The time of the samurai begins around the year 1050 with feuding clans and fifedoms throughout Japan. Eventually, Japan unifies under the first Shogun - Minamoto Yoritomo (1147-1199). Minamoto Yoritomo was named shogun in 1192.
Kamakura and the Hojo Clan
Yoritomo established his bakufu (headquarters) at Kamakura and established a central government, sponsored zen buddhism and the values of bushido (warriors code). His wife, Hojo Masako, then assumed power after his death in 1199. Hojo Masako is famous in Japanese history as the "Nun Shogun" (1157-1225). In keeping with customs of the time, Hojo Masako became a Buddhist nun upon the death of her husband in 1199.
After Yoritomo's death, Hojo Masako along with her father and son, usurped the real ruling power from her dead husband's ruling Minamoto clan to her own Hojo clan. Her efforts gave the Hojo clan true power over the now 'puppet regime' Minamoto clan [Kamakura period 1192-1219].
Later in 1281, Japan's Kamakura warriors successfully repelled attacks from the Mongols with divine help known as "kamikaze" or divine (kami) wind (kaze). The Monguls had gathered their numerous ships just off the coast of Japan, and were attempting to conquer Japan for the second time (the first attempt was in 1274). Famously, Japan remained safe as the ships of the Mongols were sunk by a sudden and fierce storm in Hakata Bay - hence the thought of a 'divine wind' had been sent by the kami (gods) to save Japan from Kublai Khan and his invading Mongol hords.
Kyoto and the Ashikaga Clan
The next ruling clan was the Ashikaga, with their capital at Kyoto (1338–1597). The Ashikaga were descended from the Minamoto family, loyal to Emperor Go-Daigo and successfully rebelled in 1333 against the last Hojo shogun. The third Ashikaga Shogun Yoshimitsu (1358-1408) was known as a great patron of the arts. He had built the famous Golden Pavillion or Kinkaku-ji, officially named Rokuon-ji. And, according to his will Kinkaku-ji became a Zen temple of the Rinzai sect.
The Tokugawa (1600 to 1868)
Three of the most widely recognized names today are Oda Nobunaga (1534-1582), Toyotomi Hideyoshi (1536 -1598) and Tokugawa Ieyasu (1542-1616). Oda Nobunaga was mainly responsible for achieving the unification of Japan; the modernization of Japan's military and economy changing it from one of farming to manufacturing and services and developing the warrior class structure. He was also known for building many castles and supporting the arts. However, in June of 1582 Akechi Mitsuhide assassinated Oda Nobunaga at Honnoji Temple in Kyoto, just prior to Nobunaga officially receiving the title of Shogun from the Emperor.
Interestingly, while Toyotomi Hideyoshi was the undisputed ruler of Japan, he never actually took the title of Shogun, instead he took the title of taiko - similar to prime minister or regent. He avenged the death of Nobunaga by killing Akechi Mitsuhide and went on to build Osaka-jo.
The Battle of Sekigahara
Tokugawa Ieyasu lived from 1543-1616. His decisive victory at the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600 ushered in his reign as Shogun. Battles with his enemy, the Toyotomi, continued however until 1615 when the Toyotomi were destroyed by the Tokugawa army at Osaka castle. The Tokugawa ruled Japan for 264 years, until 1867 and the Meiji Restoration and the 'modernization' of Japan.
Distinguish between gain and loss in worldly matters
Develop intuitive judgement and understanding for everything
Perceive those things which cannot be seen
Pay attention even to trifles
Do nothing which is of no use
"An unpolished crystal does not shine; an undisciplined samurai does not have brilliance. A samurai therefore should cultivate his mind." ~Anonymous
"The man whose profession is arms should calm his mind and look into the depths of others. Doing so is likely the best of the martial arts." ~Shiba Yoshimasa
"The undisturbed mind is like a calm body of water reflecting the brilliance of the moon. Empty the mind and you will realize the undisturbed mind." ~Yagyu Jubei
"To be swayed neither by the opponent nor by his sword is the essence of swordsmanship." ~Miyamoto Musashi
"The proper manner of calligraphy is nothing other than not being careless, but in this way one's writing will simply be sluggish and stiff. One should go beyond this and depart from the norm. This principle applies to all things." ~Yamamoto Tsunemoto
"Conquer the self and you will conquer the opponent." ~Takuan Soho
"The mind unmoved by external distraction produces physical mobility." ~Yagyu Renyasai
"Conquering evil, not the opponent, is the essence of swordsmanship." ~Yagyu Munenori