For nearly 700 years, the power of the samurai held sway over feudal Japan. These Japanese warriors forged a legend unique among the history of the world. Before the Western world made contact with Japan, the country was segmented into a number of feudal states. Technically there was an Emperor, but for most of the last millennium, the Emperor ruled in name only. It was the daimyo, the individual leaders of each city-state, who really controlled the country. And at the beck and call of the daimyo were the nearly unstoppable samurai, a group of highly disciplined warriors who upheld the tenets of hard work, loyalty, and respect that have formed the foundation of modern Japanese society.
First and foremost, though, samurai were fighters. Utilizing a set of tools that made Medieval knights look like total chumps, badass samurai loomed large in Japanese society from the 12th century all the way until the late 1860s. Here are some of history’s crazy samurai tales, featuring the men and women who helped mold the Japan that we know today.