Interesting Facts About Ronin Warriors & Their Origin
Ronin warriors are former samurais who have become masterless. It was during the 12th century, when the term Ronin was coined to address samurais who had lost their daimyo or feudal lord.
A samurai may lose a daimyo in various ways which includes outliving their master who died in battle, being stripped off of their noble relations with their daimyo, or when a samurai decides to go against their daimyo’s commands.
In rare instances, a daimyo may also be required to commit seppuku as part of negotiations to end their reign, leaving all of its samurais without a master.
Regardless of the reason, these samurais cease to become a samurai once they lose their master and start living their life as a ronin. The growing number of ronins became a major concern in the 17th century right before the rise of the Tokugawa Shogunate.
The Ronins and Yui Shosetsu in 16th Century
Yui Shosetsu was a Japanese rebel from Sumpu, Suruga Japan. He was a well-known military teacher who planned to launch a coup d etat against the Tokugawa shogunate.
Shosetsu’s military skills and well-established reputation combined with the lack of opportunity for the growing number of ronins made the recruitment easier, allowing Shosetsu to gather more ronin warriors who would be willing to fight his battle.
The large number of warriors gave Shosetsu the confidence that he could actually overthrow the government. However, before Shosetsu could successfully launch his plan, his primary accomplice became very ill causing delays in the process.
It was during the delay that the government learned about the details of the pending coup d etat or the Keian Uprising, leading to the arrest and execution of Shosetsu’s supporters and family members.
Shosetsu later committed suicide.
To ensure that the remaining ronins did not follow the same pattern, the Tokugawa government decided to launch programs that could help provide a source of livelihood for the remaining ronins or to encourage them to start serving the existing government.
Ronins of the 18th Century
During the mid 18th century, many samurais who have been living a tough life decided to work together to reestablish the power of the imperial family and remove the Tokugawa shogunate ruling class.
This historical event caused many samurais to leave their daimyo and choose the life of a ronin warrior.
These groups of ronins set the revolution in motion by targeting and executing government officials who were known sympathizers of the Western scholars and foreigners living in Japan.
The imperial family slowly regained control all over Japan, although the revolution continued up to the time of Mejii Restoration.
Eventually, all the samurai rights and privileges had been recalled, which also ended the reign of ronin warriors.
During the restoration period, some of the former samurais were lucky to be given the chance to take on an administrative position in the government, while others were given the authority to venture into other types of occupation.
However, because of the large number of samurais, not everyone was given the equal opportunity, forcing many samurais to live in poverty. This inequality led to another uprising.
Abolishing the samurai class was not easily accepted, especially since the samurais made a huge contribution in helping the emperor to regain his power.
One of the biggest rebellions organized against the emperor was led by Saigo Takamori, which lasted for half a year. Having better training and access to better weapons the samurais didn’t have the chance against the emperor’s army.
The last group of ronin that was heard about in the 18th century was the forty seven ronins who made a name for themselves for avenging the death of their master.
Notable Ronin Warriors
The story of the forty seven ronin is probably one of the most popular stories of ronin warriors. This group was left masterless after their lord had been ordered to commit seppuku for assaulting one of the court officials.
Out of loyalty and dedication, these ronins planned how they can get back to the court official who caused the demise of their master. Once they have successfully carried out their plan these forty seven ronin later committed seppuku as their form of punishment for committing murder.
Miyamoto Musashi is another notable ronin and a highly revered swordsman during his time.
Musashi was born in Harima Province and was one of the primary users of a double bladed sword, a unique skill reflecting his mastery of the art.
It is no wonder that he was able to create a following by establishing a unique swordsmanship technique called the Niten Ichi-ryū. Musashi also authored the famous Book of Five Rings which he wrote during his retirement and seclusion at the cave of Reigando. The legendary swordsman and author died at the age of 62.
Sakamoto Ryōma is another popular ronin who made a great contribution during his time.
He is highly revered for his efforts to help end the Tokugawa shogunate. One of his most notable contributions includes secretly uniting two warring powerful provinces, Satsuma and Chosu provinces.
He also helped modernize the imperial Japanese navy empowering both provinces so they can fight the forces of Bakufu. It is for this reason Shinsengumi are in constant search for Ryoma. Shinsengumi is a police squad formed by the Bakufu family to help keep them in power.
This squad was also known for their violent and merciless practices which gained them the name death squad.
Ryōma was later assassinated in a Kyoto Inn, which will be known as the Omiya Incident. He died at the age of 31 before the Mejii Restoration began.
These are the different contributions of ronin warriors in the history of Japan. It shows how some ronin warriors evolved and tried to keep up with the changing times.
Although many of them were able to continued the fight while keeping their code of honor, there were also some who lost their way in the process, resorting to criminal actions in order to stay alive.