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Thread: Random Q?: "Ronin Samurai" - Redundant?

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    Default Random Q?: "Ronin Samurai" - Redundant?

    Random question: Would saying "ronin samurai" be redundant? I mean, I know to a certain degree it is, because (in the context of martial arts/medieval Japan/ etc) the term 'ronin' implies a samurai.

    But a friend of mine asked if saying 'ronin samurai' was equivalent to saying "knots per hour", where knots already mean "nautical miles per hour" (thus you would be saying "nautical miles per hour per hour").

    But I was under the impression that 'samurai' referred to one's social status, where 'ronin' was more of a specific title. So saying "ronin samurai" wouldn't *technically* be wrong.

    Thanks!

    (PS, I already know that 'ronin' literally means 'wave man').
    --Timothy Kleinert

    Aikido & Qigongs

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    If I may:

    a ronin must be samurai but not all samurai are ronin.

    The redundancy I hate is "Japanese samurai..."
    "Fear, not compassion, restrains the wicked."

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    Traditionally a ronin is a masterless samurai...but these days the word ronin is used in different contexts. For example you can refer to a student who has graduated from high school but is attending cram school for an extra semester or year in order to apply to university as a ronin.

    Regards,

    r e n

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    Like so many other facets of Japanese, it depends on context. If you're talking about samurai, or you're watching chanbara, or you're dressed up in yoroi, then it would be superfluous to say "samurai ronin", just as it would be to say "executive CEO" in a business environment. But you might want to say "samurai ronin" if you're talking to a couple of university-aged students in Japan, who might assume you were talking about a juku attendee.

    Some people use "ronin" to mean a twentynothing person who isn't attending a university and doesn't intend to attend, particularly if the person is only working low class "baito" and spends a lot of time goofing off. Sort of like a lesser "asobinin" in a way, but without the implied nightclubs and stuff. I don't think this usage is very common, though.
    James A. Crippen

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    You're confusing ronin with freeta.

    Regards,
    r e n

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    Default Unless..

    Hi all...
    I agree with all....Although I would add the caveat that if you take "Samurai" to mean "One who serves" rather than "Bushi" (Warrior, or warrior class...) then a Ronin would not be a "Samurai" but an unemployed warrior...The problem comes in when you factor in that from at least the Tokugawa Jidai the Japanese have tended to use Samurai to mean "Of the Bushi class".....And the original meaning of the word was subsumed by the "Warrior class" designation...
    Odd and difficult question to answer....But all the points mentioned above are entirely correct....It is only the earlier usage of the word that messes the modern understanding up....A hired Ronin becomes a Samurai by being hired. Before that he is a Ronin. And both are Bushi.
    Roughly.
    Regards.
    Ben Sharples.
    智は知恵、仁は思いやり、勇は勇気と説いています。

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    Samurai was a social class. Presence/lack of a master to serve didn't change one's social status as samurai. Thus ronin means 'one who serves, but has no one to serve.'
    Bushi is a job description. Warrior. Fighter. Soldier. Plenty of bushi were not samurai (and plenty of samurai not bushi, either), including butt-kicking monks and conscript warriors, or even the occassional farmer who could really give what-for with a spear.

    Regards,

    r e n

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    Default hope this helps

    I am not 100% sure, but I think ronin means (literaly) "wave man", sooo... Thats all, I have no point.
    Mac day

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    Originally posted by Sochin
    a ronin must be samurai but not all samurai are ronin.
    That's induction logic, isn't it?
    Jonathan Wood

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    Default Re: Unless..

    Originally posted by fifthchamber
    ...A hired Ronin becomes a Samurai by being hired. Before that he is a Ronin. And both are Bushi. Roughly.
    I disagree. A ronin is a masterless samurai. One does not become samurai by being hired, as men, women, and children could be samurai if born such; as Ren said, "samurai" refers to a social class (and the term refered to that class for quite some time before the Tokugawa Jidai). Although the samurai started as a warrior class, before long only a fraction of all samurai were actually soldiers; the rest were administrators, clerks, lawyers, judges, etc.

    There is no "Bushi Class." When the class system was formalized the classes were derived from Confucianism, but modified by the samurai who didn't want doctors and teachers to be above them.

    The classes were:

    Samurai (only about 2% of the population)
    Farmer
    Artisan
    Merchant

    One's class did not absolutely dictate his occupation. For example a village headman might be of the farmer class, but never lay hand to hoe.

    Priests might come from any of the classes, but once taking vows were sort of outside the class system.

    And so on.

