Samurai Unveiled: Global Perceptions and the Allure of the Japanese Warrior

Mayumi Folio
Mayumi Folio

Foreigners often say, “As expected of a country of samurai! or “Samurai Nippon! and “Samurai Nippon!” They also use the word “Samurai” to praise Japanese people. Samurai are used as a word of praise for the Japanese people, and foreigners are often seen everywhere.

However, don’t you feel that the Samurai as imagined by foreigners is a little different from the Samurai as envisioned by Japanese people?

And why do foreigners like samurai so much?

It is important to understand the image that foreigners have of the samurai. This may help you discover the Japanese-ness that foreigners seek.

In this article, we will consider the image of the samurai as seen by foreigners, and ask why the samurai are so popular among foreigners. We will introduce the image of samurai as seen in samurai movies from the perspective of foreign countries and the samurai experiences popular among foreigners visiting Japan.

Please read this article to the end to unravel the mystery of foreigners’ love of samurai.

Why do foreigners like samurai?

The Samurai is a Japanese icon, much respected by foreigners and popular abroad. So where does this image of the samurai come from?

Here we will introduce the reasons why foreigners like the samurai.

Samurai is a uniquely Japanese culture

In the Samurai, we can see a culture and ideology that is uniquely Japanese.

The term “Samurai” refers to people of the samurai class who existed in Japan from the Middle Ages to the modern era and were based on the spirit of Bushido (the way of the samurai).

Samurai trained in martial arts such as swordsmanship and archery and participated in combat in order to protect their lord, family, comrades, and themselves.

Samurai also acquired cultural skills such as etiquette, poetry, and the tea ceremony, and spiritual training based on Confucian and Buddhist teachings was also emphasized.

Many famous military commanders and cultural figures were produced among the Samurai, and their bravery, wisdom, and sense of beauty have been handed down to future generations.

Thus, the Samurai are unique to Japan and have given birth to many cultures, traditions, and ideas, which seem to be very attractive to foreign countries.

Image of Samurai in movies, anime and manga

The word “Samurai” is known abroad mainly through Japanese history, culture, movies, manga, and anime.

Most of the images that foreigners have of Samurai come from movies, anime, manga, and video games.

Many of the Samurai in these works are portrayed as attractive characters, and their cool appearance and way of life are highly favored by foreigners.

The influence of video games and anime, which became popular overseas in the 1980s, has been particularly strong and continues to this day, and today’s children around the world are growing up under the strong influence of these games and anime.

Above all, many Samurai-themed films have been produced in Japan and abroad, winning prestigious awards at numerous international film festivals.

Thus, the influence of media content on the image of Samurai held by foreigners is considered to be very strong.

Recommended Related Articles: [Foreign Reactions to Anime and Manga] 13 Works and 5 Cultural Experiences Popular among Foreigners

Bushido and a sense of beauty that even foreigners admire

In addition, the spirit of Bushido and the aesthetic sense of the Samurai have been internationally recognized and have influenced many people.

Bushido” is the moral code of conduct for the samurai class in Japan, which developed from the Kamakura period (1185-1333) to the Edo period (1603-1868).

During the Meiji period, Inazo Nitobe published his book Bushido, which spread worldwide, and since the Meiji Restoration, it has influenced education as part of the Japanese national moral concept and identity, and continues to this day.

Bushido includes absolute loyalty to one’s lord, sacrifice, courtesy, frugality, thrift, and nobility as fundamental virtues, and has developed based on the lives, thoughts, attitudes, and actions of many famous figures.

Bushido is an ideology that has been nurtured over hundreds of years of history and occupies an important place in Japanese culture.

For these reasons, more and more people abroad are becoming interested in Japanese history and culture, and the concepts of “samurai” and “Bushido” are becoming a part of Japanese culture.

Four samurai films that show foreigners’ image of the samurai.

Here we will introduce the image that foreigners have of the samurai from movies and dramas about the samurai.

This will give you a hint to understand more concretely the image of the samurai from the foreigner’s point of view.

