chapter  7
31 Pages

WAR AND WARRIORS

THE WARRIOR OF THE MIDDLE AGES At the beginning of the Kamakura period, a period that could almost be termed ‘pre-feudal’ (true feudalism not being established in Japan until the clan leaders were completely freed from the tutelage of a centralized government and no longer owed it anything but nominal allegiance, that is until the fourteenth century), the warriors formed but a small part of society, at least in the central provinces. In the Kantô and more northerly provinces, it was different, the warriors of the northern clans being nearly all sprung from farming stock. Their leaders, at that time called saburai, were quite naturally those who governed them in their capacity as territorial rulers. These saburai were, therefore, mainly gokenin, direct vassals of the shôgun, and kenin or immediate vassals of the latter, or else fighting-men holding some important office in the bakufu administration. They had their own troops and servants, and they had the right to ride into battle. The other warriors, or bushi, belonged to the kôotsunin classes or bonge (ordinary folk). From the fourteenth century on, the name saburai only applied to ‘war leaders’ obeying the Muromaehi bakufu and also to certain warrior nobles in the service of the imperial household, these last being given the more particular name goshozamurai. It is because of a phonetic development that this was later pronounced ‘samurai’ and it is this last designation we shall use here.