Top 10 Most HORRIFYING Facts about SAMURAI WARFARE


Hello, I’m Simon Whistler, you are watching
TopTenz Net and today we are looking at the top ten horrifying facts you didn’t know
about samurai warfare. This video will focus on Japan’s 16th century
when warfare was at its height however, all the facts have been taken from two 17th century
records from a war-master to Kishu-Tokugawa family but more about that at the end. (Holds book up) 10
The primary aim of the samurai on the field of battle was head collecting
One of the lesser highlighted facts about the samurai is that they were primarily a
head cult. Their warrior culture focused on the capture,
collection, identification and displaying of decapitated human heads. Their society was based on the accruement
of agricultural land or the financial gain from controlling land. In return for captured enemy heads, a general
would dole out new portions of wealth to his men. The higher the status of the enemy head or
the level of the achievement needed to obtain it, the greater the rewards would be. A Japanese battle may see champions leaving
the field with bags known as kubibukuro – which were net or cloth sacks that held the heads
they had taken. Also, a samurai on horseback may have heads
tied to cords which hung from the rings of the saddle. 9
Providing proof that an enemy head had not been falsified
With a reward system based on decapitated heads, it became apparent that some samurai
of lesser scruples would try to cheat the system and use lesser heads as higher ranking
ones for financial gain and prestige. To combat this the samurai had certain ways
of identification. If there was another trustworthy samurai to
vouch for the kill his word could be taken. Alternatively, a samurai would need or to
bring back one of the neck plates of a samurai helmet or even his sword which would show
it was taken from a warrior. If bringing in a general’s head, a samurai
would need to have his war baton which was used to command troops otherwise the kill
of such a high priority target could not be confirmed. Furthermore, some samurai were thought to
have killed women and monks and presented their heads for reward. Therefore, if a head was deemed suspicions
in any way it was known as onna-kubi – a female head or a yamai-kubi – an improper
head. If a head was confirmed as reliable then it
was recorded in the kubichō – the book of heads. 8
The displaying of decapitated heads and cries of war
If in a skirmish a new head had been taken, the victor was to lift it up with his left
hand and let forth a mighty battle-cry to which any allies in the vicinity would lift
any heads they had captured and join in with the cry. Heads would then be taken off the battlefield
by the samurai or even their servants, however, even at this point a samurai had to be careful,
other servants or even samurai would snatch heads from people who were not concentrating. To help prevent this the samurai would place
a cord through the mouth of the head and out of the throat and wear it like a handbag to
keep it safe or as said before keep it in a head bag. After the battle, a ceremony known as jikken
– the head inspection was conducted. This involved the picking of good enemy heads
to be presented to the lord, where he would seated in armour with spell-casters and bowmen
to defend him from evil spirits or he would be on horseback where he moved along lines
of gibbeted heads. Heads of high ranking warriors would be placed
in a box with Buddhist spells upon it and wrapped in a cloak with an arrow pushed through
the top where the cloth ties, at which point it would be sent back to the enemy in respect. 7
Samurai would create oaths of bonding before going to war
The word of the samurai was stronger than iron according to the documents we are using
today and such an oath was truly binding. Samurai used different types of oath, this
could be keppan – the blood oath which was a promise given to the gods and sealed in
blood or it could be the shichimai-gishō – the seven sheet oath, where a promise
is given seven times on seven sheets of paper to different gods. However, not all samurai were honest. Samurai would get themselves into small groups
and make pledges that if any of them fled and left the battle then their: houses, property,
wives and children would belong to the rest of the group. This was done to ensure bravery. The samurai then made their servants swear
oaths, saying that if they served them well they would reward them, but if they were to
abandon them in battle then they would be hunted across all of Japan and their entire
family line would be put to death for their crimes. It is unknown how much of a reality this is,
but records show that such promises were put in place. 6
Samurai prayed to the gods of war for victory and some wore the costume of death
Samurai prayed to gods such as Hachiman and Marashiten. Before war, samurai would roll their flags
up and prepare themselves at a holy place dedicated to Hachiman – because the ideograms
used for flag and Hachiman have a connection. The samurai believed in a host of war gods
and some believed that the hole in the top of a samurai’s helmet was installed so that
the 98,000 gods of war could enter into them allowing them to be godlike in battle. In truth the hole is a vent to allow air to
escape but some samurai did believe this. If an army was scattered they would take a
flag called the Dragon banner to a height on a hill so that the army could regroup,
they thought that the gods of war rested in high places and that the spirit of war would
pull the men back together – however some samurai said it was simply easier to see the
banner at a height. Also, any samurai who wanted to die in the
upcoming battle would wear the costume of death. This meant that they would cut the ends of
any of the cords of their armour, such as the helmet or arrow cape as it signified that
they could not retie them, meaning that they are not going to prepare for battle again
and that they would either be victorious in battle or be left dead on the field. 5
Bellicose language was the order of the day For a samurai even language had to correctly
represent a warrior attitude as they could be frowned at or questioned if they used the
wrong verbs to describe different actions in war. This point is based in subtle plays in the
Japanese language and as we are talking in English they are not evident, but for us it
