("one who serves"). Also known as bushi ("military gentry"). Term designating the warrior elite of premodern Japan that emerged in the provinces in the early 10th century and became the ruling class of the country from the late 12th century until the Meiji Restoration of 1868. Though samurai worked as warriors for several centuries, during the Tokugawa Period (1600-1868) samurai worked primarily as regional administrators. It was during this time that intellectuals formulated the code of bushidō, or the "way of the warrior," which romanticized the Japanese warrior tradition. In the mid-1860's, an imperial-loyalist movement began, and it was led by lower-level samurai from Satsuma, Chōshū, and other domains which branded the Tokugawa shogunate an unworthy government. With additional pressure from Western governments demanding that Japan open itself to foreign trade, the Tokugawa shogunate was abolished in 1868. As the government was abolished, so was the social system, i.e. the system of hereditary ranks which placed the samurai class at the top of social pyramid. Some samurai leaders resisted these developments and undertook armed rebellions. The last of these -- the Satsuma Rebellion -- was put down in 1877. By 1876, the samurai class had been dissolved. (adapted from Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia. Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993)
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