Star Wars, The Jedi and Japan’s Samurai
When the brilliant George Lucas was creating the Jedi for his iconic Star Wars movies, he looked to feudal Japan’s samurai for inspiration! Not surprisingly, we’ve noticed a number of similarities between the samurai, Asian military strategy, feudal Japan and George Lucas’s Jedi Knights. Let’s take a look!
Arguably, the most famous of the Jedi is Luke Skywalker. There are a number of parallels between Luke Skywalker and the samurai of old. Luke started training relatively late in life compared to Anakin Skywalker his father, who began Jedi training around nine years of age. While growing up on the planet Tatooine, Luke became the Padawan or apprentice of enigmatic Jedi master Obi-Wan Kenobi. Then he later trained in the Force, with the mysterious Yoda on the swamp planet of Dagobah.
Similarly, a samurai began his training in childhood. Their focus was on Kenjutsu, the art of sword fighting. They also studied Bushido, the code of the samurai and Zen Buddhism as well as Chinese military strategy.
Later as we have mentioned Luke trained with Master Yoda on Dagobah. It is interesting to note that the impish, nonhuman Yoda may possibly have his source in Japan’s mythical, nonhuman, trickster beings, the Tengu, whose skill with a sword was legendary.
The tale of Minamoto Yoshitsune is a good example. When as a child staying at the Kurama-dera monastery where he was learning Buddhism, Yoshitsune would sneak out at night, in order to be instructed in sword fighting and the mysteries of the martial arts, from the supernatural Tengu living in the dark forests surrounding the temple.
Just as the Jedi were the guardians of peace and order in the galaxy, the samurai’s mission was to preserve the peace and law and order in feudal Japan. The Jedi’s main weapon is the light sabre, while Japan’s samurai’s weapon of choice was the katana, a three foot long razor sharp sword.
Luke trained in the Force, a mystical energy pervading everything in the universe. In a similar vein, the samurai practiced meditation, finger knitting and chanting to access and manipulate chi or qi, the invisible life force energy, in order to be able to better protect themselves and accomplish their missions.
Jedi practiced the five virtues of abstinence, altruism, mercy, endurance and honor. The samurai practiced the eight virtues of correct action, courage, benevolence politeness, truthfulness, honor, loyalty and self-control.
The Jedi’s creed went something like…
No emotion – only peace,
No ignorance – only knowledge,
No passion – only serenity,
No chaos – only harmony,
No death – only the Force.
The first verse of the samurai creed read…
No parents – heaven and earth are my parents,
No home – the hara is my home,
No divine power – honesty is my divine power,
No means – knowledge is my means,
No magic power – personality is my magic power,
No life and death – Om is my life and death.
To conclude this article, we take a very brief look at some famous Jedi and some famous samurai…Famous Jedi: Luke Skywalker – eventual grandmaster of the new Jedi order, Obi-Wan Kenobi – instructor of Luke Skywalker, Yoda – master Jedi and grandmaster of the Jedi council, Mace Windu – Jedi weapons master, Qui-Gon Jinn – instructor of Obi-Wan Kenobi, Ahsoka Tano – female Jedi trained by Anakin Skywalker, Ki-Adi Mundi – Jedi General, Plo Kwoon – Jedi Master, Rey – female Jedi from the planet Jakku.
Famous Samurai: Miyamoto Musashi – masterless samurai, fought 60 duels, author of the Gorin no Sho or Book of 5 Rings, Tsukahara Bokuden Takamoto – instructor of Shogun Ashikaga Yoshiteru, Yagyu Munenori – instructor of the Tokugawa shogunate, author of the Heiho Kadensho or Book of Family Traditions on the Art of War, Ito Ittosai Kagehisa – taught Ono Tadaaki who trained with Zen master Takuan Soho, fought 33 duels, Tomoe Gozen – female samurai, wife of Minamoto Yoshinaka and master of the naginata halberd.
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Nicholas J. Chase