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Unformatted text preview: as by far the more important. We can observe this, for example, in the description of the fighter’s
profession as the “way of the bow and horse,” a phrase that continued to 78 The Advent of a New Age be used to describe the “warrior way” even after the bow was supplanted,
centuries later, by other weapons as the primary instruments of war.
The process by which a provincial warrior class emerged in Japan was
complex and differed from region to region; yet one area in particular—
the eastern provinces of the Kantò—became its true spawning ground.
From earliest times the Kantò had been renowned as the source of the
country’s best fighters. Men of the Kantò, which, along with Mutsu
province directly to the north, produced the finest horses in Japan,
learned riding and the other militar y skills, including archery, from
infancy. The Kantò was still rugged frontier country, with vast tracts of
open fields to draw adventuresome settlers, and the records give accounts
of feuding there over land and power. From at least the early tenth century, chieftains arose in the Kantò to form fighting bands of locally bred
mounted warriors. At first, the members of these bands were almost exclusively related by blood, but with the passage of time the chieftains
also incorporated outsiders, whom they embraced in feudal lord-vassal
relationships. Increasingly, the bands engaged in struggles, formed
leagues, and established hegemonies; and in time great leaders appeared
to contend for military control over ever larger territories, up to one or
Warfare in the Kantò and elsewhere, which by mid-Heian times had
become virtually the exclusive pursuit of equestrian fighters, probably
seldom involved armies of more than a few hundred and was highly ritualized. When armies clashed, warriors from both sides usually paired
off and fought one against one, first with bow and arrow and then, upon
moving in closely, with swords. The aim of close combat was to unseat
one’s foe, then leap down and kill him with a dirk. As a trophy of battle
and as proof for later claims for reward, the victorious warrior typically
took his foe’s head.
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at The University of British Columbia.
- Spring '13