The samurai were the embodiment of the Japanese martial tradition. From humble beginnings as frontiermen and border guards, they rose in power to become the true rulers of Japan, with an ideology based on military strategy amd chilling battlefield aesthetics. This new study includes their greatest battles and worst defeats, their wars and weaponry, tradition and etiquette, and their transformation from hired swords to kingmakers, from Buddhist warlords to Christian soldiers. Jonathan Clements examines samurai facts and fictions, since a warrior society inevitably retells great battles, dramatizes heroic deed, and aspires to a code of ethics rooted in tall tales and romanticized coflict. Looking beyond the end of Japan's civil wars in the 17th century, his fascinating history reveals the rise and fall of a samurai society in which the victorious Shogun had nobody left to fight. A closing chapter examines the shadow of the samurai in modern times, as heroes, villiains, and mirrors ot the Japanese soul.