The significance of the class deteriorated as the recording of an individual’s class was discontinued in 1914. This change made the term more of an indication of Samurai ancestry rather than a position of privilege. Furthermore, the abolishment of the right to carry swords, the implementation of conscription in the Imperial Japanese Army, and the conversion of traditional stipends to government bonds were also enforced.
During the period of 1868-1912, the Meiji Restoration led to significant modifications or complete elimination of the conventional privileges and entitlements of the Samurai class.
In 1869, the Samurai class was abolished and all members were given the new name of Shizoku.
During the year 1869, individuals who belonged to the samurai class and quasi-samurai were legally classified as either “shizoku” or “sotsuzoku.” However, the following year, in 1872, those who were categorized as “sotsuzoku” were then further classified as either “shizoku” or “seimin” (common people). As a result, the term “shizoku” came to signify a former samurai, and this category consisted of approximately 3 million Japanese individuals in 1872.
The University of California Press published Hunter J.’s brief guidebook on contemporary Japanese history, titled “Concise Dictionary of Modern Japanese History.
Afterwards, Shizoku experienced the loss of several customary privileges. Specifically, the ability to bear swords was eliminated, enlistment into the Imperial Japanese Army was imposed, and the customary stipends given to Samurai were altered into government bonds.
The aforementioned book explains that the Samurai’s traditionally privileged position was undermined by the combination of changes. As a result, the Shizoku became dominant in Meiji Japan’s social, political, and economic life. However, the significance of the class was further diminished when the recording of an individual’s class ceased to be official from 1914. Consequently, the term became more of an indicator of Samurai ancestry than a position of privilege.
During a tumultuous era, the alterations being implemented gave rise to numerous uprisings among both the Shizoku and commoners. The Satsuma Rebellion of 1877 serves as a prime illustration of such a revolt.
The Imperial Japanese Army had its inception in 1871 with the formation of its initial units.
During the early part of 1871, a group of roughly 10,000 men was assembled from the feudal armies and Yamagata was appointed as the vice minister of military affairs. This group was subsequently renamed the Imperial Guard (Konoe), and Yamagata was appointed as its leader.
The person referred to is Yamagata Aritomo, who is mentioned in the Encyclopedia Britannica.
According to the encyclopedia, the soldiers were selected from feudal armies, implying that most of them were previously either Samurai or Ashigaru, who were professional foot soldiers hired by Samurai.
The significance of the Shizoku in the formation of the Imperial Japanese Army is evident in the fact that Yamagata Aritomo, the commander of the army, belonged to a Samurai family from the Choshu domain. Additionally, Saigo Takamori, a Samurai from the Satsuma domain, was the initial commander of the Imperial Guard and later became the leader of the Satsuma Rebellion.
Additionally, numerous instances exist of Shizuko class members obtaining prestigious positions in World War 2. One of the most prominent cases is that of Tadamichi Kuribayashi, who served as the leader of Japanese troops during the Iwo Jima conflict. Kuribayashi was born in 1891 in the Hanishina District of Nagano prefecture, to a family of low-ranking Samurai.
Although officers drawn from the Shizoku in the Imperial Japanese Army were not given any insignia or special weapons, the influence of the Samurai culture was evident. During WW2, NCOs and Officers of the IJA were issued a sword called the Shin Gunto from 1935 to 1945. While various swords were issued to NCOs and Officers of different ranks, there was no distinct variant provided to Shizoku, according to Philip S. Jowett’s book, “The Japanese Army 1931-45 (2): 1942-45.
According to Kōkan Nagayama’s book “The Connoisseur’s Book of Japanese Swords,” the Shin Gunto swords had a similar appearance to traditional Katana. However, they were not constructed using traditional materials and methods. Instead, they were mass-produced using western steel, resulting in inferior quality.
There exists a gap or disconnect between the two periods of Japanese history.
I believe you may be overstating the impact of Meiji Restoration’s ideological shift. The primary focus was on modernizing the economy, rather than achieving social fairness.
What was the impact of Japan’s modernization during the early 1900s on the Samurai? Additionally, why did the Japanese army, which adopted similar warfare strategies, have such a significant influence from the Samurai?
Even though the feudal classes were abolished, samurai were not punished and continued to utilize their skills in policing and military. Former samurai constituted and persisted as the primary strength of the IJA.
Did the Japanese army have any officers who were samurai descendants, and if so, did they wear any insignia on their uniforms to signify their heritage?
Although there were no designated symbols of authority, numerous individuals carried their family katanas as a form of identification.
Besides the standard issue firearms, were the officers/soldiers authorized to use any other weapons such as the samurai katana?
As with any military, officers were granted specific advantages, such as the option to select their preferred sidearm.
Additionally, there is a competition involving the use of a sword to eliminate 100 individuals.
Japan’s conduct during WW2 was significantly influenced by the Bushido code, which is the legacy of the Samurai.
During World War II, the Japanese soldiers adhered to a ‘no surrender’ policy, resulting in almost all of them fighting until their death. This approach led to a senseless slaughter that did not achieve any measurable goal. The war claimed the lives of approximately three million Japanese, while the US suffered half a million casualties in both theaters combined. On Iwo Jima, the US had 17,000 casualties, with 6,000 of them being dead. Japan, on the other hand, suffered 22,000 casualties, with only about 200 surviving as prisoners, leading to the abandonment of banzai charges as an ineffective strategy against heavily armed Marines.
During the later part of the war, Bushido was modified to incorporate Kamikaze assaults. Even though Bushido emphasized the “fight another day” strategy where a dead Samurai was deemed useless, the link between suicidal assaults and Bushido was not entirely accurate. The advocates of Kamikaze, however, disregarded this fact and emphasized the self-sacrificial aspects to persuade vulnerable young men to execute the assaults without any expectation of success or survival.
The reason for Japan’s high casualties during the war was not entirely due to the Samurai tradition, but rather, it was the result of a distorted version of it by the militarists.