The samurai, members of a powerful military caste in feudal Japan, began as provincial warriors before rising to power in the 12th century with the beginning of the country’s first military dictatorship, known as the shogunate.
As servants of the daimyos, or great lords, the samurai backed up the authority of the shogun and gave him power over the mikado (emperor). The samurai would dominate Japanese government and society until the Meiji Restoration of 1868 led to the abolition of the feudal system. Despite being deprived of their traditional privileges, many of the samurai would enter the elite ranks of politics and industry in modern Japan.
More importantly, the traditional samurai code of honor, discipline and morality known as bushido–or “the way of the warrior”–was revived and made the basic code of conduct for much of Japanese society.