is similar to the feeling of screaming “flee for your lives! And “let’s make a tactical withdrawal”. Thus, a samurai should loosen his bow string
but never say remove, he should never fold a flag but roll it away, samurai never cut
down bamboo to make poles for war banners, they hunt bamboo for war banners. There are many examples of this but they are
steeped in an understanding of Japanese but to encapsulate this idea remember that a samurai
is never killed in battle he simply achieved death to say otherwise would be a disgrace
to his memory. 4
If a new sword is given on a campaign of war it must be bathed in blood
This one shows one of the conundrums of being a samurai leader. Many know of the rumour that a Japanese katana
must taste blood if it is drawn – but this is a simplification of the historical reality
as there are many instances where a samurai sword is drawn but does not take blood. Ancient scrolls tell us that when a leader
of a troop or captain has done well he may be rewarded with a new sword by the general
or lord, but this puts him in a tight spot. It is a rule that samurai leaders do not enter
into combat unless the battle has gone wrong and that the task of the leader is to lead
and direct his men, but it is also a tradition that when a new sword is given in war it must
be bathed in the blood of enemy kills, a baptism of blood if you will. So for a leader to accept this sword he must
either forsake the correct way of the captain or step down from his position so he can take
the sword into battle. To get around this the samurai could either
decline the new sword or ask that it be entrusted to the lord’s squire until the end of the
campaign. 3
Skinning a human face As we learned before, samurai culture is based
on head taking and is possibly one of the largest head cults in history, but what happens
when there are just too many heads to take? If the amount of heads is too many for the
samurai and servants to carry, a samurai can ask permission of his captain to engage in
the activity of hana o kaku – cutting off enemy noses. A samurai could use a nose instead of a head
to show he had achieved victory in battle and these are much easier to carry as they
are placed between the chest and the breastplate, but remember a samurai needs to prove that
it is not an improper head. To do this there are two main ways: if the
nose is cut off from the bridge then the cut must go down and around the mouth and back
up to the bridge of the nose, then the lower part of the face is peeled off, the reason
for this is that samurai would often wear a moustache or have stubble and thus prove
that it was at least a male head. If the nose was cut from the base of the nostrils
then the cut had to go up and over the eyebrows and then the skin was peeled off. This is because women shape their eyebrows
differently to men and again the sex of the head could be identified. To this day there is a shrine in Kyoto Japan
where tens of thousands of noses taken in the Japanese invasion of Korea in the 16th
century are buried. However, many of these are civilian because
Toyotomi Hideyoshi – the leader of the invasion and Japan – ordered that everyone, men women
and children should be killed. 2
Taking the head of your friends while under fire
As we have seen taking an enemy head was of extreme importance but it was also important
not to allow your own head or a friends head to fall into enemy hands. Therefore, if a samurai force was losing a
battle or skirmish, brave people would engage in an action known as shingari – to defend
the retreat. These people helped injured comrades while
under enemy fire or would decapitate their already dead allies who were lay on the ground. However, to ensure that the samurai was not
accused of foul play and for killing their own allies they would try to have a servant
do the task. However, if the warrior was famous for his
loyalty and bravery his word would not be questioned and it was ok for him to take the
allied head. That being said a samurai could not guarantee
that his head would not end up on an enemy spike, so some samurai perfumed their helmets
to make sure their decapitated head was well presented. Also, if allied heads were brought back or
for those fallen in a siege then their teeth may be stained black to elevate their social
rank in death. 1
Samurai did not fight fairly The idea of a samurai as an enlightened warrior
who was chivalric and noble is a half myth with some elements of truth. The common thought that a samurai would declare
his name on the battlefield and find an equal in rank, who would then pair off in a fair
fight is a leftover from ancient times in the earlier parts of samurai history. By the 16th century the first person to clash
on a battlefield was called ichiban yari – the first spear and that person should exclaim
their name to the opponent, but after this the armies entered into general melee. Samurai would have two types of people with
them when at war, a form of man-at-arms who may assist them in combat and also servants
who were preferred not to join in the fight but who would help remove their master’s
gear from the field of battle. However this means that those men that help
in combat may often shoot, stab or slash the enemy from the side and make it a two on one
combat or even a two on two situation. There is also the case of the action of the
old hawk teaching the young hawk where an elder, father or uncle with take a young samurai
into the battle, help him kill a target and then return with the head. But best of all is the promise between samurai
to form death squads, this is where one warrior would face the enemy, another warrior would
defend the area from people trying to interfere and the last warrior would come up on the
enemy from behind and cut his throat and if the group did this multiple times the entire
team would gain a head. Not so chivalric after all. Outro
I hope that you enjoyed the video. If you found these facts interesting you may
like to read the original scrolls which have been translated into this (holds up book)
The Book of Samurai by Antony Cummins and Yoshie Minami. It is the first in a series of books that
will be published in the future. A link to the book can be found in the description
below. For those who would like a free download on
samurai skills that can also be found below with information on Antony Cummins and his
team. For those who liked this video remember to
click like and subscribe.

