The samurai warriors do not exist today. However, the cultural legacy of the samurai exists today. The descendants of the samurai families also exist today. It is illegal to carry swords and arms in Japan.
That is why the samurai cannot exist today.
In 1868, the emperor Meiji came into power and abolished the samurai system. He stopped the salary payments of the samurai class. He prohibited carrying swords. He confiscated the lands and properties of the samurai. Some samurai became farmers, some samurai became bureaucrats.
The descendants of the samurai families do not say “I am a samurai.” This is because Japan is a peaceful society and it is strange to say “I am a samurai”. The descendants of the samurai families have ordinary jobs.
The current head of the Tokugawa family: Tsunari Tokugawa (an employee of a logistics company Nippon Yuusen).
The current head of the Shimazu family: Nobuhisa Shimazu (President of a tourism company).
The grandson of Oda Nobunaga: Nobunari Oda (a famous figure skater in Japan).
However, samurai clans still exist to this day, and there are about 5 of them in Japan. One of which is the Imperial Clan, the ruling family of Japan, and is headed by Emperor Naruhito since his ascension to the Chrysanthemum throne in 2019. The second is the Shimazu Clan, which was the daimyo of the Satsuma han, and a branch of the Minamoto Clan. The members are descendants of Emperor Seiwa Genji, and are comprised of some of the country’s famous warriors like Minamoto no Yoritomo.
The Oda Clan is one of the most well-known in Japan just from Oda Nobunaga and was descended from the powerful Taira Clan. Although there is not much information on the clan ruling, Oda Nobunari, a former competitive figure skater with impressive achievements, carries the clan name. The Date Clan was founded in the Kamakura period and were descendants of the Fujiwara clan. The current head of the clan is Date Yasumune, and he is a regular participant in the samurai festival in Sendai, as a way to honor his roots.
The last group is the Tokugawa Clan, founded by the famous shogun Tokugawa Ieyasu. The current head of the main clan is Tokugawa Tsunenari, the great-grandson of Tokugawa Iesato and the second cousin of the former Emperor Akihito from the Imperial Clan.
- Yoshida, Reiji (15 September 2002). “Where are they now?” The Japan Times.
- The Edo Inheritance by Tokugawa Tsunenari. International House of Japan.
- Date Yasumune Profile. Official Date Masamune Website.
- Mittan, Barry (March 20, 2005). “Oda Continues Ancestor’s Fighting Spirit“. Skate Today.
- Papinot, Jacques Edmund Joseph. (1906) Dictionnaire d’histoire et de géographie du japon. Tokyo: Librarie Sansaisha. OCLC 465662682
- “Personal Histories of Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress”. kunaicho.go.jp.
This article was prepared by the Samurai & Ninja Museum Kyoto staff. Come visit us to learn more about the samurais in Japan’s history and culture!
Samurai & Ninja Museum Kyoto
We are one of the leading samurai museums in Japan that offers a variety of experiences that inform and educate visitors on the history, culture, and relevance of the samurais and ninjas in Japanese history. We offer immersive experiences to our guests ranging from ninja training, to city tours.
Check out all the exciting activities you can do with us:
- Samurai Sword Experience for Kids and Families (Ninja experience and Museum Tour included)
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