The Samurai Code
Japan's famed and privileged warrior class, the samurai, began to decline as the power within Japan shifted from the Shogun to Emperor Meiji during the Meiji Restoration. The Satsuma Rebellion of 1877 saw the defeat of a coalition of the mightiest samurai at the hands of a modern, conscripted imperial army. But 1877 saw the beginning of another era: it was also the year that Manzo Nagano became the first documented immigrant from Japan to settle in Canada. The samurai code outlines the cultural values that accompanied some of the early settlers to Canada, as many young people from the samurai class sought new opportunities in a new land.
For the samurai, the highest responsibility was to serve one's lord. For Japanese Canadians, this loyalty was complex: not only was the daimyo (feudal lord) system now abolished in Japan, leaving any samurai without masters, but those who chose to emigrate now lived in a land of different government, customs, language, and values. Japan was an ally when Britain entered the First World War, and so to serve with the Canadian army meant fulfilling loyalty to both native and adopted countries. For some, there was no question that they would fight for their country: they felt it was a duty expected of them.
Episode 18 - Samurai
In this episode, Raymond and Carolyn discuss the samurai way of life – from the Satsuma clan to Inazo Nitobe’s Bushido – and its possible influence on Japanese Canadian history and culture. While the figure of the samurai has been popularly mythologized in Western culture by the likes of Tom Cruise, many real-life samurai emigrated from Japan in the late 19th century to build new lives for themselves in places like Canada. Some went on to become Canadian citizens, and fight for their adopted country in the First World War. LISTEN