100 Replies to “Top 10 Most HORRIFYING Facts about SAMURAI WARFARE

  1. What does he mean death cult and if they do this multiple times the group gains a head? That was hard to follow. What did they do?

  2. Wonderful TopTenz but, Tom Cruise? I know he played a Samurai in a movie but there are plenty of other interesting documents featuring genuine Japanese Samurai. In fact, you do show a few very nice ones.

  3. OK check your facts. You said they worshipped two Gods yet had Buddhist spells on the head bag. Buddhists only worship Buddhists. That I know of anyway.

  4. I love that you have really dramatic, poetic and religious claims:
    We gather in high places to unite with the spirits of war so that they can unite us across all of japan!

    Then you have:
    I'm gonna go up here so my mates can actually see me

  5. Another question, "How effective was the Samurai armour on the battlefield or was it just decorative?"

  6. Since when was this a thing I'm Japanese studied the history they are not headhunters that makes them sound like savages and monsters that's disrespectful of u apologize now I'm not joking

  7. Consider your self reported I'm writing YouTube about your clear slander of the smauria culture the way u say it it makes them sound evil

  8. wtf with the "miskellaneous" at the end? I thought I was just ignorant to a variation in British pronunciation of the word. I had to disappointingly conclude (after 20 minutes of double and tripple checking) that it's just as wrong as it sounds. Never would have expected it from Simon. But I can't judge, either. I learned during my brief research that I'd been mistakenly pronouncing the T in "often," and that the correct pronunciation is "offen." There's nothing as effective as learning you've been mispronouncing a word for most of your life to make you feel like a moron.

  9. Ok yea the first one is right, but lots of different cultures have chopped off body parts to count and brag about their kills… the samurai where one of many “head cults” as you put it.

  10. In a non related issue, Read somewhere that high ranking samurais and officials had "lookalikes" in case they have to offer their heads as punishment for failing to accomplish a shogunate goal or in doubt or suspission of treason.

  11. The samurai took heads to prove they worked. Later they had head viewing parties to determine the head was taken from an enemy they had actually killed and not just one from a dead body said samurai might come across in the battlefield. The samurai wanted to get paid and they wouldn’t get paid if they couldn’t prove they worked.

    Samurai weren’t to honorable and would cheat their lords where they could and their lords would cheat them where they could.

  12. A samurai would also walk around at night killing just about anyone they came across without consequence if they gained a new sword as to test it.

  13. Cleverness was not considered unfair… as long as battle is on course, one must die unclever and the other will end victorious.

  14. Much like any Waring tribalistic system, the had to live and die with regret, having used violence to dominate. Nothing noble about it

  15. I think it was only a Muramasa that had to taste blood if drawn… Legends say that using one filled the wielder with a powerful bloodlust, that might even cause him to shed his own blood to satiate the blade.

  16. The head cannot be decapitated – a human being can (just like almost any other living creature). De-capitate, means, in Latin, to cut the head off (to separate it from the body, behead).

  17. Horrifying! Lolol honourable! Glorious! Well missed!!! Now men in our country stick their penises in other mens anuses!!!! How far we've fallen….

  18. Can you do a video on the tercios the most terrifying force in Europe at a time . Every soldier culture eventually lost power . Remember Antwerp.

  19. ….Great Video, it has been a year or so since I last watched, I just realized I was subscribed to you, but I did not have the notifications turned on, I used to watch so many of your videos. They are very informative.

  20. there's a difference between a head hunter and a cultist. I wouldn't say samurai were a cult at all. This practice really didn't have religious grounding or basis. this head hunting was to show who they killed so they got credit for it, and so they could ensure they're paycheck.

  21. You can’t have decapitated heads, only bodies. Heads can be removed or disarticulated, but to decapitate a head, one would need to cut the head off of a head.

  22. No one should be surprised at their head collecting fetish. This only confirms why the Japanese military would believe they should cut off heads of Chinese and Filipino civilians in WW2

  23. Heads up…….another cutting edge video from Simon and Friends. At least after the Samurai code declined the sword makers had the kitchen knife industry to fall back on. Seriously, a very interesting if bloody video, thanks.

  24. Entertaining, yes. But, I think this list might have been called “10 Items Lost in Translation.” I would seriously urge those interested in the art or history to dig deeper and with more accurate translations. What Mr. Cummings (I mean Ms. Minami) has translated is very off. But, to his (her) credit, translating modern Japanese into English is very difficult. Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream learned this a few years ago when the top-selling ice cream worldwide did not sell at all in Japan. This top flavor (Chunky Monkey) did not indicate banana ice cream with fudge pieces. It was translated to Chunks of Monkey. That is exactly what you have here. Thank you to Simon and the team for their work! I enjoy it all.

  25. . . .And we should no fail to mention the fact that Gaul and Gael, took heads. That means that all you white people who feel so superior and more civilized than others, should check their family tree. Especially valued heads might be built into doorposts or gateposts facing outward, to keep watch-and-ward over the entrance. And worthy foes taken in battle would be preserved and kept in chests in the halls, to be proudly displayed to guests.

  26. Simon, I have been watching your videos for some time and should have told you how much I enjoy them. Sorry I waited so long. I find your historical vids most interesting and encourage you to keep up your fine work. Thanks

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