgunate regime to leave their domains and spend part of the year in the capital Edo leaving their wives and children behind as hostages. From the Kamakura period onwards, emphasis was put on training samurai from childhood in using "the bow and sword". When I can get out from behind the editorial desk, I take photos, do bits of theater and practice German longsword.

The Japanese sword ( tachi and katana) became renowned around the world for its sharpness and resistance to breaking. The naginata, which was difficult to maneuver in close formation, and the long, heavy tachi fell into disuse and were replaced by the nagamaki, which could be held short, and the short, light katana, which appeared in the Nanboku-cho period and gradually became more common. He eventually seized control of the central government, establishing the first samurai-dominated government and relegating the emperor to figurehead status.

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