Learning how to show samurai from the movie “Seven Samurai

Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai is an undisputed classic among Japanese masterpieces, and has a deep-rooted popularity overseas.

Even today, in 2022, we still hear people say that Kurosawa is the most famous samurai and Mifune the famous actor.

In 2018, the BBC announced the 100 best foreign films of all time. The first place in the list was awarded to “The Seven Samurai,” produced under the supervision of Akira Kurosawa in 1954, which topped the list of many masterpieces from all over the world.

However, none of the Japanese film critics present at the time of the judging voted for “Seven Samurai.

There is a BBC Culture article on Akira Kurosawa’s films titled “Why is Seven Samurai so good?

I would like to share with you an interesting part of the analysis.


“The popularity of ‘Seven Samurai’ in the West was undoubtedly due in part to the fact that it was one of the first Japanese films that many audiences saw in the era before the film was made into a video format. For audiences accustomed to Hollywood westerns, it introduced them to a culture that was both foreign and fascinating.

In later years, Kurosawa was devoted to the films of John Ford, but to his credit, he combined the western tradition with the new Japanese genres of chambara and jidaigeki.” Quoting BBC Culture “Why is Seven Samurai so good?”

from the critique, it seems that many foreigners are attracted to the action in Seven Samurai and are impressed by the Bushido of the Samurai .

And there was an even more interesting critique at the end of this article.

“If Westerners find Kurosawa’s films fascinating, it may mean that they are not as authentically Japanese as the quieter works of Mizoguchi and Ozu. Citing BBC Culture “Why is Seven Samurai so good?”

As can be read here, there seems to be a bit of a gap between the image foreigners have of Japan and the image of Japan that Japanese people want to express.

In this case, it is not a question of which is good and which is bad. In this case, it is not a question of which is better and which is worse, but rather, since it is entertainment, whether or not the audience can enjoy it more.

This may be a hint for foreign visitors to experience traditional Japanese culture.

Learn the charm of sword fighting from the movie “The Last Samurai”.

There is still something about sword fighting scenes that overwhelms even foreigners, and they are popular even among non-Japanese who are accustomed to viewing period dramas.

One movie that has captivated people around the world with its sword fighting scenes is the Hollywood movie “The Last Samurai” starring Tom Cruise.

The story is about Captain Nathan Algren (Tom Cruise), who is hired to modernize the government army in 1870s Japan, soon after the Meiji Restoration, and is famous for the great performances of Japanese actors Ken Watanabe and Hiroyuki Sanada.

Since “The Last Samurai,” which became a world-famous samurai movie, we have seen quite a few foreigners overseas who have an image of the samurai.

Until then, the image of “Japan” in Hollywood movies was said to be a terribly self-indulgent one, with many mysterious customs that Japanese people had no recollection of, and images that somehow looked down on Japan.

However, “The Last Samurai” is said to be “the first Hollywood movie that seriously tried to portray Japan and samurai,” and it was a huge hit.

The Last Samurai was especially well received for its sword fighting scenes, which used many Japanese sword fighting techniques in addition to Hollywood’s own flamboyant action, captivating people around the world with its sense of speed and power.

Samurai and sword fighting seem to be attractive even to foreign viewers.

Learning about foreigners’ image of Japan from the movie “Kill Bill

The movie “Kill Bill,” released in 2003, is a violent action film about the revenge of “The Bride” (Uma Thurman), whose husband and pregnant child are killed at her wedding by Bill (a hitman boss).

The film is set in Tokyo and features a large Japanese cast, including Shinichi Chiba and Chiaki Kuriyama. It is a representative film of the early 2000s, when Japanese culture was attracting the most attention from around the world.

Although this film is not about Japanese samurai, Japan and Bushido appear throughout the film.

The fight scene between Uma Thurman and Chiaki Kuriyama in the film was modeled after the izakaya “Azabu Gonpachi” in Nishi-Azabu, Tokyo.

