Take a look at the Top 10 Most Famous Samurai Warriors in History. The samurai were the medieval knights of Japan who used to protect and wreak havoc on the land. These highly skilled combatants were known for their powers with the sword and for their heroic acts in battle. There were many samurai who were well loved and greatly respected. There was also another breed of samurai who were ruthless and feared by many people. The following list gives a brief look into the lives of Japan’s top 10 most famous samurai in history.
List of Top 10 Most Famous Samurai Warriors in History
10. Hojo Ujitsuna
Hojo Ujitsuna was born into an age of great warfare within Japan. He was the son of Hojo Soun who was the founder of the Hojo clan. The Hojo were a powerful group that controlled a large region of the Kanto area. Kanto was the most populated island in Japan at the time.
As Ujistsuna grew older he learned the ways of the samurai and became a warrior of great renown and skill. Eventually, he became the leading warrior of his clan. He then restarted a longstanding feud with his clan’s nemsis, the Uesugi.
Hojo Ujitsuna eventually defeated the Uesugi before securing control of the Edo castle. Once he took over this Japanese stronghold he became one of the most powerful samurai in all of Japan. He held his power in Japan from 1524 until the time of his death in 1541.
9. Hattori Hanzo
Hattori Hanzo was a samurai of great skill. This particular samurai lived during the 16th century. Hanzo never conquered an empire or lead armies into battle; but he was a master swordsman who battle skills preceded him. Hanzo began fighting as a young teenager and he developed his combat skills early on in life.
As he survived battle after battle he gained a reputation of a master swordsmen. His battle skills were so acute that he was given the job of protecting shoguns and quite possibly the emperor of his time. He was also the retainer of Tokugawa Leyasu who is the man who form the shogun class. Hanzo’s name was so great that it is moniker on the entrance of the Imperial Palace.
8. Uesugi Kenshin
The general Uesugi Kenshin was a powerful military commander that lived during the 16th century. He led the armies of the Nagao clan during the era of warfare that was common during that period. Kenshin constantly fought for the Nagao and led the clan’s troop into numerous victories. He often battled with a warlord named Takeda Shingen.
Apparently, these two samurai and their clans fought against each other for well over 14 years. During the course of their conflict they personally confronted each other on the battlefield at least 7 times. General Usegui Kenshin is remembered as one the best samurai warriors by his people.
7. Shimazu Yoshihisa
Many of the greatest samurais in the history of Japan emerged from the Sengoku period. One of these warriors was named Shimazu Yoshihisa. He was a very intelligent general who conquered a Japanese region known as Kyushu. He was aided by his brothers who were just as brilliant warriors as he.
He was such a great fighter on the battlefield that he gained loyal followers who would follow him into eternity. These men would lay down their lives for the general at a moment’s notice. Yoshihisa was the first Japanese person to unify the Kyushu region before he was defeated by a warrior named Toyotomi Hideyoshi and his powerful 200,000 soldiers.
6. Mori Motonari
Mori Montonari is an unusual samurai. No one can figure out where he came from and how became such a great fighter. Motonari just showed up on the battlefield one day and was literally defeating everybody that came across his path.
This is what made him such a feared leader. He defeated some the best warring armies during the Sengoku period. This is not the norm because most samurai that trained all of their life in the realm of combat and strategy could not accomplish what he did.
Motonari conquered larger forces and defeated superior opponents. He eventually gained control 10 Chugoku provinces. He could not conquer the 11th. However, a record of 10 and 1 is quite impressive by most standards. He is one among the Top 10 Most Famous Samurai Warriors in History.
5. Miyamoto Musashi
Miyamoto Musashi was an innovator. He did a lot during the Sengoku period to develop the strategy and philosophical principles that guided samurai in combat and in life. He created various fighting styles such as niten’ichi. This was the two handed blade technique.
He wrote a manuscript called the Book of the Five Rings and in it he provided wisdom and knowledge about the physical and spiritual aspects of being a samurai. His works were so influential that many Japanese people have either heard about them in their life time or now lives by his code. He lived from 1584 to 1645.
4. Toyotomi Hideyoshi
There are three founding fathers of modern Japan and the samurai Toyotomi Hideyoshi is one them. This samurai helped to unify Japan and bring the Sengoku era to a close. He did not rely on the sword to bring about these changes. He used policies and a change in the culture of the time to make things different.
Hideyoshi replaced another great Japanese ruler named Oda Nobunaga. He realized that the warfare that his country was experiencing could not last forever. It would eventually bring all of the people to ruin. So he implemented laws and social revolutionary practices that would do away with the culture of warfare.
He took away people’s rights to own a sword unless they were samurai. He used his armies to seize weapons from the people. His actions helped to lay a foundation that would bring modern Japan into the spotlight.
3. Takeda Shingen
Takeda Shingen was a ruthless samurai who used ruthless measures to take power in Japan. He seized his power by killing his father and taking his throne. He defeated Oda Nobunaga and halted their conquest of Japan. This was no easy task since Oda Nobunaga was a powerful commander and leader.
Shingen ruthlessly battled across Japan disposing of anyone or anything that stood in his way. His combat skills were deadly and he did not care whom he crushed. He wanted power and he wanted to dominate the land of Japan. People everywhere feared him. He was a powerful contender that could have easily made Japan his own personal kingdom if he did not die during the time he was consolidating his power.
2. Oda Nobunaga
Oda Nobunaga was a samurai warlord of great importance. Historically, he is considered the catalyst that started to form the modern day nation. Toyotomi Hideyoshi served under him and would carry on his policies after he died.
Before Nobunaga left the scene he had been bringing the people together for well over 20 years. Yes, there were other warlord who were just as feared or better fighters than Nobunaga; but they were not leaders on his level.
Nobunaga had tactics that very few opponents could withstand. Those that were able to defeat him, usually died of natural causes before they could absolutely wipe him off the scene. Nobunaga would have been the reigning heavy weight ruler of his day if he was not killed by one of his trusted general named Akechi Mitsuhide. People throughout the history of Japan remember Nobunaga and all that he had done for their great country.
1. Tokugawa Ieyasu
Tokugawa Leyasu became the number one ruling samurai general at the end of the Sengoku period. All of the other great ones had died and he was the last man standing. He filled in for Nobunaga after he had passed and he even surpassed Toyotomi Hideyoshi who was the absolute ruler for a brief period.
Leyasu forces eventually defeated many of his rivals after Hideyoshi was no longer around. Once he gained Japan he laid a foundation of policies that would isolate the country. These policies would influence Japanese government for hundreds of years.
The Japanese eventually changed all of these policies to allow growth and development within their nation. However, Tokugawa is arguably one of the greatest people to have influenced how this country is today.
These are the top 10 most famous Samurai Warriors in history. Many of the samurai on this list were more than just warriors. They were rulers who would eventually shape the destiny and course of Japan, which is one of the greatest nations on the Earth today.