    As I understand it.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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    Hi Brian...
    I agree...I had meant to make the point that the origin of the word Samurai was one that means "To serve"...By the time that the term Ronin was commonly used Samurai had become the name for the class rather than an occupation and so your point is a valid one...Ronin WERE unemployed Samurai...By that stage the name implied something more than "One who serves"....It implied a class.
    That was all....
    The Bushi was a mistake on my part...As Ren points out that was not the general class...I am not entirely sure what I meant to say by that....But it is out there somewhere...
    Ben Sharples.
    智は知恵、仁は思いやり、勇は勇気と説いています。

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    But the warriors were a definite class. The class designation is buke (warrior house) and a member of that class is a bushi (literally "military person").

    A warrior monk (sohei) or a yakuza might have weapons and fight occasionally. But they are not bushi. A bushi was a member of the military aristocracy. A ronin was a bushi who had no lord to serve.

    The samurai (those who serve) were originally attendants to the nobility in Heian Japan and were of a low social status. The extended Imperial family had too many landless sons, so they farmed them out to the provinces to suppress the barbarians (emishi), where they managed estates for the crown and eventually became a semi-independent landed aristocracy that warred against the aboriginal inhabitants of Japan on behalf of the aristocracy. One day they realized "Hey, we're the ones with the weapons; the aristocrats don't do squat. Let's eat their lunch".

    And that's exactly what they did.
    Earl Hartman

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    Default

    Originally posted by Earl Hartman
    But the warriors were a definite class. The class designation is buke (warrior house) and a member of that class is a bushi (literally "military person").

    A warrior monk (sohei) or a yakuza might have weapons and fight occasionally. But they are not bushi. A bushi was a member of the military aristocracy. A ronin was a bushi who had no lord to serve.

    The samurai (those who serve) were originally attendants to the nobility in Heian Japan and were of a low social status. The extended Imperial family had too many landless sons, so they farmed them out to the provinces to suppress the barbarians (emishi), where they managed estates for the crown and eventually became a semi-independent landed aristocracy that warred against the aboriginal inhabitants of Japan on behalf of the aristocracy. One day they realized "Hey, we're the ones with the weapons; the aristocrats don't do squat. Let's eat their lunch".

    And that's exactly what they did.
    I have to agree with Earl on this, though there seems to be a grey area.

    As recorded in another forum, I recently set an assignment to one of my classes to compare "Last Samurai" and "Tasogare Seibei", in terms of which movie best showed "bushido". Part of the assignment was to research the Japanese sources concerning the terms "samurai", "bushi" and "bushido", as well as the general impact of the Meiji Restoration. The results were to be presented in English as a term paper. The 75 students in the class were all Japanese, of course, but were 3rd year English majors.

    The students clearly liked doing the assignment and did some very good essays. Some students went to great trouble going through dictionaries and written sources. Fairly unanimously, they distinguished samurai and bushi, as Earl does, but went on to argue that by the time the events in the two movies would have taken place, the two terms were pretty synonymous. Some discussed ronin and gave Sakamoto Ryoma as a classic example. Of course, no one who fails the university entrance test & tries again ever calls himself a "samurai ronin".

    Actually, this experience was a welcome corrective to the horror stories being told elswehere in this forum about JET teachers in junior high schools here. Clearly a maturing process takes place, since my lot were always courteous, good-humoured, generally punctual and expected lots of feedback on their written work. The only problem was that the class was an elective, with no limit on class numbers.

    Best regards to all,
    Peter Goldsbury,
    Forum Administrator,
    Hiroshima, Japan

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    Default Re: Re: Unless..

    Originally posted by Brian Owens
    The classes were:

    Samurai (only about 2% of the population)
    Farmer
    Artisan
    Merchant
    That's not in order, is it?
    Jonathan Wood

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    Default Re: Re: Re: Unless..

    Originally posted by Chrono
    That's not in order, is it?
    Yes.

    Farmers produced the food on which the people, including the samurai, depended. So they were accorded a pretty high status. Wealthy farmers often lived almost as well as mid-level samurai, and could even legally have large houses with gardens, etc. (The only restriction was that only a village headman could have a ceremonial gate to his house.)

    Artisans produced the goods that the people used, including the swords and armor of the samurai, and so came next.

    Merchants produced nothing, but only traded the goods of others, and so were held to be the lowest class.

    Then there were the people who fell outside the class system, such as grave diggers and leather workers (dead animals were "unclean," as were those who worked with them). They were referred to with such terms as eta and henin ("Non-men." Not sure of the spelling on the last.)

    Near the end of the Edo period the merchants had gained considerable wealth and power, in part by loaning money at high interest to the samurai, but technically they were still the lowest class (which may be part of why they supported the abolishment of the samurai class with such ferver).

    HTH.
    Yours in Budo,
    ---Brian---

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