The izakaya “Gonpachi” is still popular among Hollywood celebrities and other foreigners visiting Japan, and is also known as the location where former Prime Minister Koizumi and former President George H.W. Bush met in the izakaya.

Although the Japan in the film is quite exaggerated from a Japanese point of view, it is a film that is worth seeing because it gives us a hint of the image of Japan that foreigners are looking for.

The image of Japan that foreigners seek is not what we Japanese think, “It’s not real. It’s fake! We Japanese should accept the image of Japan that foreigners seek, not twist it with a justifiable argument.

This is because the fact that it is exaggerated means that it is attractive and we want to expand that part of the image.

In that part, there may be a hint of the image of Japan that foreigners are looking for.

Learn about the samurai world you want to experience from “Westworld/Season 2

Westworld” is an American sci-fi thriller TV drama series that started in 2016 and has been a hot topic in Japan, with many Japanese actors in the cast.

“Westworld” is a story about androids, called hosts, who live in a western cityscape, where guests who pay a hefty admission fee act according to their own desires without fear of retribution from the hosts, androids are manufactured based on such advanced technology that they are indistinguishable from humans, and they are also self-aware. Each time a guest arrives, their memories are reset and they repeat their daily routine based on a new scenario.” (Citation: Westworld wikipedia)

This Season 2 (2018) of Westworld will feature an Edo period drama scenario, Shogun World, in addition to the Western scenario, Westworld.

Shogun World is an Edo period cityscape scenario featuring android hosts of Japanese samurai and geisha, and unfolds in the Western zone, where they are involved with the androids of Westworld.

In Westworld’s Shogun World, the streets of the Edo period are recreated in great detail, and Japanese actors (Hiroyuki Sanada, Rinko Kikuchi, TAO, and Kiki Yuma) are used instead of Asian American actors to create the world of Shogun World.

In the scenario set up to “allow you to taste the world of movies you actually want to experience,” an Edo period drama was chosen next to the main western movie.

The fact that a Japanese period drama was chosen as the scenario for the “world of movies you would like to experience” suggests that many foreigners would like to experience the world of Japanese period dramas and the world of samurai.

5 Selected Samurai and Bushido Experiences that Foreigners Love

So what are some of the popular samurai experiences for inbound visitors to Japan?

Here, we will introduce some of the Samurai experiences that were, in fact, well received by Motenas Japan.

Recommended related article: Japanese cultural experiences popular among foreigners. 12 Recommended Experiential Sightseeing & VIP Entertainment

Iaiai experience

Iaijutsu is a Japanese martial art that has been passed down to the present, and iaido is known overseas as swordsmanship.

Iai experiences for inbound visitors to Japan are popular for a wide range of reasons, including workshops, entertainment, and team building.

The reason for this is that the Japanese sword is attracting worldwide attention as an art and craft. The iaido experience, which allows visitors to touch the sword for themselves, is also popular among foreigners.

We also recommend that you perform iai with real Japanese swords as entertainment, as it gives you a real sense of presence. The tension in the atmosphere will make you feel like a samurai, which is a different experience from other cultural experiences.

However, since this is a real experience, you should be very careful to avoid accidents and injuries.

Recommended article: Martial Arts Team Building for Foreigners

sword dance experience

Sword dances are said to be dances performed by samurai to inspire them.

The manga and anime “Demon slayer” which is extremely popular in Japan, is equally popular overseas as well, and the characters in the manga and anime practice swordsmanship.

With this background, more and more foreigners are becoming interested in sword dance, even among the younger generation, and there is no age limit for introducing sword dance as a Japanese cultural experience.

The purpose of the sword dance experience is to “learn how to handle a Japanese sword and actually perform the sword dance. The purpose of the sword dance experience is to “learn how to handle a Japanese sword and actually try the sword dance.

The main points of the sword dance experience are as follows.

– You will learn how to hold, pull out, and deliver a Japanese sword using an iaido, so you can become a Japanophile just by learning how to use a sword.

