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This is an experimental pilot post of an idea I had following my reconnection with the excellent 51 Japanese Characters website, set up by Peter Machat.

Each post will begin with one of Peter’s excellent images. Then I’ll talk a bit about the character, the Japanese language it involves (if interesting), and more sources where you can find out about it. The obvious starting point seemed the samurai, so here goes…

Samurai – 侍

The character for samurai, 侍, literally means “to serve”. The samurai were on the one hand warriors who believed in the code of bushi, 武士, the way of the warrior. On the other hand they can be considered mercenaries, or private guards for hire. The samurai has a large role to play in Japanese history, and in Japanese culture. He reflects a total commitment to ideals, an interest in culture, and a martial spirit that leads almost to an embrace of the idea of death. He is honourable. The reality, of course, was quite different- but this is the image.

For more, see Wikipedia! Or the samurai programme of In Our Time, on the Radio 4 website (my professor was on this).