Anyone who has heard of Japan must have heard about Samurai as well. The Samurai were the group of warriors belonging to various elite classes, who were famous for their ferocity and loyalty. They have an indelible place in the history of Japan, having shaped up the civilization. The Samurai are the symbols of Japanese culture, and their code of honor is ingrained into it. There have been a myriad of warriors who wrote history with their courage and nobility. Here is the list of 10 most famous Samurai warriors in history.
10 Most Famous Samurai Warriors
10. Shimazu Yoshihisa
One of the most famous warlords from the Sengoku period, Shimazu Yoshihisa hailed from the Satsuma Province. He was married to his aunt for a brief time. He launched a campaign to unify Kyushu, and tasted many victories. His clan ruled a major part of Kyushu for many years, but was eventually defeated by Toyotomi Hideyoshi. After the defeat, Yoshihisa is believed to have retired and become a Buddhist monk. He died a peaceful death.
9. Date Masamune
Known for his affinity for violence and lack of mercy, Date Masamune was one of the most feared warriors of his era. Having lost the sight in his right eye in childhood due to smallpox, he had to make extra effort to be recognised as a fighter. After a series of defeats in early days, he slowly built his reputation and became one of the most efficient warriors of the time. When his father was kidnapped by the enemies of his clan, Masamune retaliated with slaughtering all of them, killing his father during the mission. He later served Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, as the head of Date clan.
8. Uesugi Kenshin
Known as the Dragon of Echigo, Kenshin was a fierce warrior and the leader of Nagao clan. He was famous for his rivalry with Takeda Shingen. The two fought each other for many years, engaging in one-on-one combats several times. He was also one of the warlords who resisted the campaigns of Oda Nobunaga. He was a reputed administrator as well. There are various stories surrounding the cause of his death.
7. Tokugawa Ieyasu
Initially an ally of Oda Nobunaga and his successor Toyotomi Hideyoshi, Tokugawa Ieyasu was more agile with his brain than his sword. After the death of Hideyoshi, he gathered the enemies of Toyotomi clan and fought against it to take over the rule. He defeated the Toyotomis in the Battle of Sekigahara in 1600, and became the first Tokugawan Shogun in 1603. The Tokugawa shogunate ushered a new era of peace in Japan, and ruled till 1868.
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6. Hattori Hanzo
The leader of Iga clan, Hattori Hanzo was one of the rare samurai who were also ninja warriors. He was a loyal servant to Tokugawa Ieyasu, who saved his master a few times from certain death. His primary weapon was a spear. In his older years, Hanzo became a Buddhist monk. He is one of the most famous warriors in Japanese pop culture, and inspired many a fictional warrior.
5. Takeda Shingen
Often called as the Tiger of Kai, Takeda Shingen was a fearsome warrior as well as a poet. He fought in numerous battles. In the fourth battle of Kawanakajima, he met his rival Uesugi Kenshin in a one-on-one fight as well. He was one of the very few warriors who tasted any success against Oda Nobunaga and had power to stop him. However, Shingen died in mysterious circumstances in 1573, after which Nobunaga consolidated power.
4. Honda Tadakatsu
Often known as ‘The Warrior who surpassed Death,’ Honda Tadakatsu was one of the fiercest warriors Japan has produced. One of the Four Heavenly Kings of Tokugawa, he took part in more than a hundred battles, to be never defeated in any of them. His major weapon was a spear known as Dragonfly cutter, which inspired fear in every opponent. Tadakatsu fought in the decisive Battle of Sekigahara which led to a new era in Japanese history.
3. Miyamoto Musashi
Perhaps the most celebrated samurai warrior over the years, Miyamoto Musashi was one of the greatest swordsmen Japan had ever had. His first duel was in the age of 13. He fought in the battle between the Toyotomi clan against the Tokugawa clan, on the side of former, ending up defeated. He later travelled along Japan, winning numerous duels against powerful opponents. Musashi’s most famous duel was in 1612, in which he fought against master swordsman Sasaki Kojiro and killed him. In later years, he spent more time for writing, and authored The Book of Five Rings, which details various sword-fighting techniques.
2. Toyotomi Hideyoshi
The successor of Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi was a powerful ruler and warrior. Born in a peasant family, he slowly ascended to power with his skills off and on the battle field. He ruled over a major part of Japan from 1585 until his death in 1598, although he never attained the title of Shogun. Hideyoshi constructed the massive Osaka Castle, and waged battles to conquer Korea and China, albeit unsuccessfully. Soon after his death, his clan was obliterated.
1. Oda Nobunaga
One of the most recognisable warrior in Japanese history, Oda Nobunaga was a charismatic leader as well. In 1560, he killed Yoshimoto Imagawa who attempted to take over Kyoto and set the foundation of the unification of Japan. He made use of firearms in battles, a novel idea at the time. His death was from an act of betrayal by one of his own generals, Akechi Mitsuhide, who set fire to the temple he was resting at. However, Nobunaga committed suicide, a more honourable way to die.