– In addition, you will learn how to use a fan during the dance.

– This is popular among foreigners as they can learn the basics of how to use a fan beautifully.

– And in the sword dance, you will actually dance the choreography with Chinese poetry, so you will have a live experience.

– The students will be dressed in elegant costumes for the sword dance and actually dance the sword dance themselves, giving them the feeling of being a samurai and dancing the dance.

The sword dance experience is beautiful and moving just by watching it, but by actually dancing it, foreigners can have a more profound experience of Japanese culture.

Zen experience

Zen” refers to the philosophy of the Buddhist teaching of “furyumonji,” and the purpose of Zen is to attain “enlightenment.

The practices that lead to enlightenment include zazen, koan, and the important daily practices of cleaning and cooking, called sakumu.

The Zen experience is mainly centered on zazen, and doing zazen at a Zen temple is an authentic Zen experience, and doing zazen at a real Japanese temple is very appealing to foreigners.

The course is popular for its simultaneous interpretation of the priest’s valuable sermon, and for its tea ceremony experience.

For practitioners of mindfulness, which is currently attracting attention around the world, experiencing Zen in the home of Zen is a dream come true.

This kind of mindfulness-oriented inbound tourism is currently attracting attention as a project with great potential.

With these aspects in mind, the planning ideas from the keywords “samurai,” “Zen,” and “mindfulness” are endless, aren’t they?

Recommended related article: What is Zen that attracts even foreigners? The Relationship Between Meditation and Mindfulness through Zen Experience

sword fighting experience

When you hear the word “sword fighting,” what comes to mind is probably the scene in a period drama or a movie featuring samurai fighting with swords. Not only Japanese but also foreigners are excited by the fierce scenes of samurai fighting each other.

At first glance, it may seem that sword fighting is very difficult and can only be mastered through specialized training, but even amateurs can experience this powerful fighting.

First, in order to learn sword fighting, one must study performances that incorporate kendo and iai, and from these points, one receives instruction in the basic movements of sword fighting.

Nowadays, inbound programs are becoming very popular among foreigners, with actors from various sword fighting productions providing sword fighting entertainment and actually offering foreigners the opportunity to experience sword fighting.

The sword fighting experience is a dream come true for foreign visitors who long to become samurai, as they can wear hakama or kimono and pretend to be a samurai.

Of course, if you take a video of yourself as a souvenir at the end of the experience, you will feel as if you have become the movie actor you have always wanted to be.

Tea ceremony experience

Since there is a very deep connection between the tea ceremony and Bushido, it is highly recommended for foreigners who want to learn more about Bushido and experience its deeper ideological aspects.

The tea ceremony experience is always planned when dignitaries from various countries visit Japan.

This is because the tea ceremony allows visitors to experience the essence of Japanese culture, and it is also practiced at the national level as a form of hospitality for important people.

Planning an authentic tea ceremony with interpreters for inbound tourism is an unforgettable experience for foreigners.

Zen philosophy is deeply involved in the tea ceremony, and there are many ideas in common with Bushido.

Sen no Rikyu is the most famous tea master. Rikyu, a historical figure who perfected the tea ceremony, was also ordered to commit seppuku (ritual suicide) at the end of his life, and died like a samurai.

To enjoy tea in silence and dialogue with others. The tea ceremony experience allows visitors to learn the spirit and behavior of a samurai, and to experience true samurai culture by learning about Rikyu’s knowledge of the tea ceremony.


Samurai as an image of Japan. as their image of Japan.

These foreigners want to experience the Samurai in Japan. I want to meet a samurai. Many of them actually want to meet a samurai in Japan.

If you are planning a conference or event for foreigners, researching Bushido and familiarizing yourself with the image that foreigners have of samurai will give you hints on how to plan hospitality that meets their needs.

Among the various inbound projects, hospitality with the keyword “samurai” as the key word will give you a realistic and exciting experience of being a samurai in Japan. We believe that this will bring you the realistic excitement of experiencing a samurai in Japan.